Heading Home

It’s a chilly, gray, rainy Sunday afternoon, and I am holed up in the Comfort Inn near the Paris airport, winding down finally after my whirlwind tour. (Mexico/Italy/France). I’m in pretty good shape, all things considered. I’m proud of myself. This did not turn out to be such an easy trip, and I figured it out and made it through. Way to go me.

My travel blog is not how I first envisioned it—neither a daily travel diary nor journal at all, in the end. More a collection of themed writings as it turns out. But I am very aware of how fortunate I am to have the time, good health, and resources, to make such a journey, and have wanted to use my writing as a way to share my good fortune, to “spread the wealth” as it were.

Today’s leg of the journey brought me by train from Strasbourg to Paris, and tomorrow I take my airport shuttle, do the airport security dance, and head for home. Although the action part of the adventure will be over, I suspect the reflection part of this journey will continue for quite some time. I’ve taken in a variety of sights, sounds, smells and experiences; the cloistered aspect of a Minnesota winter is the perfect setting to sit and make sense of what I’ve seen, so I anticipate the writing will continue long after this part of my life’s journey comes to a close.

On one level, this trip was about visiting my children during their semester abroad, spending some quality time with them individually, and creating shared experiences. This I did. Although quality time with one of them involved extracting ourselves from an environment that felt more cult-like than sacred, and with the other, a one-hour jaunt around the perimeter of the world’s smallest country! Neither of these experiences would have qualified as “Plan A”. But we survived them together, and these shared experiences, both good and bad, do continue to weave our lives together, strand by strand.

On another level, this trip was about figuring out who I am and what I’m made of, now that I’m no longer in my twenties, thirties, or even forties. Now that I’m no longer primarily a mom. Now that I’ve left the interpreting position I’ve held for the last ten years. Part of this trip was about figuring out what’s left, now that my youth has begun to fade and my primary roles have shifted. About figuring out what’s ahead. I haven’t been thinking about these things consciously on a daily basis, but they’ve been under my feet, behind my back, propelling me forward, In Cancun, in Rome, in Assisi, at Mont Saint Michel, in Strasbourg.

It came to me today, in an inauspicious moment, on the train to Paris, traveling through the French countryside.  A late train reservation meant I had no assigned seat, so I was huddled with a couple of other travelers at the end of the car, in a tiny space filled with luggage.  Yet I had a view as the country scenery swirled by, and I thought about how much I enjoy sitting and watching the world.  I’ve learned to appreciate that sitting and doing nothing allows my brain to percolate and float new ideas to the surface.   One such thought slowly bubbled its way to my attention.  I finally know what I want to be when I grow up—I think I’ll be a writer!  And if I’m not grown up now, as a grandmother of two, I don’t know when I’ll ever be.

And who then, am I, after all is said and done?  After 10,000+ miles, three countries and as many languages, airplanes, buses, trains, metros, trams, cobblestones, cathedrals, Irish pubs and sacred places?  Well it turns out I’m the same old me I always was, with just a little more mileage, a little more strength, a little more wisdom, and many more stories to tell.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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