I can almost check everything off the list: bills paid; newspaper canceled; mail delivery put on hold; new wills made; clothes packed; one neighbor scheduled to feed the hummingbirds and water the plants, two to harvest tomatoes; cat sitter ready to move in; airport ride arranged. My husband commented today that traveling seemed much easier when we did it in the past. I reminded him that, “We carried one backpack each, could only afford to buy two meals a day, didn’t have to take precautions in case a credit card was stolen because we didn’t qualify for credit, mooched off friends and relatives living in England and Sweden, and weren’t pet owners back then.”
The preparation may have been easier when we were young, but the travel was much more challenging. A traveling companion, Kathy, and I had left my then-boyfriend, now-husband behind with other friends in Sweden and headed south. I remember sleeping in the Belgrade train station because the scheduled night train never arrived; we couldn’t have left if we’d wanted to because the police took our passports and locked us up with a few dozen of our new Serbian friends. When we arrived at a train station somewhere in northern Greece, I sniffed the air and announced, “Something really stinks here.” We both sniffed a little longer until we finally pinpointed the source of the foul odor. “It’s us,” I said. “We reek.” In the following weeks, she and I became closely acquainted with fleas in a hostel in Athens and sundry other residents, travelers and beasts as we wound our way back north via a ferry to Italy and more trains to Sweden. When my boyfriend and I reconnected, we went to live with his parents in Bristol, England, thrilled that we could once again eat regularly, eat well, and shower. But we couldn’t sustain this comfortable life for long. Next thing I knew we were sleeping on the dock with literally hundreds of freezing concert goers after trying unsuccessfully to catch a promised midnight ferry from the Isle of Wight to Southampton.
This trip (destination to be named in later blogs), we’re guaranteed food, lodging, and efficient transportation (which hitchhiking wasn’t). Looking back on our earlier travels, the current approach sounds better. The only tradeoff was that it felt like we spent months preparing.