I’ve realized that it’s not just me–it’s something in my blood that makes me do this; that drives this wanderlust.
Long story short…my brother and I drove back from Yosemite together so I could go to a party on Saturday night. I think there’s a bit of anticipation to see what I might say about the event (though perhaps I’m flattering myself here)…but I’ve learned my lesson well, and will let that dog sleep.
All told, my trip to California involved driving from San Francisco to Yosemite; from Yosemite to Fresno and back; from Yosemite to Los Angeles; then flying from Los Angeles to New York.
Which is where the story begins.
I arrived in New York at 1am on Monday morning–a 4pm flight from LAX. I had realized, halfway through the flight, that my wardrobe boxes (containing all my work clothes) were still with Andrew, as he had not been able to deliver them on Monday when he had moved. I was due to be in Washington mid-morning. Not good, as the only clothes I had in my new place were sport clothes. Not the gymclothes kind. Like, climbing clothes; ski clothes; run-a-marathon clothes.
Luckily, my flight had been a Virgin America flight and I had worked out a deal via email by which Andrew would leave clothes for me and I would simply take the car filled with clothes and leave upon arriving back in New York. Simple (albeit miserable) enough, right? (I should mention here that every shuttle flight and morning train that would have gotten me into DC by mid-morning was booked with holiday weekend stragglers).
I arrived home to find that he had instead left the clothes with my doorman, which was logical enough, but I don’t have a 24-hour doorman–he leaves at midnight. The clothes were locked in the bell closet with no way for me to retrieve them until after 6am–too late to leave.
I wound up having to wake Andrew, go to his apartment, retrieve more clothes, and hit the road. In case you were wondering, the New Jersey Turnpike is not as desolate as expected at 3am. Guidos in their suped up Camrys reclining too far in the driver’s seat, highway lights reflecting off of their tans; truckers bound for South of the Border by dawn racing at speeds too fast for comfort; assholes in luxury cars testing out the paddle shifters; etc. etc. etc. — same as you’d get any other time of the day, but fewer of all types.
I arrived in the Greater Washington Area at dawn; went to the gym; went to work; carried on with my day. Nothing special, except for the fact that I had just undertaken this gargantuan travel task, tinged in martyrdom and misery.
I saw my aunt and uncle that night, as I hinged on 36 hours of travel, being awake.
They began to tell me about my cousin Dan, who was planning a trip with his wife for after the holidays.
“He was worried he wouldn’t have enough points for upgrades,” Auntie M said, “Then I asked if he was going to be home on Saturday because I needed to drop something off at his house. He said he wouldn’t be home Saturday, but we could come over any time on Sunday. At first, we didn’t think anything of it. Until we found him very sleepy on Sunday…”
As it turned out, Dan had been bumped from a flight about a month before and had received a $200 voucher. To allay his fears and confirm he had enough points for the trip, he’d taken the voucher, paid an extra $30, and booked a ridiculous cross-country flight that had taken him from Dulles, to Denver, to San Jose, to LAX, back to Dulles: $230; 23 hours.
“Clearly, it’s in the family,” my uncle smiled. (Though I am sure he will deny having said that upon reading this…)
I laughed and laughed. But realized, maybe it is. My father is a management consultant; has traveled the world since I’ve been alive. His cousins and siblings are all wanderlusters–have been missionaries in parts unknown; have lived in Europe and Asia; have traveled and seen and done and been to parts that many families only dream of visiting, let alone living there.
Maybe, I’m genetically programmed to this lifestyle. Maybe, I couldn’t avoid driving the Turnpike at 3am, even if I tried.
I went up to bed to find a message from a friend who had, earlier in the day, told me he was en route to LAX for the first time in his life.
But I’d just sent him a postcard of Los Angeles, in which LAX featured prominently, an hour before he’d told me he was going to LAX. I didn’t tell him I’d sent it, so I was convinced he was messing with my head when he told me he was headed to LA. Funny.
“How is it?” I asked, “Tell me everything. Tell me if you can smell the petroleum over sea breeze smell of the Westside. Tell me where you’re staying; tell me it all.”
“The wavy one? The one that looks like it should have balconies but doesn’t?”
“The wavy one.”
We talked about travel for a few moments; talked about life on the road; talked about settling into life; about surviving LA.
He sent me a photo taken through his hotel window, facing out the back of the hotel towards the tarmac–electric green neon of the lights on the hotel nextdoor; shadows of palm trees and 747s bound for Asia visible in the distance. I could almost hear the roar of the engines; the hiss of traffic on Lincoln Boulevard behind and Century Boulevard in front.