A good practice to develop early on in life, they say, is going someplace you’ve never been at least once a year. An easy enough task to accomplish. If you’re lacking in ideas, or overburdened by the number of options the wide world has to offer, Amazon.com has a plethora of options to widen or narrow the field for you: “2,001 Things to Do Before You Die“, “1,000 Things To Do Before You Die”, “101 Things to Do Before You Die”, “100 Things to Do Before You Die”, or, for the less ambitious among us: “10 Fun Things to Do Before You Die.” Volumes of information providing ample motivation by reminding you of your own mortality right on the front cover. Assuming the authors recognize that time and money are, in fact, objects, a couple of those titles would seem to presuppose some manner of preference or editing on the part of the reader.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t buy into the hype. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of jealousy when people discuss their overseas travels, a luxury I’ve not yet been afforded. I’d be lying if I claimed to be exempt from the global marketing scheme determined to convince us all that nothing is ever enough, there is always more to be had, more to be seen, more you could be doing - and, for a limited time, you can attain the unattainable for only X number of dollars!
“Limited time” can be a painful double entendre in a world so accessible via planes, trains and automobiles, and yet so closed with a glance at an overburdening credit card bill, an endless list of dream vacations and an unknown, inevitable expiration date. Unrealized dreams of using any lingering available credit to hop the next plane to Europe dance in my head, taunting me with rebellion and freedom. I’ll stride up to the counter with nothing but the clothes on my back and a carryon bag containing a toothbrush, a journal and a few of my most favorite books. The airline steward will eye me suspiciously while tap-tap-tapping her fingers on the keyboard, processing my one way ticket. “Are you traveling on business or pleasure?” she’ll ask. “I don’t know,” I’ll respond breezily. The chips will fall where they may. I’ll spend days climbing mountains, wandering vineyards, exploring the urban landscape, walking the halls of art museums, and charming an endless stream of European men with my rapier wit and intrigue. We’ll share bottles of wine and extravagant candlelit dinners in only the most romantic settings and I’ll be forever remembered as the foreigner who stole their hearts away.
It’s a beautiful dream, one occasionally so seductive that I forget about the beautiful reality. I’ve seen yellowed autumn leaves act as lamplight and listened to trees speak to each other in low creaks and moans on the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota. I’ve been awed by the endless bustling activity of New York City. I’ve felt the chilling presence of spirits on old plantations in Louisiana. I’ve lived the 24-hour, neon-lit, adult Disney World spectacle that is Las Vegas. I’ve been to THE Disney World – twice. I’ve witnessed an enormous orange sun sinking through the bright pink sky until it disappears beneath the desert horizon in Arizona. I’ve wandered small towns whose names I’ve forgotten on the way to someplace else. I’ve taken the same walk around Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis hundreds of times, and intend to do it again. Each trip out the front door is a journey unto itself, an original experience, a new story. No two days are alike, made completely distinct in an ever-changing array of sensory perceptions fueled by the neverending cycle of life – FREE and available no farther than just beyond your front door.
Somewhere in Europe, though, there’s still a bottle of wine with my name on it.