We think of travel as going from one place to another, of being in a city or country that is foreign to us. What we often forget is that we are also traveling through our lives, that slowly but surely we are literally on the trip of a lifetime. The others on our trip, the ones we call family and friends, husbands and wives, co-workers and acquaintances, are all taking their own journeys, too. For some of us, our tours are marked by visits to islands of happiness; for others, we seem to travel from tragic place to tragic place, as if the only hotels open to us were the sad, run-down ones where the mattress sags, the coffee is cold, and the staff is only ever rude.
When I fly, I like to travel business class or first, if possible. When I stay at hotels I like the cozy, luxury boutique hotels like The Heathman in Portland or the Serrano in San Francisco. Even a B & B should be the perfect one for me; my favorite was in Glastonbury, where the clotted cream on the scones came from the dairy farm down the road and the ruins of Glastonbury cathedral were just a few steps away.
Sometimes I forget and take my life’s journey for granted. What is the saying? Without the dark, we would never know the light. Then someone crosses the final visible bridge as they continue their travels beyond the veil — the last security checkpoint, if you will. My uncle died on Sunday, alone in a hospital because my aunt could no longer remember to go visit him nor could he remember if she came. My favorite neighborhood cat, weakened by some wasting disease, fought his last fight with a coyote. Last week my friend flew in to host a tea party for her sister, something that reminded them both of their childhood. This week, that sister succumbed to cancer.
I travel on, carrying with me the memories of my trips and adding to the growing list of stops along the way, remembering to revel in each one because it might be my last. Standing between the paws of the Sphinx or that in tiny little tapas bar in Madrid is no more important to me than the feel of the deep goosedown pillow or the smile of a dear friend; it all makes up the journey of my lifetime.