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.
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.