The other day I set out to run errands midmorning and my car wouldn’t start. As is my wont, I called my brother, who dutifully set aside his morning plans and drove twenty minutes in to town with his portable, plug-in battery charger/diagnostician, to prevent the meltdown his sister would surely have if she were stranded for an hour or two in her comfortable home.
We ended up at Auto Zone watching a nice young man install a new battery. My brother, a farmer, was telling me a funny (in hindsight) story about saving seeds from a batch of habañeros he’d grown; his farmer’s hands are immune to the oil but he wiped the sweat from his face and got a rude, burning surprise.
The Auto Zone man engaged in a lively conversation with us about how best to handle peppers and Scoville units and what to do about it when you forget you have pepper juice on you (hint: milk, not water). He talked about police-grade pepper spray, made from the hottest peppers. He was quite knowledgeable. Finally I said, “Do you grow peppers? Are you a cook? A chili competitor?”
No, he’d watched a show on the Discovery Channel. “You can learn a lot of interesting things on television,” he said.
Indeed, you can.
But I like to do my own discovery. I like to travel. I like to see things for myself.
Although I rarely rearrange my furniture, I am adventurous when it comes to new travel experiences. I think both are by-products of growing up in a military family. My father was an air force pilot.*
We lived in Stephenville, Newfoundland, in Canada, for three years when I was a young child. I still have very vivid memories of the experience. The culture was so different, so … not-American. I loved the folk songs I heard, and made my parents buy me a record of them, which I still have. I can still sing some of the songs, even.
I’se the b’y who builds th’ boat
and I’se the b’y who sails ’er,
I’se the b’y who catches the fish
and brings ’em ’ome to Liza …
I think this may have been the beginning of my fascination with the foreign.
I always thought I would travel more. My parents made sure we saw every national park and roadside attraction, of course. We had a family vacation in Hawaii in the 1960s, which was quite an eye-opener. I grew up, got married, didn’t make much money, got caught up in, you know, just staying alive. Sure, there was the odd trip or two into Mexico. And my husband and I spent every opportunity we had in Yosemite National Park, since we were just an hour’s drive away.
But I wanted to go to Greece. I wanted to go to England. Italy. Vienna, as the song said, was awaiting me.
I was a single mother before I made it across the Atlantic with my sixteen-year-old son. Our British hosts gave me a blank book upon our arrival. “Write everything down,” they said. “Otherwise you’ll forget the details.”
And God, as you know, is in the details.
I wrote a travelogue about that trip, and e-mailed it, a chapter at a time, to friends who wanted to hear about it. Upon the announcement of subsequent trips, I was asked, “You’re going to do another travelogue, aren’t you?”
Well, yes, I am. 🙂
I’m getting ready for another trip now. I’ll tell you all about it.
*MY FAMILY SHAPED MY INTERESTS
I started writing this blog because I’ve taken a few “big” trips—to places I never imagined I would see in person back when I was a single mom trying to keep things together—and my friends have asked me about them. What did I do and see? What did I like best?
Let me tell you …
My father was in the air force, so our family moved a lot—but my folks also took driving vacations every summer, particularly to visit Mom’s sister in Denver, her family in Yorkville, Illinois, and Dad’s parents—his father and stepmother in Owensville, Missouri, and his mother in St. Louis.
They’d been doing this long before we kids came along, but when we did (there were three of us), they made sure to stop at every point of interest a long the way. And there are a lot of points of interest in this country. 🙂
Daddy had been a history major in college, so we saw a lot of places of historic interest. He was also a master gardener, and he loved to build things (furniture, decks, extra rooms on houses). My mother went to art college, and she played piano and flute, so she was interested in making sure we saw things of cultural interest. They both had an abiding interest in art and design (witness the ’60s-era Danish modern furniture we grew up with). Our parents had records and books and magazines. We talked history at the dinner table. And politics, God help us. My mother was a reader.
I learned to swim in lakes, not pools. I have photos of family picnics out in the middle of nowhere. “Let’s go for a ride” was a common refrain in our house. My parents threw great parties, and they both cooked, joyfully.
These things—history, literature, art, music, gardening, good food, travel—the beauty of our world—are the things I was taught to value, and I am interested in them still. When I travel now, these are the things I seek out; old habits die hard. So while I’ve called this my travel blog, you will have started to see my interests reflected here, particularly in the short posts in between trips. I hope that works for you. 🙂
A WORD ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHS
Did you know that you can click on any photo in this blog and see a larger image? You can! Furthermore, you can click on it once more and see it really blown up. This is helpful with some of the photos that have small details.
One more note: If someone other than me snapped the camera, I’ve made a note in the caption. Thus you’ve seen “Alli took this photo” and “Photo by Margaret.” If there’s no credit, I took that one, for good or for ill.