I'm off to Palau, a chain of islands in Micronesia, east of the Philippines and northeast of Indonesia. The time difference is 16 hours from California, and it will take me about a day to travel there. I leave on Saturday and will be gone fourteen days from my family. For weeks, I've felt tinges of, "What was I thinking?!" and pangs of homesickness, before I've even left, for the cozy comforts that I share with Franny and Jordan and the joy I feel when I hear their lovely voices chattering away. At this point in my life, I'm used to traveling with the girls and Dave. They are my home away from home, and they make being on the road just like bringing your nest along with you. When Dave and I used to travel together before the girls were born, we would think of ourselves as a snail, carrying our home on our backs. Marilyn, my mother-in-law, has a saying that, "No matter where you are, there you are." I think she means that there is always that one familiar thing—yourself—to rely on among all the unknown.

There is something about traveling to the opposite side of the Earth and the remoteness of Palau that makes this two week trip feel so much further and more daunting (and likely will make the experience so much richer once I'm there). Luckily, I will be with two friends, who I met on a trip years ago, as well as Ron, the group's trip leader, who is also a friend. When I arrive, Ron will be there to meet me, and I will stay a few nights with his family, and sleep in his son's room which I imagine to have the familiar feel of toys and more toys. All of these people will add to my enjoyment and keep my tendency to feel lonely at bay.

The flying portion of any of my trips combines a pleasant amount of anonymity that can be liberating but can also be a source for melancholy. When I was young, my parents and I hardly went anywhere, and so when I was older and began to travel more, I loved the feeling of airports. People were going places, there was adventure and romance, and I was one of many who were participating in this global arena. Now, the sheen has worn away and the plane ride is just tiresome, and I get a bit squirrelly and claustrophobic. Oh, how I long to have access to a portkey or some floo powder!

With a journey, there is more self-sufficiency, a simpler life where everything you need is in one perfectly packed bag. It's a design challenge to find and fit all the essentials, an opportunity for perfectionism overkill, for analyzing and predicting numerous possible scenarios. But what of the spontaneity and surrender to the unknown adventure? Maybe that heightened state can only be achieved once you have brought your luggage and all its contents into sublime balance prior to your trip. One would think that were true, given that I had nearly finished packing a week early, and have had a running list for about a month now! Seriously though, there is a liberation in not being weighed down by your possessions, the clutter of your daily life. Each time Dave and I return from a trip to Europe, we attempt to extend the Scandinavian design sensibility into our home, all clean lines and open space, or the carefree Mediterranean style of good food and long conversation. It's a way of life that we aspire to but can be difficult to maintain within the drudgery of daily America, with its longer work hours for less time off, and the emphasis on ownership and individualism rather than community and experience.

Traveling holds so much allure for me, and as my trip nears, I am getting excited. There are new adventures, new friends, new tastes and smells, tangible experiences that are multi-faceted and sear into your memory like nothing else. Travel holds the mystique of reinvention, an opportunity to be at your brightest, the chance to leave behind your mundane or neurotic routine and instead to be open and ready to savor. A foreign place can be tiring and taxing and can often push us nearly beyond our limits. But while we explore—while we embrace our wanderlust—we are more flexible, more able to squeeze and stretch. It's partially due to the newness of the situation, but mostly about attitude. While on a trip, there are
 instances when we are scared, exhausted, disappointed, ill, confused—all manner of emotional conditions that we normally try to avoid—and yet, when we are able to push through these hardships, to prevail, it is in those moments that we grow. It is here in this space where our minds and hearts expand. It is here where you realize that you are you, no matter where you are. It was not this better self that exists only while traveling, but it is you, your essence, and we can tap that source of energy even at home. So travel is practice; an opportunity to dip into that well of strength and hope and to rekindle within ourselves that breadth and depth that is within us.
 





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