Truth in travel

I’ve long said I should do truth-in-travel posts. Instead of a beautiful seascape, I’d show the bus stop where the bus never arrived, despite our careful assessment of the route the day before, leaving us to scramble for transportation in the rain. I’d convey how bloody cold it was in our lodging in Portugal, how we wore our coats to bed, the damp walls and the smell of mildew. The hard bed insomnia, or the too soft bed tweaked back that takes weeks to set straight. The screw-ups, the snafus. It would be unappreciative of me to dwell on them, but it would go a long way towards countering any rose-colored travel glasses I might inadvertently give you to wear. Because every life has its less than shining moments, even your most ideal and dreamed of life.

We tend to forget the bad stuff. It’s one of the merciful adaptions of our minds. It’s easy to lie by omission, even to yourself. Cherry picking your life’s story. I trust you know that not everything is kittens and rainbows for us any more than it is for you. Because I’m someone who gets so swept up in future travel excitement, it’s good for me to anticipate the ways in which things can suck, and to remember when, how, and why they actually did. And then make notes. That merciful adaptation isn’t always the best when it comes to learning from past mistakes

In Portugal, we saw loads of people living in various campers and cleverly outfitted vans by the sea. I was ready to hit the road in one. We marveled at their design. We watched people moving their bins of stuff around, airing out bedding, making coffee. We talked about what size we’d need. Mark is a tall drink of water and wanted to be able to stand. I didn’t want anything too big. We went on like this, making plans, until the end of our mere five day road trip when it hit me how much I hate cars and hate driving. I’m a one-way train ticket kind of gal. It struck me that it would be like living in a giant suitcase that you could never leave behind at left luggage. Bullet of my own making, dodged.

For years I’ve been smitten by the idea of a long walk. Not a hike, which are routes chosen for their particular beauty, but a cross-country, or even cross-border walk. In my mind, nonetheless, we’d amble through beautiful, inspiring landscapes from village to charming village. The weather would be perfect and my legs would never hurt. Coffee (and bathrooms) would miraculously appear at just the right time.

Our friend Michel (long walker and minimalist packer extraordinaire) joined us for a few days in Seville before he set off on the 1000 km Via de la Plata, one of the Camino pilgrimage routes, to Santiago de Compostela. We saw him off by joining him on part of the first leg of his journey. Here’s how I could tell the story of my first foray in long walking:

A gorgeous morning!
We stop to get fortified with coffee and tostadas
Watch for the signs!
We go through Triana, the tile-making neighborhood
Getting out of town now. Keep looking for the signs!
Pausing for a rest by the river in a white poplar grove

Here’s how I need to remember it, the truth in travel:

Ok, there’s the arrow
The roar of the expressway, turn left
Michel and Mark, who is already wondering what the hell he signed up for
Keep following the damn arrow
…past the fly dump

Mark and I bid adieu to Michel as we entered industrial agriculture land with nothing but monoculture farm fields and expressways as far as the eye could see, and hobbled back to Seville where there would be cafes, bathrooms, and hot baths. It’s good to disabuse yourself of your illusions.

And hey, it could have been worse, it could have poured like on our inauspicious outing to Cadiz!

May your day be sunny and bright and your reality never disappoint!

Maer

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