Away Pt. 1

Tallinn, Estonia

Right out of the gate, I suck at blogs. Just so you know and will lower your expectations immediately. I don’t really like blogs, to be honest.

I suspect that it’s because blogs feel indulgent “look at me” sort of things, and much like all social media, comes with the implicit understanding that the writer is carefully editing out the dull bits of life that comprise 23 ¾ hours of every day, and blowing the teeniest bit of excitement all out of proportion. I’ve seen blogs where laundry comes with “hilarious” stories, or tuck-pointing the house is turned into a ten-part drama. All fine, I suppose, if you’re into being the star of your own reality show. Not judging (Yes, judging. Obviously judging. How gullible are you?)

I was not raised to be the center of attention. The youngest of four kids with a widowed mom often working two jobs, I was raised to not cause problems. Family, subsequent relationships, and crazy bosses all taught me not to cause problems. Ask around (if you know anyone I know) and they’ll tell you I am unflappable. I can not be flapped. I’m calm in all storms, unexcitable on almost all occasions, and generally the last person you’d expect to do anything crazy.

But that all has a price. I’ve gained weight in the last few years as I became increasingly exhausted and annoyed. My solution was to buy bigger pants, pretend it was the brand’s fault, and crop photos that showed my stomach bulge or double chin. I’ve taken to cropping my photos more and more until now, in most pictures, there’s little more than a finger showing.

I’ve shuttled between work and family and books and hobbies until I’d muddied the difference between joy and obligation. And I, for a long time, lost interest in writing for anything other than the certainty of my paycheck.

Then I ran away.

Helsinki, Finland

I took a trip by myself. Which, for reasons I’m unclear on, elicited quite a lot of pity from folks around me. A “no one wants to go with you” kind of pity, and a wondering about the state of my relationship. Nevertheless, I persisted (sorry that was Elizabeth Warren)….Nevertheless, I bought a plane ticket.

I’ve taken solo work trips before and even solo road trips. But both had a purpose. I was working or I was driving to a specific destination. I wasn’t vacationing. I’d never gone alone just to go.

But I did. First Helsinki, then Tallinn, then Stockholm. Ten days, three countries. An amuse bouche of travel to places I’d never been but wanted to go. And you know something? I loved it. I loved the quiet of my own thoughts, waking up to a schedule that was completely mine to decide, the not having to concern myself with someone else’s needs.

Stockholm, Sweden

Was it lonely? Yeah, sometimes. I’m not here to lie. Sometimes I felt weird standing in line for an attraction, surrounded by selfie-loving couples, and families struggling to keep all the kids together. But other times I felt sort of, honestly, liberated.

And then I had walked into this design shop in Helsinki. I was just wandering, and the window caught my eye. Inside a woman about my age told she’d just quit her day job to open this shop, with designs based on her photography. I was the only customer at the moment, so no one was pulling her away, and of course, I had no one hurrying me along either. We talked, this woman and myself, for about forty minutes – about changing direction, about being afraid and fearless, about following dreams. Would I have had that conversation with family, friends, or colleagues nearby? I doubt it. I bought a throw pillow cover and remember her, and that moment, every time I use it.

There’s been more moments of connection like that since, and every one of them reminds me how much I love to see and experience the world. I’ve taken solo trips since, but also trips with family, friends & colleagues, and I’ve loved them all.

My cabin on the overnight ferry between Estonia and Sweden

I’ve had a blog before. Because I’m not good at blogs, it was unfocused. I’m going to try again. This time I’m going to focus on travel, big and small, because it’s both a passion of mine and the focus of my new World of Spies series.

I hope you’ll join me, and also help educate me, on places to go, and the best ways to get there, be there, and see everything.