Although I can’t see it, I can still dream it
By this time each year, I am usually already planning my next trip. I check in with my friend Frances and we work out the times that are best for both of us. That organizes the first part of my trip—London, the English countryside, friends and then somewhere special with Frances for a week or two.
Last year, it was a wonderful time of exploration in Holland. In the end, I usually plan a good two weeks in Sweden to visit my good friends Susanna and Christer, and sometimes we go away and explore another city new to all three of us. That is the framework. This year, however, due to a number of falls I have taken, I am feeling shaky on my feet and the need to stay close to home. It makes me sad but I have to listen to my body, do my exercises and get stronger. Does that mean that I have totally pulled back from travel? Absolutely not.
This year I will just channel my yearnings into reading, thinking and dreaming about the best travel experiences available and those that give me the most pleasure.
First of all, guided tours and cruises are not what I look forward to. I like that a trip will just develop depending where I am, who I am with or if I am alone. My dream trips just happen. I pick a place I long to go to in my mind and, like a clay sculpture, I begin to carve a structure. Hopefully, the rest will follow and shape out what I have begun. And there it hangs until I am ready to pluck it and re-start traveling again.
The countries (besides England and Sweden) that rank highest on my list right now are Greece, India and Japan. Even though I lived in Greece, there is so much I didn’t see and a few places I would love to return to that were just lovely all those years ago. These places are all islands, because I love landing on an island after a ferryboat ride and knowing that I am on land surrounded only by water. Some people may feel isolated in such a situation, but I have always found it comforting.
And if the island has no airport, that makes it even better. If it is a popular island such as Patmos then there are a lot of cruise ships that dock for a few hours, but the rest of the time is all mine to immerse myself in the daily life, explore and meet the people. Some of the more popular islands are really beautiful like Santorini, which is built around the top of a blown volcano and has great archaeological sites, black sand and good wineries. Its aura, however, competes with Athens, with high priced hotels and the big shops selling bling. Not for me.
India is so big and varied and so rich in arts and crafts that I find it very exciting. One can explore the varied patchwork of life, area by area, and never tire or feel bored. It is like visiting many different countries. The mountains, the cities and the north vs. south all paint a different picture of life. The people are wonderful, curious and friendly, and history leaps out at you wherever you are. The food is so worth exploring. There are beaches for those who desire relaxation and many kinds of treatments for whatever ails you. I had a terrific ayervedic massage by a South Indian practitioner that stopped my sciatic pain. I could walk again. There are well-being centers, gurus to visit, lush boat rides to take, pilgrimages to make and history to discover. India calls to me.
The Japanese honor their craftspeople. They are well-respected and their work is known throughout the country. Once I visited a kimono maker who painted designs on his kimonos. Some took nearly a year to complete. His studio was a heavenly place to visit. I also spent some days learning Japanese techniques with indigo dyes and enjoying a short informative session with a master dyer. There are potters and paper makers, as well as sake brewers and sword-makers. One can find the quiet life of onsens (hot pools) and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns), small villages, ancient buildings and temples. There are woods and forests throughout Japan. There are flea markets in the temples on the weekends, and big cities for those who want to explore a “wilder” side of Japanese life and do a lot of people watching. And then there is the exploration of the food from the simple to the sublime. All must be sampled.
If I were to take a trip to a more local place I might enjoy a train ride up to Portland, Oregon for a few days, or perhaps a trip also by train to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. I think of these as more practical options for now. I even have an invite to Cambria with friends, which I look forward to when I get a bit stronger. Healing can take time. However much I love to stay in inns, guesthouses and small informal places, I do not like to fly squashed up between people and small seats. Better seats is one splurge I am willing to make for my comfort.
Now at home I read books and travel magazines and think of getting stronger and going exploring again. Being limited isn’t any fun, and laziness will get me nowhere. And so I work at my physical therapy and pilates and try to take more walks. As my friend Frances says, “If you don’t use it, you will lose it.” And I am not prepared to lose anything.