Saturday, January 24, 2015

The World is my Tapas

Warning: I hate this blog entry. When I was inspired to write it, I had higher hopes. I thought maybe there would be a better "wrap up" or point, but I feel like it ended up being disjointed. Rather than clean it up, I am going to leave it a mess...because I am mad at it and need some alone time to think about where we went wrong. This entry and I.


I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Gilbert. She is the author of Eat, Pray, Love and the speaker in a couple of brilliant TED Talks. She is honest, loving (to everyone on the planet) and a travel junky.

I'm currently reading her follow-up to Eat, Pray, Love. Committed. Elizabeth Gilbert's book about marriage. 

I was so hoping it would be a yummy set of stories and events like EPL, but it reads more like a history book about marriage, women, men, expectation and parenting. While she's explaining what she's learned, sharing quotes and historical anecdotes, she's wrapped these facts within the story of her own engagement. 

A little back story here. Liz found a man with whom she would like to spend the rest of her life, but marriage was a sore topic for them both (having both been divorced). He was Brazilian with Australian citizenship...not American, like herself. He was eventually stopped by Homeland Security and refused entry to the US because he was repeatedly staying on 90 day Visas and the US got sick of it. This caused Liz and her boyfriend to make a decision about how they could/would spend the rest of their lives together. Marriage was the obvious choice (for them), but because this is a governmental affair, they were delayed from marrying in the US for many, many months (even with lawyers to help speed up the process). They decided to spend the time together in Southeast Asia, where they could afford to live (since his business dealt mostly inside America and he could no longer go there). 

I'm feeling like this was maybe too much back story, because the point I want to make is simple really. Elizabeth found out that, though they were both avid travellers, they were different kinds of travellers. I had no idea there were different kinds, had never thought about it.

For Liz, she loved to jump from place to place exploring constantly. For her fiance, he loved to travel to a place and settle down - even after just 3 days, he would settle into a routine, identify his favourite restaurant and bar and could easily live there, work there and stay for an indefinite period of time, no matter where they were (Laos for example).

Reading this made me ask the question, "What kind of traveller am I?"

My gut reaction is that I don't travel all that often. I'm a bit of a homebody who loves routine. I watch TV, I love my local library. I could easily go to work, come home, go to sleep and start again the next day without much trouble. I like a steady paycheck and the routine of paying my bills on the 17th of every month.

But this is a narrow and fairly inaccurate representation of what I actually enjoy and do. Sure there are the comforts of routine, but when I started to really look I saw something very different.

When I was in my late teens and early 20's, just starting to explore (Los Angeles, Seattle, Northern California) I would drive aimlessly, staying at different hotels and motels each night. I drove from New Jersey to California only stopping for food and sleep. I enjoyed eating gumbo in New Orleans, the river walk in San Antonio, border crossings nowhere near a border. I would rarely stay in a single town for longer than a few days. Gobbling up bits and pieces of each place. I traveled to Alaska (Dog sled ride with an Iditarod dog sled team), Washington DC (Millennium March for gay rights), Las Vegas (losing money at blackjack), Utah (saw the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City), New York (too many to list). I enjoyed flying to a new state, new city. Even the places I travelled to more than once were still filled with new activities. Alaska - I went once in the winter and once in the summer. Wildly different experiences. I took a bus tour from Fairbanks to Anchorage, snaking in and out of Canada. I've been to New York/New Jersey a half a dozen times or more, never staying in the same area. For the most part, I would explore new corners, new museums, new stores, restaurants. Travelling to me was like tapas. I wanted little tastes of everything I could get my hands on.

There were the occasional things that captured my attention. For example, I've been to the Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) to stare at the same sculpture on no less than 5 different trips. I went to Yankee Stadium on 3 different trips. I've been to Disneyland at least 20 times. I suppose even with tapas, one can have a favourite restaurant.

When I turned 30, I came to Australia. This was a different kind of travelling. I kept a blog for months about all the differences between America and Australia. The people, the culture, the language, driving on different sides of the road. I did my best to notice the differences and then I settled into them. But the settling turned Sydney into a "home base" from which to travel.

During these 6 1/2 years in Australia, I have lived in 7 different homes around Sydney. I have seen Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, the Hunter Valley, Pebbly Beach, The Blue Mountains, Mildura (seeing Outback NSW on the way - wild EMU!), Wollongong and a number of other places (including Auckland New Zealand, a 4 day trip to Vietnam). 

And do you know what thought ALWAYS creeps into my head? "Sarah, you don't explore enough. There have been so many more days spent working, or watching TV than travelling. Its lopsided."

I feel like I require constant change. If I can't travel endlessly, if I need to keep a job to pay the bills, then I'll change homes (10 between college and Australia). I'll take long weekend trips to destinations within reach (hence my LA/Disneyland obsession in my early 20's). Settling down in the same house for 50 years, going to the same vacation home every summer - this is not for me. 

I want to travel like a maniac. I don't want to rent an apartment in Rome for 3 months, I want to eat pasta there, and Pizza in Naples. I want to pay too much for a gondola ride in Venice, take my picture next to the leaning tower of Pisa. I want to ingest bite-sized pieces of each wonderful place and then move onto the next.

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