Category: Travel


Good Baggage

There are probably a number of things in our lives that we keep longer than other people think we should. Things that somehow never feel like they quite belong to us, yet we can’t bear to part with them.

I have a bag that was passed down to me by my dear cousin, Carol. It traveled extensively with her before I ever received it and has traveled a fair amount with me. The bag is caramel colored leather with a wide strap that converts it from a backpack to a shoulder bag and it has so many panels and pockets that it somehow never seems full. I truly believe this bag is the reason that I am consistently stopped and searched by security at airports in the States and abroad, but I will not stop carrying it until it falls apart or I do.

This bag has history. It connects me to Carol, but also to the places in the world that it has been with both of us. It’s full of stories and memories both happy and sad. It has seemed to develop a personality of its own over the years.

This bag has become the metaphoric hiding place for a whole collection of ideas I have about myself and about life. Those ideas are tucked into its secret TSA-search-inducing pockets and hidden away until I take them out and spread them in a big circle around me so I can remember what they are…

First, and close to the top, is the idea that “home is where the heart is” which has always held special significance for me in my travels. If you love the places you visit, or visit the places you love, you will always be home and never be homesick.

Someplace in the middle is the idea that books expand your mind just as much as travel. Read. Be informed. Learn. These are the things that will make you see the world differently from the way you may have been taught to see it. And, at times, that can be the best catalyst for true change.

Last, and buried deep at the bottom, is the idea that I should’ve been a writer. I know that some people might argue that I still am a writer, but I mean that it should’ve been all that I do. Writing should have been my life’s work. It is easier to feel like a writer when I am far away from the drone-like corporate jobs that seem to devour bits of my soul on a daily basis; that is why this idea lives in the bag.

There are probably things that someone has done for each of us that, at the time, felt simple and kind but later turned out to be more significant than we ever anticipated. There seems to be a common belief that there is a proper time in which to thank someone and that once that time has passed the expression of gratitude is somehow less valid. I disagree. This is my “overdue” thank you note that has special significance because I have waited long enough to recognize the true value of what was given to me.

Despite the fact that this bag has been in my possession for more than a decade, it will always be Carol’s bag. There is a part of me that will be perpetually indebted to her. I know that Carol gave me a different understanding of my own identity and a safe place to keep all of the things that reenforce it.

So, Carol, thank you for all of those things and for nurturing them so well when we’ve had time together. Whether metaphorically or literally, I will carry them with me always.

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When I was in high school I had some pretty serious depression issues. I was bored, miserable, and felt I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Lately I’ve been struggling with my job and I’ve found those old feelings creeping back. I am, once again, bored, miserable and feeling like I don’t belong; that is where the itty bitty bottles come in– and no, I don’t mean alcohol nips!

As a teen I would go to the store, stand in the aisle of travel sizes and pick up any little bottle that looked like something I might use. The idea of planning for a trip, even one I might never take, was comforting to me. I wanted so desperately to be “somewhere else” that any step in that direction, regardless of how infinitesimal it was in reality, made me feel like I was doing something positive.

So now, nearly twice as old as I was then, I still plan travel to make myself feel better and I’m convinced that my innate restlessness and feeling of being separate or set apart somehow from those around me is what made me such a good traveler.

For the past month I have been laying the groundwork for what promises to be a spectacular trip in September. This will be my fifth trip to Ireland, but it will be Jac’s first trip out of the States! I could list all of the places we plan to visit, but the fact is that I like these places because there are so few Americans. Instead, I will tell you more about the largest single portion of our journey: The Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival.

Cape Clear is a tiny Gaeltacht island that is as far south as one can go and still be in Ireland. It is a 45 minute ferry ride from the mainland and has 3 pubs, 1 shop, and a post office that’s only open for four hours each Thursday. The island is rocky and hilly and the roads have nearly vertical climbs and no streetlights. The locals are the only ones with cars and you’re equally likely to see one of them driving a tractor instead. The Storytelling Festival has been taking place on Cape Clear Island since 1994. The all-event pass for 2010 is €65 and covers admission to any of the 14 sessions September 3rd-5th.

When I attended the Festival in 2008, I stayed at a B&B called Ard na Gaoithe; I think that means Place of the Wind and it’s rather aptly named. It is located past the South Harbor of the island and up a rather steep and breezy hill. It is a lovely little B&B run by a charming family.  The beds were comfortable, the food was fresh, most of the storytellers were staying there and the views walking to and from Ard na Gaoithe are breathtaking. But the B&B was completely booked for the Festival this year so I had to make alternate arrangements.

Chleire Haven campground is on a bluff over the South Harbor and, because of the fabulous location, I had emailed to inquire about the availability of yurts on the campground for the Festival this year. [A yurt is a circular tent with a lattice frame, a layer of insulating materials outside the lattice and then a waterproof layer stretched on top of that. Chleire Haven’s yurts have a wooden floor, a double bed, two sleeper sofas and a woodburning stove for warmth and for cooking.] I received a prompt, informative, and extremely helpful reply from Sally, one of the proprietors. She let me know that they had just purchased additional yurts for the Festival and that she’d give us a discount for booking before the end of February. Jac and I talked it over and decided that this would be an excellent way to spend the Festival so we booked with Sally for arrival September 2nd and departure September 6th.

Now the plans are more real– funny how throwing money at a thing makes it so. We’ve got a place to stay and a timeline to use and we’ve begun to collect the things we’ll need to have on the island:  flashlights, waterproof hiking boots, rain jackets…

Did I mention that for most of the Festival in 2008 it was 47°F and raining? It is Ireland.