It might surprise you, given the nature of my blog, to hear that I’m not a natural at traveling. Don’t get me wrong; I love traveling and take every available opportunity to trot the globe. I’m just not particularly well suited to it.
Here’s what I mean: Planning itineraries sends my ISTJ brain into decision-making purgatory, though not planning them is worse. (“Let’s just wing it” is not nor ever shall be a valid sleeping arrangement.) Packing takes me about six times longer than it should, and I end up bringing the wrong kind of shoes regardless. If I don’t get stretches of alone time during a trip to process and recharge, I end up losing myself, though every minute I do take for myself take feels like a misappropriation of resources. I blend in almost nowhere on the planet, I sunburn at the [literal] drop of a hat, and public transportation gives me gray hair. Also? I’m hopelessly squeamish. Spiders in our tent, lobster eyestalks in my scampi, any animal, plant, or mud-related life form in a lake… They’re liable to make me faint on the spot. For real. Just ask Dan how well I handled the extreme anatomical accuracy of our seaside dinner Friday night.
Of all the different challenges that come with travel, however, reentry is by far the hardest for me. No matter how much I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and slipping back into my own routines, returning from a trip tends to go about as smoothly as the final third of every astronaut movie ever made. The atmosphere rubs me the wrong way. My mind begins to malfunction. Everything is shaking and dramatic and underscored by off-key violins, and it always takes a few days before I’m able to readjust to gravity. Or in this week’s case, to get my land legs back.
Dan and I spent this last weekend on a boat (a brilliant Airbnb find on his part) to celebrate our upcoming 11th anniversary. We slept under the Mediterranean stars, picnicked just off the coast of Cinque Terre, and formed our own tour group of two to explore the coves and islands nearby. We were either on or in the water for two days straight, and the waves and I have been mutually reluctant to let the other go. I can still feel the floor sway ever so slightly when I close my eyes. The sun is still painting jewel tones on the bay. The breeze is still singing a cappella with the seabirds and the rigging of passing sailboats. I was never going to be ready to leave.
I’m getting my equilibrium back though, slowly but surely. Absurd amounts of sleep have helped, as have molasses cookies, fresh nail polish, and a spontaneous family outing to the park this afternoon. I think that often, in my love for chronicling our adventures, I skip over the frustrating or sad parts—the romantic dinners that fall flat or the tourist attractions that end up being closed or the homecomings that are less Norman Rockwell and more Deep Impact. As a result, I forget to add extra grace to future packing lists. Frustrations then magnify, and I berate myself for feeling anything less than relaxed when the trip is over. It’s as if I believe that nostalgia should work like a simultaneous interpreter, infusing experiences with a real-time sentimentality that leaves no room for disgruntlement.
Life is not a Hallmark movie though, and I should know well by now how multi-faceted and messy travel can be is. Sure, some days it’s sea and sky and colorful villages and cold wine on the beach… but some days it’s reentry and struggle and the real-life work of forging melancholy into nostalgia. I’m not particularly well suited to this part either. But if I can get over myself enough to keep camping with the spiders and ordering the scampi and saying yes to the vast unpredictability of going somewhere new, then I can summon grace enough to let this week’s crash landing be a part of the beautiful whole instead of its undoing.