That is unusual for me: I usually prefer to stay home than to travel. I enjoy planning vacations, mapping out an itinerary, but, as often as not, I find myself counting down the days until I can return home once I am actually on the road.
I traveled a lot as a kid and as a young adult. I've visited almost all of the states and many countries. I've had my breath stolen by natural wonders and by man-made structures. I've biked on glaciers in Alaska and gulped apple wine at Oktoberfest in Offenbach.
I treasure these experiences, but sometimes I feel like a collector of memories - more interested in tucking them away and looking at them in pictures, rather than in living a trip as it occurs.
Feeling somewhat nostalgic for this recent trip that was coming to an end, I happened upon two bits of literary inspiration - one lofty, the other not so much - that helped me name these phenomena.
The first came through the typically direct words of Olive Kitteridge, the title character of Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning novel-in-stories, and a companion of mine on my trip to Florida. Olive's grown son Christopher invites her for a visit. She declines his request to have her stay "for a couple of weeks" with the rejoinder: "Three days...After that I stink like fish."
And I wondered if Olive's rule of thumb for houseguests might just apply to travelers as well - and if the best vacations are those that contain - almost like the best meals? - just enough to fill you up, but still leave you wanting a bit more.
This trip to Florida was just that for me. I was delighted by the sunshine and the warmer temperatures (thanks, Liz, for making that call to Mother Nature!), by the chance to walk and play outside in January, by the time with my parents and brothers. I felt full of all of these good sensations, then drove away from those people whom I love wishing for more of all of them.
For me, the ideal time away was a week. For Olive, it seems to be three days. For others, it might be more or less. The key, I think, is knowing your travel tolerance and planning accordingly.
The second piece of worldly and wordy wisdom came from one of Big Boy's favorite book series: Toot and Puddle. These porcine roommates and best friends have different perspectives on travel. Toot has been bit by the travel bug and spends most of his time on-page globetrotting - from Provence to Nepal, from Egypt to the Solomon Islands. Puddle, meanwhile, is a homebody. He occasionally joins Toot on his adventures, but is usually happier in the rhythms of his day-to-day life. At the end of Toot & Puddle, the first book in the series, the pigs are reunited at home for a December celebration.
"Here's to all your adventures around the world," said Puddle.
"Here's to all your adventures right at home," said Toot.And perhaps that is the distinction right there: some of us find adventure through travel and some of us find adventure through staying put. And maybe those proclivities bend and evolve as we age, as our destination changes, and as our sense of home shifts.
But maybe some of us shy away from adventure altogether, evincing a preference for home but really masking a fear of the unknown?
Could it be that my own deep connection to the idea of home makes me tend toward a static life? Could it be that my risk-averse nature causes me to miss out on the brighter and deeper dimensions of living?
What is your travel tolerance (i.e. how long can you be away from home before you want to return)? Are you a homebody like Puddle and me or a rolling stone like Toot?
As part of the Help Haiti Blog Challenge, I will be making a $200 donation to Partners in Health on behalf of the Motherese community. Thank you to all who took the time to comment - and especially to an e-mail buddy who wishes to remain nameless who contributed a hearty sum to our collective pot.
And congratulations to Maureen at IslandRoar, winner of a copy of Tracy Kidder's marvelous Mountains Beyond Mountains.
Image: Grand Canyon NP - Arizona - USA by Tobias Alt via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.