The Land of Enchantment

Near-Los-Alamos

New Mexico landscape

Pico Iyer wrote “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” in two weeks Donna and I will be going on an eleven day trip to New Mexico. It is the first time we’ve traveled together in two years. First, Donna had open heart surgery. Then, after she completed cardio rehab, we planned a trip to northern Italy. The week after we paid for our airline tickets she broke her ankle. Donna is walking with a cane, but it is the cancelled trip to Italy that still hurts.

New Mexico should be a painless trip. Donna won’t have to do a lot of walking. We won’t have jet lag. We will be driving though a beautiful part of the country, with many Pueblos, adobe churches, ancient cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs to visit. We were there 25 years ago, but I barely remember it, even when I look at the pictures.

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

We both need to shake up our routine, and traveling is the best way for us to do it. Sometimes you can only make sense of your world by stepping out of it. After we visit Santa Fe and Taos, I have no idea where we are going, except that I’ve insisted that it include a soak in a hot springs.

We are trying to not read too much into the trip, but we are both thinking that if we enjoy it then we might be able go to Italy in October. Donna doesn’t know if her current condition is as good as it is going to get, or whether her energy and walking strength will continue to improve. I don’t want New Mexico to turn into an eleven day stress test to see how much she can do before she wilts. We need to figure out what pace is comfortable, and make our peace with it.

Donna is anxious about the effect of the altitude (7000 ft. above sea level). I am anxious about the attitude. The airport security, public bathrooms, making a spectacle of myself by wearing trunks and a rash guard in the hot springs, and getting a massage.

I haven’t flown since I had top surgery. The last coupe of times I went though airport security were stressful. The TSA stopped me, patted me down thoroughly, questioned me, and swabbed my palms for explosives. There was also an unpleasant incident with a male security guard in the women’s restroom in the Houston Airport (this time we have a stop over in Dallas). I am bracing myself for another strange encounter.

If anything, this time around I am a bit more ambiguous, and a lot less likely to apologize when something happens. When I laid out my clothes for the trip (using Rick Steves’ Packing Checklist) I realized that I will be a study in blue. Blue striped T-shirts, blue plaid button downs, a chambray workshirt, blue swim trunks, and denim jeans. A blue zip hoodie and a midnight blue Gore-Tex jacket. Everything I am packing is something that I am 100% comfortable in. It is the best travel wardrobe I’ve ever assembled and not coincidentally, the most masculine.

One thing I like about travel is that I can leave my personal history at home, and be anonymous, or at least taken at face value. I experience myself differently in a new place, through my own eyes, and through other people’s eyes. Hopefully, I can take a break from my incessant questioning of where my transition is going, and just enjoy being where I am. The land of enchantment.

Notes: The Pico Iyer piece “Why We Travel” can be read, in its entirety, here.

The “Land of Enchantment” is the official nickname of New Mexico. Unfortunately, the official nickname of New York State is the “Empire State” which is much less enchanting.

12 thoughts on “The Land of Enchantment

  1. Hart

    Have fun! Don’t worry about the trunks and rash guard. Last time I was at a hot springs a very European couple hopped into our little tub completely starkers.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’ve only been in a hot tub once without a suit on. We have friends who live on a very private road, and they fired up their hot tub, and looked at me like I was an alien from Mars when I came out wearing my swimsuit. My scars are still quite visible from top surgery, so I’d be hesitant to go in topless. Same thing with the sauna.

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  2. genderneutral

    Try O Ho Caliente if u want a layer back not upscale soak experience. There mud wraps are amazing. Beds are comfy and food is yummy. Granted I haven’t been there in a number of years. Or right in Santa Fe 10,000 Waves I believe it’s called. My friend raves about it. More upscale soak and spa experience. Soak= hot springs. Enjoy ur trip.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for suggesting Ojo Caliente. It looks like they have modernized and renovated it – we were there in 1992 and stayed down the road at a scruffy motel – but it looks a lot more inviting now (combination of my age and their renovation). May also go to Jemez Springs or Truth and Consquences – but definitely going to go for a soak and a massage.

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  3. janitorqueer

    Have a great time! I’ve visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe 4 times – it’s so different there! I remember a trip to Bandelier Nat’l Park, which was so amazing! I never did hot springs – maybe next time!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am looking forward to being there and being in a more relaxed and peaceful environment. Bandelier looks great, and at least the main walking paths might be manageable for Donna (I don’t think she is going to be climbing any ladders anytime soon but I would).

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  4. Lesboi

    Sounds like an am amazing trip! We’re getting ready to go on our own adventure to the Pacific Northwest in about 10 days. Really looking forward to it. Hope you both enjoy your trip and come back renewed and fresh.

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  5. jerbearinsantafe

    Well an advanced welcome to my home state. If you make it to Santa Fe drop me an email if you want to connect or get some advice. My email is fairyjerbear@gmail.com. I have this bit on travel here in The City Different here: https://jerbearinsantafe.wordpress.com/santa-fe-queer-travel-in-the-city-different/
    I’m in love with my home of 20 years and am always glad to welcome folks from the LGBTQIA+ community to our Land of Enchantment!

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