Modest Journeys, Large Rewards

Modest Journeys, Large Rewards
Pardon my back–I’m mesmerized by Big Sur, California

When a person has a family that travels but you do not (not the way they do), it’s a big deal to finally organize suitcase contents and not break zippers closing them, get in the car or board the train or plane without a crisis of memory about the mints I must have at the ready. (Did I pack snacks in my carry-on? Lactaid for the lactose-intolerance?) To finally, breathlessly, embark on a trip.

My blithely globetrotting kin would be appalled that it can take me a week to get ready. I daydream and read about the destinations. I worry about variable weather (is there any other sort?), what shoes and jackets to take, which medicines to include (can I pare down to a critical three?). If I will remember to leave a couple of lights on. To close and lock each window. My family can pack for a six-week trip in a matter of an hour. Or less. My husband is ordering me at the last minute to just leave on what I already have on, quite fetching enough, and stuff those tennis shoes in a suitcase pocket. Pronto. And he’s the one who I usually have to beg to hurry up. But Marc is a veteran business traveler who finds my fussing humorous until I am about to make us late (his idea of late is arriving at the airport an hour or less before the flight). He is Mr. Confident and I am an adrenaline-charged Ms. Greenhorn in this matter.

My parents, now residing in the Great Beyond, had a deep fondness for Europe. They weren’t wealthy but made travel a priority, even if it was a trip across state to visit historical markers. They visited museums of all sorts; composers’ birthplaces and haunts; every possible cathedral. They attended concerts often, Dad being musician and conductor. I turned down a chance to go with them after high school; I had more important things to do though I can’t think what now. An older sister went along, instead, and reported with laughter that my father drank a mug of dark German beer, which appalled my mother–they both appeared to be teetotalers. I couldn’t imagine it–but travel clearly called for different choices now and again. I looked forward to their informal presentations with slide shows and admired lovely objects they added to their home. But they were also campers well into their sixties. My mother kept journals of their trips wherever they went.

One of my brothers and his wife are just returning from a five-week photography trek around South America and environs. They last emailed the rest of us about the Falkland Islands which I haven’t yet located in my new huge atlas (one way to mosey about is studying maps). They seem to embark on at least three longer journeys (interspersed with shorter ones) yearly since retiring. And one of our daughters, Naomi, is heading out on a clipper ship with various crew and creative types in early summer, sailing somewhere between Scotland and Iceland–there are islands out there they’ll stop by. This makes me want to hold my breath and say ten thousand silent prayers already. I can’t keep up with my daughter’s itineraries; she takes off somewhere or other any time she can. But they are impassioned about living like this–and it’s clear there is a huge population that does if WordPress travel blogs are an indication.

I admire that my family members have been so many places and later share their fascinating adventures with me via photos and stories. But it would be a lie to say I don’t find travelling alluring, as well. As a youth, one of my top five dream careers was to be a photojournalist, roaming worldwide. I had enough courage and stamina, as well as more than enough risk-taking impulses. It wasn’t to be, however, so now I sample the world’s remarkable offerings from a comfy armchair. But in real life, too, in smaller doses. And just for the record, I once shared the family’s intrepid travel trait. I bussed halfway across America at fourteen and flew about with ease. Heck, we all hitchhiked around back then. I have tented in deserts atop scorpions and coyotes (or were those wolves…) howling, among other locales. Laid out a sleeping bag and made campfires by the great Lakes. Moved to Seattle from the Midwest at age 19, lured in part by majestic mountains. And much later, when raising five children, we liked to take off for new places–to visit or to live.

Then in 2001 my mother died. On the way back across the continent I had my first (hopefully last) panic attack on a plane that was not about to descend and let me off. Something changed at that moment. I didn’t like feeling so powerless, strapped inside that oblong hull of metal and heavy gears and engines, speeding at some unearthly rate through dense clouds and thinner atmosphere. Somehow grief and that acute awareness got mixed together. And I was alone. It created a near-phobia for a few years. If I couldn’t get to a destination within a couple of hours’ flying or a leisurely road trip, I was apt to have many second thoughts. Trains are marvelous if risky as well and I’ll travel on one again–I can see the good earth outside my window, at least.

I do favor smaller journeys. They’re less demanding and less uncomfortable. One has more choices during those forays. Such trips offer a window on life not yet experienced, each moment a blossoming of surprise without being overwhelming. I perhaps appreciate travelling by car the most as I can pause any time, hop out to explore fresh sites and chat with people of all ilks. Even if it is only days, I am satiated by random conversations, visionary vistas. Quite generous writer’s input. The anticipation of more surprises–if not this time, next time–is the magnetic compass that directs me both here and away.

One motivation for my travels is a visit with family. So that’s what I did last week. There was a bit of repacking after readjustment of expectations (it was to rain the first couple of days; I’d planned on blinding sunshine)) but I was all set to go on time for once. Marc and I flew from Oregon to California to visit our youngest daughter, A., and her husband, D., on the Monterey Peninsula. It was a two-hour flight each way, so that was easy. It was defined by love and beauty and each day was fun. The fact that the adult kids are engaged in the arts is a bonus we enjoy. It was seven months since we last saw them; voluminous sharing was a hallmark. It was one of the best trips we’ve taken together and though it was just a week-long, it will remain with us a long while. I felt stirred up, poured out and reassembled a little at a time throughout our stay. Reclaimed by a greater sweep of life and thus transformed in even imperceptible ways. It was a commendable result of another small journey. I enjoyed several restaurants (not my favorite activity though one of Marc’s), slept well enough in a foreign and colorful room, breathed deeper in that salt sea air. The clear and warming sunlight was illuminating in multiple ways. My heart was sprung like a trapdoor to set musty Northwest cobwebs free, let more good and simple happiness in. I feel replenished, ready to spread more around.

The final report is that I’m grateful I still board airplanes and do step out of imagined comfort zones (challenges occur no matter where one is), if even for shorter periods and closer destinations than some.

Come along, take a look at part of all we enjoyed. There were so many choice moments, it was hard to choose. But I hope you find glimpses of the Monterey Peninsula area enticing, too.

The blue, blue Pacific in CA.
The blue, blue Pacific in CA.
CA. trip 617
Pacific Grove is full of enchanting Victorian homes.
Who knows why this old wall with gate and door was built? There were many, some with courtyards within.
Who knows why this old wall with gate and door was built? There were many, some with courtyards within.
Such succulents!
Such succulents!
Marc and I at the fine Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.
Marc and me at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.
Mission style architecture everywhere.
Mission style architecture abounds.
CA. trip 242
Hiking the Balconies area of the Pinnacles National Park.
CA. trip 276
A view from the top of a trail.
Just in time for wildflowers!
Just in time for wildflowers!
The Balconies, shaped by ancient volcanic action.
Chaparral country. The Balconies, shaped by ancient volcanic action.
Big Sur
Big Sur’s teal waters.
A cafe in Big Sur area.
A cafe in Big Sur area.
Charming Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Charming Carmel-by-the-Sea.
One of many mosaic tiled entryways in Carmel.
One of many mosaic tiled entryways in Carmel.
View from my chair in a terrific Carmel restaurant, Forge in the Forest.
Late afternoon: view from my chair in a terrific Carmel restaurant, Forge in the Forest.
Hat, anyone? Another quaint shop in Carmel.
Hat, anyone? Another quaint shop in Carmel.
CA. trip 435
California poppy and ??
Farewell, Monterey.
I’ll miss Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row,  author John Steinbeck’s old Monterey.
Later, lovely boats and sea!
Later, lovely breezes, boats and sea!
Until next time!
Until next time!


(PS My oldest daughter just suggested I might travel with her throughout New England this summer. Since she has the nerve to embark on a sailing adventure, then manage an upcoming move to new university for another teaching position, I should be able to step up and do that small trip with her. Despite a long plane ride. Despite a reluctance to leave behind daily work at my familiar desk. So let me study up on that. I’ll keep you posted.)


Note: Another post you might enjoy re: my hesitant, overall happy travelling:

18 thoughts on “Modest Journeys, Large Rewards

  1. Now I want to go to embark on a trip like this! Love the pictures. I highly suggest you go for the New England trip! It’s breathtaking and different — especially Rhode Island (ferry over to Block Island), NYC, Boston.

    1. Oh, thanks! Yes, you would find that area enchanting. I have been to New England but that was as a youth. The last 20 years have been to Washington, DC area a few times and VA. and NY (daughter now teaches at St. Lawrence Univ., soon to start at USC–S. Carolina) and many states as we drove up to NY from VA. But I have always recalled the seaboard states with fondness. Will keep in mind your tip!

  2. Loved your close to home adventures. There is so much to be appreciated without traveling to distant shores. I haven’t visited the Pinnacles but know that it was a favorite of my Mom’s so many years ago. Your views of the Pacific Ocean make me breathe a little deeper, just like I could be there. Keep up the good work.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed them. That’s neat that your Mom loved that hike/ natural wonders. Yes, I know what yu mean about seeing the ocean views and breathing deeper…I will look at these often, although we live fairly close to the ocean (in OR.). The light in that area in CA. was amazing, though. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. We’re about to go on our first family holiday abroad – so I do sympathise! We’re very good at catching ferries and finding our way round the middle of nowhere. Knowing what to do at airports or navigate round a city in another language -not so much! It will be the Kid’s first go in a plane (he’s 14!!!). We’ll be staying with friends, which will help. We are very excited, but also more than a bit nervous!

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