Saturday, January 09, 2016

All You Hear Is Time Stand Still In Travel

(Signed up for Xirkl yet? Do so! It's free and you'll get early-adopter credit! If you haven't read it yet, here is the story of how my daughter created it.)  

“So, Quinn, you’ve known you were going on a three-week long trip Italy for…how long now?”

“Four months.”

“And since you didn’t speak a word of Italian, I’m assuming you’ve spent that time with a tutor, rushing to get up to speed with the language.”


“A quick immersion class through a local community college?”

“You’d think.”

Rosetta Stone?”

“Excellent program. However, one I did not use.”

“Quick immersion? Flash cards? Did you even so much as glance at Sophia Loren?”


I’m disconcerted how often in my life someone watching my behavior begins a sentence with “What normal person…”

Yes, a normal person with discretionary income and a certain amount of free time upon being told they were going to Italy would probably make an attempt at the Italian language.  And sure, many people would never take the plastic wrapper off their ITALIAN FOR AMERICANS  (“The Secret To Yelling Slowly and In English”) workbook/DVD but, darn it, they’d spend the money. I’ve certainly bought things that had less immediate relevance (looking at you, tennis racket). So why did I completely fail at even pretending I was going to learn Italian?

Because I was completely appalled I was going to Italy and this was my tiny self-immolating rebellion.

Say it along with me now:

“What normal person doesn’t want to go to Italy?”

First of all, I never said I was normal; my ex-boyfriend once threw out the excellent theory I was a beta-test of human they didn’t end up going forward with.  Second, here’s what it looks like from my beta-test perspective.  I am a nearly prototypical introvert about to spend twenty-five days with many strangers. “But,” you extroverts protest, “You’ll become friends with those people!”

Possibly. Or, they are nearly all between 19 and 22 years old, except the ones who are taking this trip as part of their retirement adventure, and I’m virtually incapable of small talk, let alone small talk for twenty five days at stretch with people at very different stages of life. Add to this that I don’t want to mortify the kid by being any weirder than I absolutely have to be and I suspect I’ll be known as “God, what was her name? The mute one.”

Speaking of 19 year olds, the housing in Rome -- where we will be based – is two people per bedroom, couples housed together. You are currently thinking I’m with my daughter, which would make sense, except that my daughter is staying in the room next door with three very sweet girls who are friends of hers and I am sharing a bedroom with a 19 year-old who is not related to me. The good news is that if she strews her clothing all over the place, I will feel nothing more than “Huh. So they all do this,” as opposed to the stroke-inducing rage I feel when my own teen does it. But the fact remains; I’m spending the better part of a month sharing a dorm room. She seems like a terrific kid but let me remind you, I’m an introvert. My sharing a bedroom with this girl seems only slightly less intimate than sharing a toothbrush.

And then just when I start to make my peace with “Quinn who shares a bedroom with a stranger,” we move to Florence, then Venice, then back to Rome, then Bologna, then back to Rome. “Oh, the art! The food! The CULTURE!” you are justifiably crowing and you may call me ungracious at any time. But if you have a cat, imagine your cat on this trip. Like a housecat, I like predictable patterns, I like a certain illusion of control and I have been known the vomit when moved against my will.  I am most certainly not wired to gallivant.

The final reason I don’t want to go, the biggest reason I don’t want to go, is that when I was nine years old, my father suddenly died here in Los Angeles when my mother and I were in New York. TRAVEL = LOSS is part of my DNA. And yes, it just happened the once but it happened when my brain was still setting up like a Jell-O mold and no amount of reasoning or cajoling is going to coax it out.  When I travel not only do I experience the regular kind of homesickness, where you realize how far you are from your familiar routines, I experience what I think of as timesickness, where out of nowhere I’m flooded with how long it’s been since I saw my father, how many days it has been since my world blew apart. Because even though I grew up to be functional in a “Beta-test they didn’t go with” way, the day my father died every single thing I knew, understood and believed also died. I built a fairly good replacement model of a life, of me, but timesickness feel like the first day after he died all over again, if only for a few minutes or hours. Skype can ease homesickness; I have yet to find a cure for timesickness. I’d cheerfully spend the rest of my life avoiding places that made me feel that way.

In sum, this Italy adventure is the trip of a lifetime; it’s just not the trip of my lifetime. But the trip of my lifetime would involve never doing anything I haven’t done a thousand times before. Candidly, at this moment, that sounds unbelievably good but I can’t lock my kid in the human Habitrail I built for myself. When she was tiny I looked at her and thought, “You will be miles better and braver than your mother.” And she will be.

Tomorrow morning, we leave for Italy.

Wish me bon voyage.

And please tell me how to say that in Italian.