I swore I’d watch “The Greatest Showman” 700 times. At 35,000 feet flying somewhere over Canada, I’m narrowing the count down to 693 more viewings. Which I guess is an appropriate place to ponder being grounded. I give thanks to my friends and family for keeping me grounded. Honestly without them I’d be lost. Because I just spent about twelve days traveling on my own and realized that I don’t feel completely grounded without human connection.
As much as I love talking to strangers and meeting new people, one of my favorite things about connecting with people and making memories is having shared moments in common. Usually for me these are made not by a luxurious two hour meal or during an eight hour road trip, but rather in mere seconds or a compilation of shared moments.
After eating blueberry bagels for a week with my dad on a trip out west back in middle school, he knows without asking that I’m not going to chose to eat another one this lifetime. We also can remember all the old gray haired gentlemen complementing him on our big ol’ boat of a rental car- a Lincoln Continental. All he wanted was to try out the new (back then) Ford Focus, but since it was unavailable, we were “upgraded” to the old-timers’ mobile. It rode smoothly though and handled our off-road experience well. The off-roading was of course not fully disclosed with our rental company. Seeing a Lincoln Continental even in 2018, almost thirty years after our trip still ties us together in a memory of our Out West time together.
On a trip to Italy from Germany my friends put in the same song on the CD player every time we hopped back in the van after a bathroom, snack, or photo break. Like Pavlov’s dog, when I hear the beginning of that song, my mind screams “onward with the road trip!” and I know it says the exact same for my friends as well.
One of the travel moments that has made its way into my husband’s class lectures is the time I accidentally left him on a train in Germany by himself. To be honest he’s the one who left me because I was staring at the ticket automat trying to figure out if I needed to buy a short-trip ticket to the main train station when suddenly the doors of the train closed and took off with the hubs, and all our luggage on it. We were both bewildered and anxious not knowing how we would get back to each other. Would he return to me? Should I take the next train to follow him? We had no cell phones and no clue what to do. No trains came from the opposite direction, so I hopped on the next train and was relieved to see him standing in the platform at the next station. I still get the blame for “leaving him stranded” in a land where he didn’t know the language, but it still makes us laugh when we tell that story to friends and know we survived one of the many challenges of travel.
Sometimes, though, memories are made in mere seconds. On a lazy Sunday afternoon when I was still in college and my sister still lived in Athens near me, we were enjoying an afternoon movie and popcorn day to recover from our late Saturday night the night before. Tired, dehydrated, and slap-happy, we were content staring at the tv without having to concentrate or use any brain power. Then a corny commercial came on and our heads whipped toward each other as we asked aloud if the goldfish cracker song really just said, “they smile till you bite their heads off.” We laughed off an on for over an hour and still get a chuckle if we mention that crazy ad.
Recently I sat in the doctor’s office at urgent care with my oldest daughter. We both needed to be seen and I suddenly had a flashback of a visit the year before. At our previous visit she and I both had strep throat. She had to get swabbed first and even as awful as I felt, I patted her hand to let her know she did well. Next it was my turn to stick out my tongue and say “aah.” But instead a coughing, scratching, animal-like sound came out which cracked us both up. She still says, “remember the time you said ‘chxxxgh’ at the doctor’s office?!”
In Madrid my friend EB and I found ourselves in a local dive bar when suddenly they closed the roller gate on the outside. Luckily her Spanish is better than mine and we were informed that it meant we could stay and hang out but that no new people could come in. It was a funny feeling and if I had not had a friend with me, I’d have felt pretty insecure. I’m sure (and hope) that one day we’ll be in a bar at night again and remember shutting down the Madrid townies’ bar!
I love traveling and chatting with people, but most of all I love the grounding feeling of sharing connections with others. In Bergen, Norway, I watched the parade on May 17th, their Constitution Day next to a sweet couple from Durham, England. The wife and I so enjoyed the local woman filling is in on who was coming up next in the parade. I also loved the fact that her husband was the most relaxed parade watcher ever, giving space for all the folks to scooch up close as he took small steps to avoid the squish. But I won’t see this couple again to get to reflect together on the fun that day and admiring all of the beautiful traditional dresses (and all the men in their best suits!)
During my two weeks away from my family I made some great memories for myself. I saw beautiful landscapes, chatted with locals and tourists, and learned some new phrases in other languages. As my desire to eat bread or cake or to drink beer or shop faded, I knew I was at the end of my time on my trip! As much fun as seeing beautiful sights is or how relaxing it is to slowly sip on a coffee at a cafe or enjoy live music at a bar with a beer in hand, going too many days without a deeply grounding human connection leaves me feeling empty.
I’m ready to head home to my family and see what new memories get made out of the mundane daily life of mine that I love and love sharing with my friends and family. As annoying as it is in the weekly routine, I imagine even one day the hubs and I could even look back and laugh at cleaning up cat vomit on a weekly basis.