The Travel Countdown

I have the Wanderlust. I love to travel. So does my dad. So did my Grandma Turner. Even if I was taking her on a day trip, she was always ready. Because of her poor hearing, I’d write her a letter asking if she wanted to go to Tallulah Falls the next week. She’d call to confirm, “Hey, Sweet! I got your note! That sounds real good.” Then she’d call again at 7:00pm the evening before our “trip.” “I’ve got my bag packed!” she’d say. I’d laugh and reply, “Ok, great!” and finish the rest of the sentence in my head…”see you in fifteen hours, Grandma!”

No matter how exciting a trip, there’s always a tiny part of me that wants to do a little countdown … to the end of the trip. When I was little and spent the night at my grandparents’ for a week, we did things we didn’t do at home: have an ice cream party every night, drink milk with a splash of coffee, and eat at Steak N Shake if we were “golden good.” (We even earned certificates, 3×5 index cards, with gold stars.) At the same time I wanted to resume my normal summer experiences – playing tennis in the street with my sister and friends, swimming at our neighborhood pool, playing spotlight if we were allowed to stay out till it got dark enough. So while I was enjoying my week at Jack-Jack and Grandpa’s, I was also, in a tiny little back office of my mind, tracking the days till I would be home.

Even on big, exciting trips my count-down tracker runs. The long and winding trip I took on the way to my college internship in Germany had a different count down tracker. It was more like a “heck yeah, I did that and I survived!” check mark. Like the time I arrived in Venice to visit my friend on her trip there, but all of the hostels and hotels were full. Luckily, at the train station people were advertising a campground thirty minutes away by bus. I made it there and reserved my bungalow (check mark, please!) I also made it back to Venice in time to meet my friend to hang out and have dinner. Along the way I met some nice young Swedish travelers and chatted a bit. Lo and behold I saw them at my campground that night and they invited me to join them at their campfire. By the time I got to my bungalow, it was pitch black. I could make out outlines of people lying on their bunks. I climbed into my own bed and instead of drifting off to sleep, thought, “who are these strangers under my bed and on the next bunk over?!” And “why is this window just a hole in the wall?! Someone could just reach their arm in and strangle me if they wanted to!” So I stared at the moon right outside my open window for an hour. When I woke up I was greeted with a glimpse of a man in purple underwear. Soon everyone was dressed and decent (did I sleep in my clothes?) and it turned out that my cabin mates were friendly and not serial killers after all. Shew! Check mark, please!

On a recent Spring Break trip, my oldest daughter and I spent a couple nights with my friend and her two kids on Hilton Head Island. We had a blast. Two moms plus three kids can be super fun. I dare say it was effortless as the kids played so well and we were able to mom one-handed. (With a beach cocktail in the other!) Still, a countdown tracker tick-tocked on that fun time, too, since our next phase of Spring Break was Florida at my parents’ place. There were additionally many check marks more as each boring hour or half hour on I-10 was achieved and put out of its misery.

I’m mid-trip right now. In this case I only have half my family with me. I’m checking all the To Dos off my list:
Good Beer, check!
Good Bread, check!
Time with old friends, check!
Riding the rails, check!
But the little desk calendar in the back of my mind is tracking down “how many more sleeps” (or wake ups as Ellie puts it) until I get to be with the rest of my family. As ready as Grandma always was to start her journey, I wonder if she ever had as hard a time as me at stuffing everything back in the suitcase for the journey home?!

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