I can tell you the type of traveller I’d like to be. Get up and go with a moment’s notice. Work until the moment I have to leave. Be an organized, unflappable veteran of airport security. Squeeze every drop of life out of a trip and make it all fodder for the creative mill. Return home, get those bags unpacked and be back into the swing of things in no time flat.
Alas, I am far from my dreams. I am the person who sees the departure date looming a couple of weeks ahead and decides there isn’t much point sinking into a project because I’ll just have to pull up short to hit the road. What’s the point of that? I am as far from spontaneous as one can get. Those we know me, know better than to try surprise tactics. I can only hope I don’t look as frazzled standing in airport security as I feel. And it generally takes me a week to ten days to resettle when returning from a trip. I’m like an old dog circling the mat of my life over and over until I’m able to settle back into any type of routine.
Where I find success is in squeezing every drop of detail out of my experiences. For a writer, this makes the disruption of travelling well worth the effort. I’m good at taking note of details – the look of a prairie sky, the eerie feeling of an empty school yard and a long row of swings totally still in the afternoon heat, the noise a helicopter makes when it lands, what a magpie looks like, two men in conversation at a Tim Horton’s, one rubbing his jaw and saying, “Now, that, what you’re talking about right there … that’ll kill you sure as sure.”
I love to study people. On my recent trip, a woman at the airport caught me eye.
Short, sculpted, blonde hair, a chiselled jawline and a face dominated by a large mouth and gleaming teeth. I have no idea why but I can’t stop staring at her. She stands ramrod straight – her posture is admirable to the slouches among us. She’s dressed impeccably – heels, black slacks and a clinging, patterned top, the type that has an off-set neckline. The strange lack of symmetry in that throws me off somehow. She reaches casually into her black leather, designer purse and withdraws a small object. It turns out to be a miniature measuring tape. It snakes down to the ground as she goes about measuring the height and width of her carry-on bag. Maybe I don’t travel enough – I’ve never seen anyone do such a thing. I’ve watched people eye their bag up with nervous glances to and from the metal contraption near the gate that defines exactly the size of a carry-on bag. I’ve seen people trying to stick an oversize bag into said contraption, insisting it will fit. I’ve stared with disbelief while a person went so far as to tip the whole contraption over in her desperate efforts. But I’ve never seen anyone actually measure their carry-on bag. The action seems so natural to this woman, so effortless. The tape snaps back in on itself and is tucked away. I stare at her purse and imagine it containing dozens of useful items all stored in well-organized pockets. She can put her fingers on anything she might need. This woman is unflappable, I can’t imagine a scenario that could ruffle her.
And then the writer in me starts imagining …
You put that woman with this helicopter and throw in those swings … those kinds of juxtapositions are bound to make a story.
What sort of a traveller are you?
sometime eyes open
amazed at changes!
other times eyes closed
smiling and calm 🙂
I like the smiling and calm part – that is what I will strive for.
I say that the only thing spontaneous about me is my hair! So I think I identify with your travel behaviors, before and after, and it’s just the way it is. People watching is a favorite pastime. I can believe that travel observations provide excellent writing context and detail. 🙂
Glad to know I’m in good company when it comes to getting a bit frazzled about the whole getting from point A to point B adventure. But the people watching does make it all worth while.
I have a hard time adjusting after the return from a trip, too. If I take a week away from my office, I’ve actually lost two weeks of productivity. I like the spur of the moment short little breaks better.
You’ve nailed it – a three week trip for me will mean at least six weeks away from actual work. I’ve tried the longer and the shorter ones and it always comes out about the same – double the time spent away. Oh well … I can only fight so much of my basic personality. Gotta go with the flow 🙂
Since we’re trying the two home thing this year I have to get this under control!
In my mind, the kind of person who can travel on a moment’s notice is probably young and male. I’m thinking of my nineteen-year-old grandson. No medicine or supplements to pack, no makeup. Very few clothes. He doesn’t get cold easily; he’s not a sharp dresser; and he’s satisfied wearing his dirty tennis shoes for every occasion. Even for him, though, it’s getting harder. He has college and an internship in the summer.
I take way too much time deciding what to bring, packing, unpacking, making plans and reservations. There’s no way around it, a two-week trip keeps me away from work for another two weeks.
I love your description of how you squeeze every drop of details out of the experience. You inspire me.
By the way, your mountain picture is very similar to some I took flying to Calgary from Seattle on my way to Banff and Lake Louise.
I did see your pic and felt quite a sense of synchronicity! As we tear our house upside down getting ready for a month long car trip, I found myself thinking of this blog and your comments. We love our car trips but oh my gosh – because we have the space to fit a lot of stuff in the sky seems to be the limit. One chance in a million we might need it? Sure, throw it in. I’m not optimistic about any ‘real’ writing happening this fall!
Yes, very funny. On a car trip, you feel as though you can throw anything in. Have a good trip.