Travel Post Mortem – “Did You Learn Anything” Pt. 1

Henry Golden’s favorite question to any of his 7 children after we either accomplished something or fell flat on our faces was – “Did you learn anything?”  Needless to say I personally heard it a lot and more often than not – it was after doing something incredibly stupid rather than anything exceptionally brilliant.  I am hearing it daily in my head these days following my travels as I piece together the myriad of  experiences into some integrated whole and root out the take away, the lesson, the gift, the whole ‘what does this mean?’ – if anything….

When I travel – my intent is to be open and learn about the country and culture I’m experiencing.  A by product – whether bidden or not – is that I also tend to learn a lot about myself.  Like traveling a kind of interior landscape. Some of the discoveries are delightful, some are validations that I’ve progressed beyond some personal limitiation and many others are reminders that I have miles and miles to go before transcending some awkward piece of my personality or perspective.  The following are a few of the random thoughts that come to mind as I sort out the answer to Henry’s question.  I just wish it wasn’t also in His Voice – in my ears – in stereo….

I am good for about 5 hours on a train at any one stretch.  After that the restless leg syndrome as well as the ADD and bored 5 year old in me kicks in and we both start the “are we there yet” whining.  Most of the time – the adult in me manages to keep it to myself and suffer in silence.  After 11 and a half hours on the night train from San Sebastion to Lisbon Will was ready to move me body and bag to another car.  It’s a testament to his inordinate amount of patience that we survived that trip intact!

I have a cast iron stomach.  I can eat almost anything.  I may not try it a second time but that sense of gastronomic adventure came in handy when I wasn’t quite sure what was in front of me and the manners my Grandmother drilled into me didn’t allow me to say “no thanks” as a guest.

I have a keen internal clock.  I have no idea where I got it from but I always knew what time it was without benefit of a watch or phone.  I carried neither on this trip and never missed a bus, train, plane or anything else that required me to be some place at some specific time.  This may also have been due to the fact that I am pathologically punctual.  I have tried many times in the past to be fashionably late to some function in an effort to appear cool or something equally as ridiculous and just manage to be …. on time.

I can make myself pretty comfortable just about anywhere with very little.  While the princess in me enjoys luxurious surroundings, 4000 thread count sheets, prompt service and generally everything to go MY way – it’s not a requirement to be happy in the moment.  I wasn’t raised in the lap of luxury and the silver spoon bypassed our house growing up.  Subsequently I believe that – while me and all my siblings have an appreciation for the best – we have an uncanny ability to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.  This was probably the one trait that served me best.  Besides, there just isn’t that much enthusiasm or toloerance for pitching an American Princess fit abroad these days.

To be continued……. 

As a friend used to say – ‘have all the fun you’re willing to have’



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