On Travel

Away from home we may be asked why. Why here? What made you choose this place.

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Ah, to see what we can see. And in a city like Glasgow, we saw historic buildings. We also took pleasure in magnificent street art.

 

We travel to both get away and to get closer. We leave home behind and create little pieces of home as we go.

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Or in this case, little pieces of home are created for us.

Our travel comprised a tour. We moved from city to town to town to city and back again. Lots of movement punctuated by two-day stops along the way. Our bags were never unpacked, only opened or loosened, with contents shifted as needed. To my surprise, this came as an organizational relief. Our objects never strayed far from their appointed containers. We apparently left nothing behind.

 

The things that caught my eye: Distance and detail.

Distance and detail

 

Distance and detail

 

While on the road with my 10 y-o companion son, it occurred to me that travel involves managing an ongoing tension between public and private, between out and in. To move from place to place we took buses and trains. In one direction we flew business class and economy in the other. Trains were less crowded than buses. Conversation with strangers, however, could happen almost anywhere. I notice that being able to choose when, where and with whom we will converse can take some extra practice while traveling. Our personal boundaries can shift, be poked or become oddly elastic.

After a day of being “out,” both of us appreciated the close and comfortable confines of our guesthouse rooms; of being “in”. The boy could zone out on his Switch while I dipped into Twitter for a break. It also allowed me time to step back and reflect on the intricacies of culture we were experiencing. I developed a fascination with doorknobs, knockers and the like.

 

Landscapes. Green, broad, rolling hills. Tremendous expanses of land occupied only by sheep. Boulders seemingly caught mid tumble – stuck indefinitely onto the side of the mountain. And next to no people. Relief. On my next trip to the Highlands, I’ll be walking.

 

To travel necessitates spending time with ourselves. Spending time with our vulnerabilities, fears, deeper desires (i.e. for rest, privacy, silence, or action). Patience will be tested. Sooner or later. Definitely at one point. There will be surprises.

A quick story: because we could only take an afternoon train back from Mallaig and we had time on our hands plus the boy’s swim gear, we found the local indoor pool and he swam.

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This is what is looked like when we arrived. He spent 90 minutes, swimming and diving to his heart’s content. Along the side were all sorts of water equipment – goggles, fins, kick boards, noodles. He tentatively asked if he could borrow some fins. “Sure!” came the answer from the teen life guard on duty. I was struck. What if we all had a similar understanding of the commons as this community pool? The least touristy attraction turned out to offer the greatest value that day.

As the photographer on this trip I have few pictures of myself. But as the times have made common, I snapped a couple of selfies. And I’ve written about doing that to prove that I was there; that I, black middle-aged woman, was on that trail, that beach, in those mountains. Because travel ads will never show me a comparable facsimilie. Plenty of middle aged and young white women, but not Black women or men. So I take the selfie to preserve evidence of having been there, of having traveled, of having had the means and gumption to travel to a country I did not know before. Maybe this didn’t matter so much to me before. Now it does and I behave accordingly.

 

The first pic is sitting outside our delightful hotel in Forres after a great day at Findhorn Bay. I am relaxed and I am also thinking deeply about what I’ve been reading in Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. The second pic is from our cool weather trip to the coastal town of Mallaig. Smiling selfies are the ones I take with other people.

So travel, I note, belongs in my repertoire. Travel, navigate, traverse, cross, cover, move, advance, go.

 

 

 

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