Thursday, July 9, 2009

Faraway Dreams

If there's a wanderlust gene, then there's no doubt I inherited it from my mother. Mom was a teacher, and every summer she'd join a tour to just about anywhere- Europe..the Caribbean..Scandinavia..the Far East. She'd been to them all.

When my mother came to live with us, I started organizing her mess of photos into neat little albums, hoping they would be a good Alzheimer's tool. While I was sorting through the pictures from her travels, I realized that in every single picture, she had a huge smile on her face, and her body language was telegraphing signs of pure relaxation and happiness- things we never associated with Mom, who always seemed to view life as a series of bitter, harsh challenges.

Sometime during the week of
shiva I observed after Mom passed away, I took out all those pictures, and as I was leafing through the travel album, I started to cry for that happy side of my mother that she had kept from us.

I knew then, that as soon as I could, I would start to travel. At the time, I found myself with an overriding desire to leave an album of happy photos for my grandchildren. Thankfully, in the two years since that week of mourning, I've realized that it's not a legacy of happy photos that I want to leave, but rather memories of a happy, loving grandmother who always had a smile on her face, a gleeful jump in her step, and an eagerness to see what was over the next hill.

So began my wanderlust.

For the past year or so, if I haven't been on the road, then I've been busy planning my next trip, and dreaming of the ones that will follow. Although I'll join them when convenient, I prefer to avoid the organized tours that were my Mom's standard method of travel. Instead, I strike out on my own, taking advantage of free or inexpensive walking tours to familiarize myself with a new city, and then spend the rest of my visit walking and wandering, chatting, and watching.

I've been to London and Paris, cruised on a very large ship, and also on a small refurbished ferry, have hiked in US national parks, and delighted in the decadence of Las Vegas.

I've found that I love waking up in a new place, enjoy fleeting encounters with new people, and equally prefer traveling solo or with a companion. But the most important thing I've learned about myself is that as much as I enjoy exploring new cities, it's nature that I crave. That lesson will be the one that steers my travel plans- I'll be balancing city touring with hiking, cruising, walking, and camping in the most glorious spots I can find.

Here are the places I've been to since I started traveling last spring:

First trip (after 2 weeks visiting my son and his family in Los Angeles): Las Vegas- Valley of Fire- the Grand Canyon- Bryce and Zion national parks- San Francisco- Yosemite- Big Sur- DC

This spring: Paris- New York- LA- a cruise to Mexico- hiking around San Francisco, and Point Reyes

In June, for my birthday, I took a 4 night cruise to Cyprus, Turkey, and Rhodes

I'm still planning my trip for this fall, but so far, this is how it looks:

LA- Sydney, Australia- South Island, New Zealand- Florida- NYC. And, I'll be adding a couple of short cruises in there somewhere (I'm starting to really like cruising- especially when I find a great deal!).

And, needless to say, I'm already looking ahead to next year, and beyond- for the next couple of years' travels, I'm eyeing: cruising the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, a Nile River cruise, Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley, and return to the Grand Canyon, hiking in Petra, Jordan, and at least one trip somewhere in Europe. I have dreams of a South Pacific cruise, but that may have to wait another year or two.

There's an unexpected benefit that came with my travels: I had my yearly physical a couple of weeks ago, and my lab results were so good that my doctor actually giggled with delight when he reviewed them. He asked what had changed in my life, and when I told him I had started traveling, and felt stress-free, he suggested that I continue traveling, as my lab tests were at better levels than they had been in years. [One of my friends (half) jokingly suggested that I get my doctor to put that in writing, so that I could claim my travel as a tax deduction!]

[BTW- in case you're wondering how I've managed to do all this travel: my husband was a frequent business traveler for many years, and his accumulated pool of airline miles and hotel points has been my travel mainstay. Combined with a keen awareness of travel deals and how to find them, I've been able to cram in quite a bit of travel in the past year- and there's still plenty of points left to easily keep me going through at least the middle of next year (I'm already working hard at figuring out how to finance my travels once the points run out!) Please feel free to ask me questions- I'm always happy to help inquisitive travelers :-).]


Anonymous said...

Ruth I enjoy stopping by and seeing where you are going next. It was a joy meeting you on the Mariner OTS.
Virginia :)

Ruth said...

Thanks for stopping by, Virginia!

It was a pleasure meeting (and dining ;-)) with you on Mariner, and I hope we get a chance to sail together again sometime soon :-)