Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Travel

Since I was young, I have always loved to travel. Whether it was a long eight hour drive down to Florida to see my Grandpa, or a quick weekend to D.C. or Philly, or even just a jaunt to a small town in the middle of nowhere in Georgia, I love to travel. Traveling reminds me of when I was young, when I was a student and I had no serious cares in the world, aside from your usual teenage dramas and first heartbreaks. Honestly, while I love living in New York and I love my people here, I'm still trying to figure out what kind of career I need to pay the bills and to keep me sustained and fulfilled in an emotional sense. It's really difficult. If I had my way, I would write full-time. Traveling, even if it's a brief getaway, makes me feel like I'm seventeen again, with my journal and my books, settling in for a long train ride, ready for newness, ready for anything.

When I was eighteen, my mom and I tagged along on a University of Alabama study abroad program called "In the Footsteps of Virginia Woolf," the best trip I've ever taken in my life thusfar. We traveled all over England, to London, to Kent, to Sussex and finally to Cornwall, and when I stood on our hotel balcony I could see the pulsing light of Woolf's lighthouse. I got to watch my mom's face light up with joy while we walked through Vita Sackville West's garden at Sissinghurst. I saw Woolf's original manuscript of Orlando, handwritten in purple ink, that she gave to Vita, installed at Knole.

I've visited Andalusia, Flannery O'Connor's home in Milledgeville, Georgia, where she lived her entire life and wrote there - I saw her typewriter and her crutches.

I've held Sylvia Plath's childhood valentines to her mother in my hands. I've also held two feet of her hair, braided, in my bare hands at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana.

I've walked through ancient cemeteries in the UK, kissed the Blarney stone (after some intense anti-bacterial wiping) and taken down epitaphs from decrepit tombstones in Massachusetts. I've danced with Frenchmen and Spaniards in Madrid, even though I barely speak French and speak absolutely no Spanish. I lit a candle for my Grandmother in Notre Dame. I walked through the house where Nathaniel Hawthorne was born, and the house on which he based The House of Seven Gables. I dropped my favorite childhood necklace into the bay in Sausilito.

While standing in the Monk's House garden, where Virginia and Leonard Woolf's ashes are buried next to each other, I watched a big black cat cross through in the blinding sunlight.

For me, traveling is about forging a physical connection with places and people, particularly of the literary and historic persuasion. There's nothing I love more than the idea of a trip to Sleepy Hollow, or a visit to Amherst, to see Emily Dickinson's house. Being there situates you closer to the work, to the writer. I think literary excursions are the most romantic excursions.

And while there are still so many places to go and so many things to see, as I recount these past travels I feel a bit better about sitting inside being stuck at a desk on a gorgeous spring day. You know, I feel lucky.


Meagan said...

You've summed up my feelings on travel perfectly. Great post!

Patti said...

English nerd moment! I love it.