The Long Trip Home

Lately I’ve become so acclimated to life in the States that I often fear I’ve lost my sense of adventure. That’s part of my identity and I want it back! Well, after the trip we just had, I can gladly report that I’ve still got it. Our return trip from our stateside paradise took longer and was more complicated than some international travel, and the exhaustion I feel today rivals any jet lag I’ve had. We just spent six full days of wonderful in Pops and Nana heaven, with five days of travel to get there and get home.11038483_10206753581028997_4440069534811809872_n

Here’s the thing. We didn’t drive. We flew.

Our grandchildren live on one of the San Juan Islands in Washington. If I had a really good throwing arm, I could toss a ball from there and it might land in Canada.  It’s so remote that the travel always takes several days. We left Friday for our 6-1/2 hour prelude on a combination of one ferry and two buses. We checked into an airport hotel to get a good night’s sleep before flying home the next morning, but a middle-of-the-night fire alarm interfered with those plans. On Saturday, we left at 5:00 am for our first flight bound for Houston. You probably heard about the recent flooding in Texas. Rain continued to come down on Saturday. At about 8:30 pm, the airline cancelled our flight to Charlotte and we had to wait in a long line behind other tired and angry passengers to reschedule. Finally, we were booked on two more flights the next day (Sunday), set to arrive at our destination at 10:00 pm — about 58 hours after we set out for home (give or take a few hours for time zones).10438319_10153349474429269_7833788750825226189_n

But that wasn’t the worst part. Back when I lived in Eastern Europe, I packed expecting the unexpected. I guess I’d forgotten about that. You see, our luggage had already been checked through, arriving in Charlotte long before we would. The night before, I’d congratulated myself on my travel smarts in lightening my carry-on bag as much as possible. It was so light, in fact, that a few essential items were missing, items that I desperately wished were in there, items that I added to my master packing list almost as soon as I walked in our door the next night.

You, too, might want to add the following non-negotiable items on your Savvy Traveler’s Carry-On Baggage Checklist:

  • A change of clothes.
  • Clean underwear.
  • A toothbrush. (Note: most hotels do offer complimentary ones).
  • If you wear contact lenses, bring contact solution so you can take them out.
  • Chargers for phones and eBook Readers. (I was nearly finished reading Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, an advisable goal for someone in the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative program, but my Kindle gave up the ghost).
  • If your husband had stents put in his heart, pack his heart medication.

I flashbacked to two bookend international trips as a single woman, one at the beginning of my adventures and one at the end. I remembered being held hostage in Sibiu, Romania for three days, thankful I’d left the cheese I’d bought in Prague out of my checked bag and wishing I’d put the feminine hygiene articles in. A decade later, after my carry-on bag was stolen in Chile, I complained to my boyfriend Steve about flying without my sweater, contact solution, and book to read (sound familiar?). He suggested I get some sleep so I’d be more rational. And I still married him.

It’s starting to come back to me. Maybe I can still be a global adventure-magnet. The key to fulfilling this destiny:  Enjoy the ride and keep laughing!

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