No, really, it was a dark and stormy day. And our luck, a Komodo dragon was chasing us down a rain-slicked jungle path in Indonesia. My husband tripped and fell in the mud, cutting his leg and sending a red-meat signal to the prowling monsters that can smell blood a mile away. It was terrifying in the moment, but a thrilling entry in my travel journal, 2010.
For the first time in years, as 2018 begins we have no travel plans, because life is getting in the way. What with political uncertainty at home, helping Mom transition to assisted living and training Lilly Bee, the new pup, I would very much like to run away, but I find myself temporarily grounded.
Still, I can savor my memories. And I can share my virtual travel journal with you, just in case you, too, are temporarily homebound.
My hubby and I have made travel the central joy of our life. When we got married, neither of us had been farther than Florida to the south and Canada to the north. But we were of a mind not to delay joy, and so we were off!
Our first adventure, in 1969, was on an old tub of a boat that sailed from down-at-the-heels Genoa, Italy, to Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Russia. The night we left port, our first time on a ship, I watched the crew tying down all the outdoor furniture, draining the pool and boarding up the dining room windows. I knew this was not a good sign. I started to cry as the ship heaved through 12-foot seas. Of course, by Day Two, it was calm, except in our shabby cabin. We were right above the engine room, and the vibrations rattled our teeth. It was heaven.
We loved it so much that a few years later we took a working mail boat up the west coast of Norway for a week, stopping several times a day and sharing a cabin so tiny we couldn’t both stand up at the same time. Every meal featured a big variety: 15 kinds of herring. In a remote, prefab village up in reindeer land, we came across a small bronze monument in the town square: a memorial to a Jewish family who had lived there, a mother and father and baby, taken away by the Nazis and killed in Auschwitz. What an unexpected connection, so very far from home.
In 2003, we decided to take a cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, and we told a few people about it. A minute later, there were 18 of us on the trip, longtime friends from Lawrence, Woodmere and Hewlett. It was a never-before-and-never-again kind of experience. Most memorable moment: When one of our guys, an XXL man, stepped into a tiny Vietnamese tuk tuk taxi and flattened her to the ground. The driver was shocked, astounded that human beings could grow to such a big size — and stunned that one of them had taken out his tuk tuk.
Much of travel fun is about food. In Switzerland we ate real granola and dined on quail eggs. In India we feasted on tandoori fish, and in Beijing we ate Peking duck. All we could find in the Czech Republic was red cabbage, but in Austria there was the quintessential sacher torte. We drove to Marseilles for bouillabaisse, and in Dubai we ate hummus and fresh dates. Last summer we ate schnitzel in Berlin and sampled weed in Amsterdam. We had mudbugs in Brisbane and croc fritters in Darwin.
A few years ago we started a street brawl in Sicily when we asked some men for directions. They couldn’t agree, and one shout led to another, and we got away just as the fists began to fly.
In Alaska we spotted wolves and elk and grizzlies and caribou in Denali National Park. We saw cobras in India and rhinos, giraffe and hippos in Africa. We saw yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand, and giant clams while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Last year, in Japan, we slept in a traditional ryokan, where the houseboy treated us to an elaborate tea ceremony and we experienced the joys of an upscale, 24-button Toto commode.
One evening I saw a geisha slipping among the shadows of a backstreet in Kyoto.
There is a secondary joy in remembering these travel moments, but there is no substitute for the real thing. It doesn’t have to be far away or fancy. Just different. This fall I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and did a Viator tour of Dumbo. It was a great one-day escape.
My resolution: I’m done with armchair reverie. It’s time to get up and get out. There’s nothing like the memory of a hungry Komodo dragon snapping at your heels to put a spring in your step.
Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.