Good Morning, Barcelona!

I am sitting in bed in my Barcelona hotel, at the crack of dawn, having arrived last night.  As usual, my first night’s sleep was fas shorter than it needed to be, but no worse than any restless night.  One of the things about traveling a lot is that I just let jet lag be what it is going to be and last as long as it’s going to last.  Sorry, body—I’ve done it to you again. Just go with the flow and we’ll be fine.

That’s easier to do now that my approach to travel has been revolutionized.  Now that I don’t have any fixed expenses for housing, I can choose to be wherever I want to be. I could still be in Victoria, but I was ready for something new.  I have no agenda here, no need to make the most of limited vacation time and money. In fact, I suspect i may even hang out in the hotel a fair amount.  I’m not racing around to see, buy, or eat this or that (although pinchos and wine are calling to me already). 

I’m in Barcelona because I will be embarking from here on Seabourn Ovation in October, and my hotel has graciously agreed to keep my cruise suitcase for me for seven weeks so I can travel until then with only one smaller bag..  Seven weeks! Free! Now that is hospitality! 

 I decided to stay in Barcelona for three days before going to Montenegro, my first real destination, because I always worry about my luggage arriving when I do. It’s a habit I got in with the cruising, because if your bags don’t come to the ship when you do, well, you’ll get pretty tired of wearing whatever you traveled in until you arrive at the next port with an airport. It’s a experience I hope I never have. 

Observations come hot and heavy when I am in a new environment, and one of my first ones this time is that I really like hotels. It is so cool that a room is clean without any effort on my part, that the towels are fluffy and white, and that everything for coffee is sitting there waiting for me. Need anything? Someone brings it.  What’s not to like, except the occasional incomprehensible shower?

But my biggest surprise is really the main reason I am writing this morning. I tend to be so involved with whatever i am doing, or planning the next thing, that I have little time for nostalgia. I was surprised, therefore, at the wave of emotion I felt about leaving Victoria. By the time I left San Diego last year I was so ready for change that I barely gave the city I had lived in for over fifty years a thought.  

As I looked out the window of the bus taking me from Victoria to Vancouver, I passed Elk/Beaver Lake, one of my favorite places for a long, peaceful amble.  It is still green with summer, and I thought how much I will miss seeing it this fall, and how when I return in February, the bare trees will give it a different kind of beauty I also love. I was struck by how unusual it was for me to react so strongly about how much I would miss something and how much I look forward to coming back.

Could it be that I really have found a place I want to call home? And what does that mean to someone like me, who equates being home with just being authentically myself?  Does this mean I am in the first stages of another sea change, in which I get tired of being a vagabond and  put down some new roots? I have no idea. That’s the best part about being open to anything. I can just wait and see.



I am a hopeless word nerd. Maybe I my brain was subconsciously tracking the fact that I am about to uproot myself and resume the vagabond life I had before Covid, but I found myself thinking about all the words we have for going off to see the world.

Where did the word “trip” come from, I wondered. Here’s what I found out from my best friends Merriam and Webster:

From Middle English trippen (“tread or step lightly and nimbly, skip, dance”), perhaps from Old French triper (“to hop or dance around, strike with the feet”), from a Frankish source; or alternatively from Middle Dutch trippen(“to skip, trip, hop, stamp, trample”) (> Modern Dutch trippelen (“to toddle, patter, trip”)). Akin to Middle Low German trippen ( > Danish trippe (“to trip”), Swedish trippa (“to mince, trip”)), West Frisian tripje (“to toddle, trip”), German trippeln (“to scurry”), Old English treppan (“to trample, tread”). Related also to traptramp.

Okay. Sort of.

Somehow when I think of the word “trip,” I am more likely picturing myself sprawled on a sidewalk than “stepping lightly and nimbly,” “trampling,” or “toddling.”

And then there is the way I have used it since my rather checkered college days, when a trip involved hallucinogens, and then later evolved into a term used for anybody who seemed out of touch with reality. They were, well, trippin’, and never with a final “g.” And anything out of the ordinary, unbelievable, or even mildly interesting was “a trip.” A trip to where? Nowhere except those fun spins the mind takes us on.

And how about the use of the word for the annoying experience of being tripped up by something. I guess that’s the closest we get to the original meanings of the word. We refer to these situations sometimes as stumbling blocks, which is a vivid, although a bit redundant, image for anything that gets in our way.

And then there’s the most a propos usage today for me. I am going on a trip. A long enough one that maybe another word is better. This is not a trip to the store or the dry cleaners. This is a travel challenge, a reawakening, and so much more.

Something else springs to mind. Trip the light fantastic. Dancing with a big grin. Unable to keep the dance out of my step. That’s about right. See you later, average, normal, typical. I’m light, and headed for fantastic. Me and Mamie O’Rourke.


The Cruise Not Taken

I have had an interesting couple of days. I was all set for my travels beginning in ten days, when I got an email from Viking asking me to fill in for a cancelation, two weeks going from Venice to Istanbul in early October. They’ve been interested since before Covid in having me lecture for their line, and indeed my first assignment was cancelled when the industry shut down in 2020. Since a number of places new to me were on the itinerary, I said yes, then began scrambling to redo all my travel plans, dust off and rework eight lectures I haven’t given for several years, and complete the paperwork for the assignment, all in ten days.

The pressure to add this to all the other prep associated with going away for an extended period was stressing me out, but I knew I could do it. My interchanges with Viking over whether one of their Covid-related rules for speaker travel could be waived since I couldn’t meet it, and how the financial impact to me of changed plans would be addressed, led them to understand that this was not a simple matter of flying me from home to the ship and back. They were more than willing to accommodate me, but in the midst of all that I got another email asking if I really wanted the assignment or would prefer to do something different at a later date that I (and they) would have more time and less hassle to prepare for. They said if I wanted to back out, they had another speaker who could step in.

For maybe five minutes I considered saying that I indeed wanted the assignment, but that little voice that helps me make the right decisions began whispering and I decided to back out. I am feeling such a flood of relief right now, but of course I have flickers of regret that I won’t have the experiences the assignment would have provided. No Istanbul, no Troy, not yet.

I will have other experiences instead, though, and I am soooo ready to begin the adventure. I am all set for travel in Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia, plus the northernmost points in Italy that despite the times I lived in northern Italy in the past, I have yet to see. A week in the Dolomites, plus visits to Bergamo and Locarno—all things I would have given up for this assignment.

This was already the biggest stretch of my life travel-wise (7 weeks on land, solo, one small suitcase, using public transportation almost exclusively). Funny how adding an assignment on a cruise line I haven’t worked with before, solo on a ship bigger than I’m used to, seemed more daunting to me than figuring out how to get a bus from point A to point B in a country where I don’t speak the language. Still, psychologically, that’s the way it felt.

Maybe it’s the greater opportunity for growth that that little voice is guiding me toward, some insight or experience I would have missed. The only way to find out is to go and discover what awaits.

For now, I have deleted all the things I needed to do that got added to my calendar. Today will be a normal day—a walk, a “swim and gym,” and a few little errands. No crazy. I like that.


Not a Contest but a Doorway

I ran across this wonderful poem today. Mary Oliver left a few months back to see what lies beyond life in this world but she has left me s wth so much wisdom and beauty in her writing.


It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few small stones; just
pay attention, and then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate; this isn’t
a contest, but the doorway

into thanks and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

–Mary Oliver

It’s a mixed bag having a blog. It makes me feel obligated to have something to say, and often I don’t. And then again, when I ask myself “don’t you have something to say about all this?” often I discover that I do. This poem reminds me that I am not entered into some significance contest with myself. I have nothing to try to top, no reason to judge whether my insights or experiences are worthy of words, no need to set a mental timer on how long it has been since I last wrote.

Mary Oliver thinks of her poems as prayers. Maybe that is the special nature of poetry, but even words far more prosaic, like mine here, are also doorways to gratitude. They take me to unintended places, they burnish rough thoughts, they tell me to pause for a moment before moving on. The thoughts I write down become smarter than I think I am. I thank my blog for that, and for the inner voice that it nurtures and challenges to speak.

It is significant to me that I ran across this poem today, on the first anniversary of the day I left San Diego to relocate to Canada. I had a conscious goal of reinvention, and I wanted my blog to reflect that. I have gone back through my entries for this year and I am overwhelmed by the words I did indeed find for the myriad kinds of growth I was undertaking. And here I am, ready to move on to the flurry of travel that will be my next adventure, but right now, I want to sit here and think about the fallen leaves underfoot, the snowflakes, the waterfalls, the sunrises and sunsets, the living water and all the other things that have been part of my growth and sustenance this year. I offer up my gratitude, which indeed is beyond words.