The ramblings of a freelance writer, novelist and avid reader.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Haste Ye Back

It’s entirely my own fault; realizing that fact doesn’t make it any better though. When you love travel and you have no money, you inevitably get super excited when you get to go on a trip…pretty much anywhere. When you travel to an unknown place, everything is so new and intriguing; it’s overwhelming and tiring, but usually rather lovely. In such cases, six or seven days are very much enough time. In such cases home is a welcome reprieve and a panacea to the travel bug – for a while at least. But, when you travel to a well known place you once lived in; a place your soul sings for, your eyes yearn for, your emotional and physical person craves…well then – 14, 15, even 20 days are never enough. Returning home feels a bit like being stuck in a box, sealed and posted to a place you don’t want to go to.

So it’s my own fault for taking most of June to wander through the UK and Ireland – stopping at all of my favorite places including Dublin, Giant’s Causeway, Belfast, Edinburgh, Skye, The Highlands, and of course, my London. Really, what was I thinking? June in London. With Wimbledon and the year before the Olympics – It’s like being on the highest high of your life and then crashing straight to your lowest low. Yes, apparently I’m equating traveling to meth – maybe it’s not quite that bad. The realities of my daily life are just encroaching in on me right now. Probably because I’m typing this while watching Wimbledon – when just a couple of days ago I was there; or the seven loads of laundry, paid bills & rent, grocery shopping and general house cleaning I’ve done today. Whichever, I’m in a melancholy mood that’s been hard to shake.

Don’t get me wrong, it was brilliant and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat; over and over and then over again. I was just hoping for a little respite from the travel bug. It really is a problem when you are a broke and unpublished writer. The month of June, as it goes out and is replaced by a sticky hot Minnesota July, was as perfectly golden as I thought it might be months ago when I realized I would get to go on said trip. A trip I took with some of my closest friends and favorite people; and also a number of blog followers I did not know before (Hi, Anna, Michelle and Brooke!). And those blog followers are amazing and exactly the sort of people I want following my blog. I journaled every day and therefore improved my capacity for writing well. There is something about a travel journal full of notes, ideas and thoughts; it’s very organic in its execution. I made an effort not to engage too much in the outside world: The cell phone was left at home, the net book as well. I grabbed pen, pencil, journal and half a manuscript – set mostly in Dublin and London – I needed some fact checking on.

And I really am happy to spend July – October in MN. Really, there’s a reason I live here. I’m not sure if there’s any place better during these months. Look, I’ve talked myself around. Yay, I’m home…OK, fine, I’m mostly home. Here’s where travelling becomes a pain. Because my heart and soul are often in two places; and although I’m in the one I chose to reside in, I just left that other place – which grows more enticing on each visit because I don’t have to deal with the mundane while I’m there. It’s all happy fun no work time; a place I spend money but don’t have to worry about earning it. Really, is there something wrong with me? I already miss the London black? And Scotland - all purple, brown and green while simultaneously shrouded in mist and rain with bursts of the most glorious sunshine in the world. See what I’m up against here.

I set out on a much needed vacation and ended up on a pilgrimage of sorts. The problem started with the manuscript – which on a re-read is a detailed description of how much the writer loves the places she’s talking about – oh, I manage to fit in a plot around these descriptions, but really I’m all about the beauty and deepness and warm people and I’m extolling again; make me stop that. The next problem, chaperoning a group of high school and college-aged students who’ve either never travelled before, or never thought about the journey they take each time they step outside their comfort zone. As a YA writer, just watching the travel-transformation is about six months worth of library research. I am constantly amazed and moved by their zest for life and child-like awe. It’s why I write dammit! Finally, there is the simple realization that living in the UK all of those years ago is one of those profound life moments that made me who I am. I’ve discussed this before, so it wasn’t a new realization, but it always manages to smack me right in between the eyes each and every time I go back. This time, I realized both my British husband and I live with one-foot in both worlds at all times. This is what makes us so compatible. I’m not sure either of us belongs to either country anymore – we’ve chosen the US as home but the UK has a strong pull. It means we constantly question the practices and policies of both countries and can find an equal amount of pros and cons for each: It’s a unique but nerve-racking place to be.

So what’s that great moment of self-awareness? Why a pilgrimage? I’ve got nothing but Enya song lyrics for you:

Will you find the answer
In all you say and do?
Will you find the answer in you?
Each heart is a pilgrim,
Each one wants to know
The reason why the winds die
And where the stories go.
Pilgrim, in your journey
You may travel far,
For pilgrim it’s a long way
To find out who you are…

I’m one step further to finding out who I am. And sweet lord, I’m complicated! So, UK I will miss you, US I’m glad to be home and Scotland you are a magnificent wonderful place and I will heed your road signs which all say – “Haste Ye Back” on the back side.

Also, I’m getting over myself, spanking my inner moppet and moving on to A Month of Fun Days and Harry Potter next week! That is for reals and not for play, play (Fists of fury, Matt!).


  1. What a beautiful sentiment, Mariah. And traveling is like meth, especially when you're traveling somewhere like the U.K. And I'm still riding out the high of it (which is being somewhat tempered by my missing the 60 degree weather and near constant rain).

    Also, it is much more fun to read these posts when I can hear your voice in my head.

  2. Some of your writing here is not blog-writing but book writing, the kind of writing that makes me fall back in love with the written word (not that I ever fell out of love). I don't know how often I tell you that not only your ideas but your writing itself is so engaging to me. I smiled the smile of a composition teacher thinking, THAT'S what I'm trying to teach my kids to do!

    Anyway, I feel very much the same. I would love to go back to Pornic, France and visit the places that became mundane to me after ten months of inhabiting them; yet I often have a sense of homecoming in London, too. The pace, the wit, the brusque character of the place and people all speak to me as if I were a native. I'm so glad you could come!

    And I'll be honest, I forgot that because you write YA, the young adults themselves would be research for your book. Their passion and excitement can be contagious, and near the end of the two weeks I forget that due to the solipsism and histrionics of adolescence. Thanks for reminding me that the highs overwhelm the lows. I instruct high school students because I adore their intellectual curiosity--ignoring the fact that this interest is equally piqued in a souvenir shop as at the site of Stonehenge. Let's face it: for some of them the highlight of the trip was building a castle in their hotel room. So what? That's cool, too.

    There's a book in that somewhere ...

  3. I feel such a similar way about the UK -- especially Scotland and London. Even when Mara and I first visited in 2002, I felt like I'd come home to a place I've been missing all my life. And after that first trip, I couldn't keep myself from returning the next year.

    It only gets worse as time goes on: I want to be there all the time. But you're right. When I'm in London, I have money to spend and no worry about earning it; I have free time to explore, and no job to think about; and I'm usually surrounded by my favorite travel companions so I have few people to miss back home.

    These trips create a sort of microcosm of home, and the microcosm has fabulous adventures that I never have at home. I think it's best that we've decided to do these trips every other year instead of every year, or I'd be burnt out already with all of the longing to return.

    I was thinking earlier today about the first moment I saw the Giant's Causeway a few weeks ago, after not having been there in six years. I was worried that it would not live up to my memories, that I'd be disappointed in how mundane it was compared to the vision in my head. But no. When I first saw the coast line and the magnificent columns and rocks, my breath was knocked out of me again just as it had been six years before. What an amazing place.

    But alas, we're back to making bottles at 3:00 in the morning and changing diapers and entertaining a mind that does not yet know what a mind is. Rewarding, sure, but it isn't the same type of adventure as travel. Luckily, it is distracting enough that I can only long for the towering peaks and lochs of the Highlands and the bustle of the London Underground for moments before I'm swept up by responsibility and his darling baby face.

    Life is such a ride. I hope it continues to challenge, enlighten, and reward. (And that's for reals, not for play-play.)