In my next life (or maybe today)

 

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In my next life, or maybe sooner, I’d love to follow the example of Jen on a Jet Plane. Jen Ruiz is a full-time lawyer in Florida who makes it a priority to travel the world, usually at discounted prices and usually alone. True, she doesn’t have a family to tie her down (Doesn’t that sound negative? It’s not. The responsibilities involved with a family make it the truth!) and she’s young so it probably seems like she has all the time in the world.

On her website, she says not to wait around for the right time, the right partner, the right price. This is a philosophy I need to adopt: To live life in the moment. Always waiting for the right time has led me to put off what I’d love to be doing.

The truth is the clock’s ticking and none of us knows how much more time we have left. Waiting for retirement is not a sure bet. Jen on a Jet Plane budgets, hunts down deals and isn’t afraid to venture off alone. I need to be more forthright and persistent in doing what I want to do. If travel is important to me, I should make time for it. It’s as simple as that.

This isn’t original. Thomas Jefferson wisely said centuries ago: Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.

One of the best experiences of my life was traveling to Europe as a college student in 1991. Shout-out to one of the best traveling partners around, Shefali!

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If I were to go now, I would pack better (for heaven’s sake, check out what I used as a backpack!), eat more adventurously and take copious (and better) photos. I would explore more. I would immerse myself in the people and the cultures and pay attention to the details. For example, I went to the Colosseum in Rome, but I didn’t take a tour or learn much about it. Traveling as a student, I was always short on funds and we were trying to pack in as many sites as we could.

In most areas of my life, I need to see the possibilities, not the obstacles. If not now, when. After all, as Charles Dickens said: “Procrastination is the thief of time” and we only get so much of it.

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Enlightenment on the Tube

The London Underground provided unexpected inspiration.

In 1991, when I was 20, I spent 6 weeks in London on a study abroad trip and another couple weeks taking a Eurail train throughout Europe. As an angsty, small-town girl, everything I saw expanded my world. As I wandered through streets where history beckoned at almost every door and an eclectic mix of residents and tourists strolled the streets, packed the stairs of the London Underground (the Tube) and otherwise went about their day, I felt I was part of something bigger. Winding through backroads on a rickety bus during day trips, listening to the Cure on my Walkman, taking in the pastoral beauty, every moment was one to discover. There were possibilities. London is a metropolis that pulsates with energy and vibrancy, but is also full of smaller, quieter moments that hum beneath the noise.

I loved the Tube. I had never been on anything like it. “Mind the gap” still makes me smile. The world underground was a respite from the noise and heat and smog and smells. It was a journey to somewhere, anywhere new.

One of the things I love about the British, besides their accent and history and the royal family, is their literature. More specifically, their appreciation of it. I soon discovered on the Tube that summer that travelers were treated to poetry posted within the rectangles normally used for advertisements. The Poetry Society’s program Poems on the Underground was started in 1986 to bring poetry to a wider audience. What a British concept (at least in my mind)! I found it so beautiful and un-American to feature poetry prominently where people of every class and ethnicity who rode public transportation could be inspired.

These poems has stayed with me for decades. In reading them, I felt as if the poet was speaking to me. I felt understood.

“The Embankment (The fantasia of a fallen gentleman on a cold, bitter night)” by T.E. Hulme

“Once, in finesse of fiddles found I ecstasy

In a flash of gold heels on the hard pavement.

Now see I

That warmth’s the very stuff of poesy.

Oh, God, make small the old star-eaten blanket of the sky,

That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie.”

Keep in mind my favorite English word at the time was melancholia and my favorite French word was malheureusement (unfortunately).

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Another that captured what it meant to be in a traveler, whose glimpses of pasture and lake and ancient architecture may be fleeting, was this one by A. E. Housman.

“Into my heart an air that kills

From yon far country blows.

What are those blue remembered hills,

What spires, what barns are those?

That is the land of lost content,

I see it shining plain,

The happy highways where I went

And cannot come again.”