Despite the terror over trying to take a selfie that you see in those eyes, this is the face of a very happy girl working a 12-hour day in a snowstorm called Kayla during her first visit to Green Bay, Wisconsin
I used to think I was a homebody. I was afraid of flying. And once ignored a Mother’s Day gift of a promise to visit my family in Portland simply because I was terrified I would die on the plane.
Then one day when I was fifty-something I got brave and took a job in the field of aviation and became comfortable inhaling jet-fuel fumes occasionally while walking into the office, fell in love the the rumble and roar of heavy metal engines coming and going outside my window in my office on the second floor of an airplane hangar and watched videos on how rigorous testing is to ensure planes can handle extensive levels of turbulence and I relaxed just a little. Oh yes I still pray during landings and take-offs and periods of heavy turbulence. But once I had to travel for work to cities I’d heard about but never experienced I became adept at packing needs for 8 days into a carry-on backpack and a carry-on sized suitcase, learned to take enough cash for tipping housecleaning, shuttle drivers, and whoever else made my stays feel more like home, work my way kindly but firmly into the crowds jostling for boarding in order to get room in the overhead bin.
I spent 4 weeks in 3 trips living in Alexandria, Virginia and never got tired of the thrill of seeing the monuments appear outside the car window while we drove into D.C. to work on an 8th-floor that looked right out over the Washington Nationals’ stadium. We could actually watch the game from the window. My husband and two youngest kids flew out to join me over their spring break and we walked and walked and walked and saw almost all the things and they had a great time even though they wouldn’t be caught letting on that they did.
I fell in love with southern hospitality, relished kicking my feet up on my balcony looking out over Hartsfield Jackson airport at the end of extremely long and hot summer days, experienced a storm the kind that sometimes turn into tornados on an airfield in Georgia and raced against its furious winds and thunder and lightening trying to get back to our hotel before it unleashed its fury on us, with the windows rolled down so we could take photos of the towering green-blue wall of clouds rolling towards us.
I rented a car and drove myself solo through freeways and toll gates and west-side neighborhoods (because my GPS told me so) to find a tiny one-room camera rental place in the type of neighborhood where fences are topped with barbed wire. After a long hard week working at O-Hare and Midway airports in Chicago (with the above mentioned diversion in Green Bay) I stood on the glass of a window extended from Willis Tower out over the city of Chicago and did not feel vertigo, almost got the doors of the L slammed on my as I dashed down a city block and up two flights of rickety stairs to make the train, dipped my toes in one of the truly great lakes and discovered the magic of all the excitement surrounding The Bean.
I watched amazing ocean sunrises from my hotel window learned that one can wash away a whole lot of worry and anxiety and even hurt feelings by walking across the street from one’s hotel and out into the waves of the Atlantic at the end of a long work day. And took an airboat ride to see alligators in the Everglades and drove down to the southernmost tip of the U.S. with one of my best friends who flew out to join me because I knew it was my last big trip for work and my first and likely only time to visit Florida.
Somewhere in the midst of all that travel I also flew by myself from SLC to Amsterdam and then to Helsinki where, after first buying the wrong ticket, I eventually bought the right kind of ticket to take a bus to a hotel I’d picked out rather blindly, checked in, took a scenic walking tour of the area, then stayed overnight before hauling myself and my luggage all over the cobblestone streets of Helsinki proper walking miles and miles looking for where I was to meet my husband and his tour group of educators who’d already been there for a week somewhere by the shores so we could take an overnight cruise to St. Petersburg Russia. This was my second time to Finland, where my husband served his mission, and I fell in love with it all over again, dreaming of renting a summer cottage near in some small seaside town and bringing our whole family to visit.
Somewhere along those roads I discovered a wanderlust in my I never knew I had. It’s been almost a year since my last big trip and I’ve tried to sate it with scenic drives through rural Utah, but I’m itching to go big again. I have a friend and a kid who wants to go to NYC. I want to visit my friend in upstate NY. (I want to go in the fall to see the leaves and go up as far as Maine, where I have a free place to stay.) A sister-in-law in New Mexico (ok, that’s clearly not as big as NY). A friend to visit in Australia. Not one, but two countries, I served as a missionary that need to be revisited. A hankering to see the Northern lights. A hunger to walk the moors of Scotland. Shane and I both want to do a road trip to all the contiguous states.
So many places, so little time.
[Day 79 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]