The view out my window right now is nothing but white noise.
We could be flying over anything at this very moment — ocean, mountain, prairie, desert. The only indication that we’re actually moving is the rumble and vibration of the great engines, their turbines sucking up the cloudy air, relentlessly shredding it, and spitting it out behind us.
Any minute now, we’ll hit our cruising altitude and pop out of the sea of gray, skimming its surface, the sun shining aslant through the windows of the cabin.
It’ll be the first sun I’ve seen since I left Denver four days ago. Not exactly the weekend beach escape I’d anticipated.
When I was invited a month or so ago to run a social media training session in Los Angeles, I requested that it be scheduled for a Monday or Tuesday, so that I could a) travel without negotiating a parenting schedule change and b) leverage the free airfare into a weekend escape in SoCal. I could cross paths with friends, eat well, spend a few hours snoozing on the beach and splashing around in the Pacific, and maybe schedule a business meeting or two during the week.
But as the weekend in question approached, some of the rendezvous that I’d anticipated began to evaporate; people were traveling, others were too busy, and a few didn’t even bother to respond either way. By the time I hopped my plane Saturday morning, it looked like I’d be spending much of my time alone. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it also wasn’t what I wanted.
It ended up being a good trip — I had truly delicious bites, laughed with several friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and, in spite of the lowering clouds, did take a long barefoot walk on the beach. I wasn’t alone as much as I’d anticipated, which was a nice thing, too.
I’ve traveled out of Denver at least once per month, every month, for more than a year. I love to travel; I can’t get enough of it. In the past year, I went on a last-minute weekend trip to Hong Kong, took a road trip with Simone to Montana, caroused at TWO conferences in Vegas with my best friends, flew away on a solo trip to Costa Rica, enjoyed a father-daughter camping and canoeing weekend with the girl, and shuffled off to miscellaneous getaways in the mountains. Propose some sort of travel adventure to me, and if the budget, schedule, and my workload are sortable, I’ll hop a plane wherever you want to go.
But, most of the time, I end up traveling alone. Whether it’s work-related, or just a much-needed escape from the routine, most of my trips are me, solo, eating well, exploring, and experiencing whatever is on offer.
And I’m tired of that.
Today, as I was waiting at LAX, I heard a final boarding announcement for a flight to Maui. I am dying for a real beach vacation, even more now that Santa Monica greeted me with fog and chill breezes. Simone is traveling a bunch this summer, between trips with her mother, summer camp, and “tante camp” with my baby sister, and I want to use some of that non-parenting time for one of those tropical escapes where I can surf/dive/swim and/or read/sip umbrella drinks/walk on the beach/snooze, remaining barefoot the vast majority of the time. I want to smell saltwater and coconuts when I wake up in the morning, not worry about where my next meal is coming from, and spend a week in a gentle haze of well-being. I want to disconnect from Facebook and Twitter (no, really!), but probably not Forkly, and be present to the moment over and over again.
And, at first, when I heard the final boarding call announcement to Hawaii, I thought, “Damn, I’d like to sneak on to that flight.” And, just as quickly, I realized I didn’t want that at all. “Shit,” I thought. “I just don’t want to take another vacation alone.” Even to Maui.
I know the potential pitfalls of traveling with someone else — being answerable to another’s agendas and preferences, subject to someone’s mood swings or allergies or low blood sugar meltdowns. I understand the risks to friendships that a long trip together can pose.
But I also crave the moments when you get to share in the adventure together. Like when you bite into the perfect croissant, and your eyes roll back into your head, and you realize that the person you’re with has been transported alongside you. Or when you’re standing together at the foot of some iconic monument or landmark, and you look at each other incredulously, and say, “Can you believe we’re here?” And the response is, “Can you believe we’re here, together?”
Or when everything goes terribly wrong — you’re lost, or delayed, or you realize you dropped $50 worth of foreign currency twenty minutes ago when you were reaching into your pocket for some Chapstick. Or when the hotel doesn’t have your reservation, or the train broke down and it’s 100 degrees in your train car, and you have to breathe through your mouth because not everybody you’re sharing air with remembered to shower that morning or maybe even that week. You commiserate, you get irritable, and then you take a deep breath and laugh, because travel is like that. And, a month later, when you’re safe at home and something reminds you of that one time when you got into a tense negotiation with the cab driver, the two of you can finally laugh about it for real, and revel in that shared story.
I have a theory that, when you travel, everything is a little bit better and a little bit worse than it normally would be. So a cold glass of mango nectar while you’re sitting on a veranda and watching the tide roll in is the best thing you’ve ever tasted. And when you miss your train to the next city and your only choice is to cool your heels for three hours until the next one comes, it feels like a bit more of a disaster than it would otherwise.
But traveling with someone whose style and flexibility is compatible with yours makes those highs even higher while ameliorating the lows. When you can depend on each other, it turns the minor (and major) disasters into a great story you’ll be able to tell later.
So, yeah. I miss that. I crave it. I want to run away to the beach this summer, but I don’t want to do it alone.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m hoping it’ll emerge — that one right girl, or a buddy who also wants to get the hell out, or maybe this post will start a conversation with a small group of people who are craving the exact same thing and want to organize a trip together.
I don’t have my heart set on a romantic getaway (though that would be lovely) — the key is to have my toes in the sand and the knowledge that someone I like is nearby thinking, “This was a great idea.”