So, it’s Spring Break and Keri and Sarah are both off to Hawaii. My husband and I are off to Florida on Monday, where we will visit his mother and also spend time on the beach and swimming in the Gulf. But as I began to think about this blog post, at first I was going to write about the joys of traveling alone, and about a particular trip I took by myself to a small island off the coast of England, but that’s not the way it’s going to be. Rather I am going to write a series of mosaics, small photos of travelers and would-be travelers.
Our Writing Center at Sheridan College is a dynamic and interesting place where people work, write, talk about writing but also talk about many other things. Allison, one of our student-consultants came in the other day and announced that she had decided that she was going to go to Bucharest. She has never been to Europe, knows little about Romania, but someone told it was cheap to live there. I do not know if she will actually go, but she well might, and if she does, she’ll come home a different person.
Thomas, another student-consultant, announced a few days ago that he was going to Detroit. Now, in my mind, Detroit has none of the charm of Bucharest, but that is perhaps only because I have a romanticized view of Eastern Europe and a not-particularly positive view of decaying American cities. Thomas told me that someone told him that Detroit was “funky” and had an interesting music scene. Who knows? But Thomas is riding the bus from Sheridan, Wyoming, to Detroit and back this spring break. He will come home changed.
Last week, Jake, our third student-consultant, was madly filling out the last of his college applications for the institutions where he wants to finish his college education. All of his choices are in New York City. He will love the city, but he will also gain a new appreciation for his home town while he is gone.
One of my sisters once, in the 1970’s, took a cross country bus trip just because she wanted to. She got terribly homesick when she was 3,000 miles from home, but she made it back and was glad she did it.
When my daughter was a senior in college in 1999, she traveled to Vietnam with a group of students and two faculty members from her college. They spent a semester based in Hanoi, but also traveled around the country. She brought home a smattering of Vietnamese language, silk clothing, a set of small rice bowls that live in my cupboard, and an appreciation and love of a country and culture very foreign from her own. I have a photo of her in a Vietnamese dress, and wearing the conical straw hat, straddling a bicycle on the street. She doesn’t quite fit in, but she doesn’t quite stand out either.
When I was in my 50’s, I went to England to visit my son and his family, but then I traveled alone from Carlisle, England, where he lives, to the Isle of Iona, on the Scottish coast. Iona is tiny. It is 3 miles long and 1 mile wide. It is the home of the Iona Abbey first built by St. Columba in 600 CE. It is a place of pilgrimage and meditation. Most of the permanent residents on the island (about 200) do not have cars, and other cars are not allowed on the island which is accessible by ferry from the Isle of Mull. Iona is a barren and wind-swept place. The abbey itself, reconstructed in the 19th Century, is beautiful and peaceful. I spent part of a day on a whale-watching boat. We saw no whales, but many puffins and more barren islands. I left Iona on my third morning there in a cold, driving rain. But the train ride back to Glasgow, and then to Carlisle felt like I was re-entering another world. I carried the bells of the Iona Abbey with me in my heart.