Good Bye, Comfort Zone

Well, I seem to have done it again.  I am as ready as a person can ever be for a long trip.  It’s easier in some ways for me now, since I have shed myself of responsibilities for  the kinds of things that take so much time ( mail, houseplants, standing appointments, and the like)  when vacating ordinary life for just  a few weeks.

I have packed my bags, and gotten my lectures lined up on my laptop and—equally if not more important—backed up about three or four different ways. I’ve seen the friends who made a concrete plan with me to do so.  I went to the dentist, and am headed to the hairdresser this afternoon.  I played tennis enough times to be sure I still can.  Golf not so much, but it can wait.

On Monday, I get on a plane to Singapore, for several months in Asia, after which I take the long way home, going across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, and then up to Athens, to catch a plane home in mid-May. Five months, plus a few days.    My longest stretch in My Year of Living Travelly to date has been three and a half.

So how am I feeling?  To be honest, a little apprehensive.  Asia is not my comfort zone, though admittedly seeing it from the safe haven of a luxury ship is hardly throwing caution to the wind and taking my chances with the universe.

Plus, have iPad, will travel.  It is so easy now to make reservations, find guides, and figure out what to see.  My first trip to Europe as an adult, back in their 1980s, I think I recall having to send letters to hotels and wait for their reply.  Now, I can get everything squared away with ease, and just have to hope that people on the other end deliver.  If not, I am pretty good at Plan B, or sometimes instant Plan C or D.  And I am pretty good at saying to myself, “this is what I am doing instead of what I planned, and it will be good in its own way.”

From time to time last spring I got on a plane and flew alone somewhere to spend time between cruises.  I spent multiple days alone in London, Nice, Marseille,  Corfu, and Riga, plus single nights in several other places, and it was really a piece of cake.  However, I have never traveled alone in a region of the world that is so new to me culturally.  Between cruises, I will have to rely entirely on myself, without the advantages of another brain to come up with ideas, another person with whom to puzzle through things, another person to help make the difficult parts a little easier.  I am confident I can do this but it’s not—

It’s not comfortable.

But part of the point of Living Travelly is to test boundaries, to learn not just about the world but about myself.  I can’t do that in my comfort zone.  I know that.  So I am ready for the adventure, whatever it ends up being. Monday, I sprout new wings.



Push, Push, Push

I’m in  San Diego right now for a little over two weeks.  I am trying to reestablish old routines, but it is really so disorienting at this point.  This is my fourth stop back in San Diego since I began MYOLT (My Year of Living Travelly), and each time it feels a little less like a homecoming and a little more like a visit. Don’t get me wrong—I love the visits!  I just am starting to feel as if the real me is just marking time before the next adventure.

I have to admit, I am tired.   I see this limp blonde in the mirror and wonder who she is.  There’s less spring in my step ( no not cruise weight—my clothes still fit) and  less of a sense of engagement with everything—people, activities, events.  I don’t know what that is about, since I am still loving the adventure and so tapped in  to living on ships.

Maybe it’s because I don’t give myself any down time.  I have been home less than a week and I have already done two lectures for later this spring.  I am looking at something I thought was so far from possible I couldn’t even imagine it: being fully prepared for my five-month stint in Asia before I leave for Singapore on December 3.  I thought I could have as many as ten destination lectures to do while I was on ships and between assignments, staying just ahead of having to give them, but I have driven myself pretty mercilessly, and I now have only three to go.  I can finish all three if I stick to this pace until I leave.

Or I could just breathe, and remind myself that a little work on the ship isn’t so bad….  except it is.  I really don’t want to concentrate. My eyes don’t want to read.  My fingers don’t want to type.  My brain just doesn’t want to figure out a slide show.  I want to do things like team trivia and  putting on the carpet.  I want to work the daily NYT crossword puzzle.  I want to take delicious naps. I want to have a glass of wine with lunch without worrying about it making me sleepy and cutting into time I need to work.   I want to listen to my audiobook by the pool.  I want to go to the gym ( well, not really, but I need to).  I want to do girly stuff like take time getting ready for dinner. Between cruises I want to be fully where I am instead of  dividing my consciousness between the place I am and the place I am researching,

I can’t think of anything more wonderful than to go off with nothing hanging over my head except revisions (constant, even for old lectures) and practice.

It’s worth it to push myself so hard. But I do worry a little that I am too unkind to myself with demands to work, work, work.  When I was compulsively writing novels I had to make a deal with myself to “waste” one hour a day.  It was hard.  That’s just who I am.  My biggest worry is that when I stop I won’t know what to do.   I guess I will just have to wait to see what relaxing feels like.  I bet it’s fun!









It!s been a good thing to be in Boston and New York in the days after the midterm elections.  Yesterday I went to Lexington and Concord, and was inspired by the colonists who examined their ethics and sense of integrity, conquered their fears, and stepped up when the times demanded it.  Then, today in New York, it was my honor and privilege to gaze on a sculpture that more than any, ever, resonates in my core—the Statue of Liberty.

I sent a message to the universe as we sailed by, that I reaffirm everything she stands for, most particularly those huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Today,  some of them made their way a little farther across Mexico.  Vaya con Dios, fellow human beings.  Many of us here await you with open hearts.

Though we dodged the abyss on Election Day, the future still looks pretty scary. May we find within us the spirit that animated  those who stood up and won us our country, and may we fight without ceasing to win it back.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, or Veterans Day, as we call it in the United States.  One hundred years ago, to the day, World War  I ended.  I honor here all those who  fought for the reality I so often take for granted —the Doughboys, the Suffragists, the Civil Rights Workers. May I live in a way that is worthy of their sacrifices.  May we all do the same.



Waiting on the Border

Ants in my pants. Pins and needles. Spilkes.   Whatever you want to call it, in English, Yiddish, or some other language altogether, I’ve got it bad.

I told myself not to obsess about the election today, but I have already turned the TV on once, knowing full well everybody would just be yammering away to fill empty air before any results are known.  At least I managed to make myself turn it off. But it is going to be a tough stretch of hours ahead.

It’s rather fitting, I think, that I am spending the day in Halifax, Nova Scotia,  and  sometime tonight the ship will cross the border between Canada and the United States.  Tomorrow I will be in Portland, Maine.  Whatever happens with the election,  I will be deposited back in the United States tomorrow to participate somehow in the consequences of today.

On this cruise, I have used the days in Canada to think through the prospects of living here. It isn’t idle fantasy.  I could do it as a Canadian citizen and that’s a big deal. But other than that I now have a Canadian passport that could prove handy in some parts of the world, it seems pretty clear  there is little point to citizenship unless I actually live in Canada.

I would have to establish residency in one of the provinces, and then stay put for six months,  to become eligible for Canadian health care, which is one of my main worries in my own country. After that initial residency, one  maintains health care coverage by actual physical residency in Canada half the year from then on.  It varies a little by province, and I haven’t actually asked any government authorities how they would handle the fact that my work as a cruise lecturer often  takes me away for longer than that.  Only Quebec Province, that I can see so far, doesn’t count absences of 21 days or less against the residency requirement.  Quebec, therefore would seem to be the answer to the question of where to live, but their winters are harsh, harsh, harsh, and I am a wimp from Southern  California.

The upshot is that I would have to be all in if I moved, because I would really be leaving the US behind. Since my country has become unrecognizable to me, and not in a good way,  I don’t think that would be terribly hard.   In some respects I would mind that less than leaving San Diego, since it is an awfully nice place to live and my roots are there.

I wonder if I would find myself taken  in by people in Canada if I left my network of friends  and started again alone in a new country.  When I interact with people I ask myself if it would be pleasant to have this person or that person in my neighborhood, and the answer has always been yes.  Nothing has been off-putting at all, and I have even gotten some tips about places with shorter and less horrendous  winters.

So here I sit, poised in Canada, on the verge of entering the US, wondering which one will feel like they foreign country in a day or two.  My most fervent wish is to get my country back.  I can only hope that starts to happen today. Then, all this wondering will be for nothing.