In a few hours, I’ll be 30,000 feet in the air en route to Spain. While packing and travel can make me neurotic, the destination is always worth the journey. It’s hard for me to conceptualize that I’m leaving today (Saturday), and I’ll arrive in Barcelona on Monday— a weekend spent in planes and airports. My layover cities are Dallas, D.C., and Philadelphia, so at least the food will be good and the people-watching interesting.
If you asked me, “What are your hobbies?” I’d say this is at the top of my list. Some people scrapbook or quilt or amass rare coins, I collect stamps in my passport. Perhaps it’s my military upbringing. There’s nothing more exhilarating than dropping myself in the middle of a foreign culture and living it for a time. This requires more (well, technically, less) than a tourist’s agenda. Of course, I’ll do the touristy things: go to the museums, see the art and architecture, gawk and take photos alongside friends from Japan, Australia and Brazil—but mostly, I like to simply “be” in a place.
In Barcelona, I’m staying at a flat located in one of the residential neighborhoods off the tourist track. Forget hotels. They’re too pricey (the Euro-dollar exchange rate is murderous), and I don’t need or want a 24-hour concierge anyhow. Quite the opposite. I want a simple home away from home where I can follow the neighbors to market, pick up ham, cheese and zucchini, and eat tapas on my porch with a book. Now that’s my slice of heaven.
I guess you could categorize me as a mélange traveler. I like to disappear into a place and, for a little while, pretend to be somebody else. My imagination gets to play, ‘What would it be like to live here forever? What if my name wasn’t Sarah but Sarita, and I was weaned on cups of creamy cortado?’ I get to dream, read, and write. It’s my cultural spa.
If life and work permit, I try to stay long enough to feel homesick. When I begin dreaming of reality—my old chair and desk, my chipped coffee mug, my dry desert vista—then I know it’s time to go home. I return with great appreciation and gratitude for all my home comforts. It’s the traditional mind-body journey: you go, you experience, and you return with new insights. The natural cycle of discovery—be it physical or mental/emotional.
So all my bags are packed. I’m ready to go. I always begin the adventure with no expectations. It’s a rule of mine. I don’t dream or try to imagine anything about the place. I hold off. Pleasure delay. That way when I arrive, every turn is a surprise.
I’ll blog again when I’m back from España. Olé olé!
Yours truly, Sarah
P.S. I’m bringing 4 books with me. Two hard copies and two e-books. I’m an equal opportunitist. Hopefully, they’ll sustain me through the trip. If not, I have been known to track down local independent bookstores. When I was a teenager, I bought a Danielle Steel from Shakespeare and Company in Paris. It was the only book in English I could find, and I was sooooo desperate. Yep, I’m a book nerd. Loud and proud.