I’ve always lived near cows and railroad tracks. It’s not uncommon to pass a field of black and white cattle or grazing horses on my way home, or to hear a train whistle in the distance at night when the air is otherwise empty. Not that I don’t like those things, but someday I’d really like a house by the water. A lake would be nice. The beach would be better.
I don’t know that I’d want tangly beach hair all the time or sand in my kitchen floor, but there’s something about the beach that draws me in. I don’t even like to swim in the ocean; I just like the miles of shoreline stretched out before me, the warm breeze and the way bare feet sometimes uncover a unique seashell as the foamy water washes over my toes. When I was little, my family used to go to Myrtle Beach and I would crane my neck in the backseat to get that first glimpse of the ocean. So big, so endless. It was such an accomplishment to finally arrive at the end of the earth. I still scan the gaps between hotels and weathered rental homes on stilts to get that first look at the salty blue water.
It’s not just the beach that calls me, either. It’s going places in general. That’s why I like airports; everyone has somewhere to be, and their accents, clothes and tagged luggage all mingle in between concourses like a sophisticated, yet comforting Italian recipe, filled with a bunch of different, colorful things to make one great big tasty dish. I love the way everything mixes together: the currency, the clothing, the bits of conversation. Everyone has their own boarding pass and their own companions, yet they’re all together in one place, playing out their lives so you can sit and watch and not get bored. It’s like the Discovery Channel, but in person.
Last time I was at the airport, there was a man playing the community piano. He was playing “Put on a Happy Face,” and a guy passing by on the moving walkway started whistling along. I liked that two strangers could be so quickly united through a simple tune. And when you think about it, we’re really not that different in an airport. Everyone is scrambling to get their shoes back on at the end of the security checkpoint. Everyone is looking at their iPad or iPhone. Everyone is people watching back at you. And everyone is paying too much for airport food.
If you have known me for any length of time, you know I want to go to Ireland. I like that it’s green and hilly and has old, crumbling castles. I’d also like to see Greece for all the domed buildings on the side of cliffs, overlooking sparkling water. But really, I think I’d agree to go almost anywhere, except the really dangerous places. (I’m on the fence about India. Everyone I know who has gone came back sick.)
At work, I sit by a window and sometimes I get distracted by these things. Especially when it’s sunny out.
I think of all the places I could go and wonder what it would be like to be in Paris, Thailand or Tasmania at that very moment. What are people there doing? What would I be doing? Maybe if I were in Europe, I would be walking along some busy sidewalk with big sunglasses and a large tote hanging from one arm, looking for the nearest café to get afternoon tea and a scone. I would probably be wearing skinny jeans because a lot of pictures I’ve seen of Europeans have them dressed in those.
Or maybe I would be walking through a field of tulips in Holland, with everything around me still except an old windmill going around and around. I would take pictures of tourists and say things like “Cheers!” but in Dutch. Pete would be with me, of course.
Perhaps I would be boarding a subway in Bangkok, headed to the zoo with a friend to look at protected species like the Formosan rock-monkey or the black-faced spoonbill. We could carry umbrellas to shield the sun and buy key chains as souvenirs.
In Tasmania, I would wear boots and a hat while riding through the rainforest in a red Jeep. Maybe I’d take a tour along some river while making conversation with the person next to me about my latest blog post or rainforest adventures.
It’s hard to sit still and focus on the computer screen in front of me when I think of these things. Or to sit in traffic on my way home, then take the trash out and unload the dishwasher once I get there. Why can’t I tour the world AND have a house, husband, two dogs and a job? I can have both, right? I guess that’s what my Ireland fund is for. One step at a time.