Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

The Travel Bug

on October 11, 2010

 

The Rhone at Avignon, France.

Image via Wikipedia

 

My parents planted the travel bug in my sister and me very early on.  We made annual visits to our family in different parts of the country and spent long weekends in the nearby cities of New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.  That little travel bug found a permanent home when I was twelve and my family lived in Denmark.  My Dad waited a few years to take his sabbatical so that my sister and I would be the “right” ages – old enough to remember and live the full experience, but young enough that we wouldn’t be yanked from our teenage life for a year. We attended Copenhagen International School and traveled to fifteen countries that year alone.

Since then, I have tried my best to make an overseas trip once a year.  Some years it doesn’t work out, but I like the goal. My bucket list includes visiting the six populated continents and all 50 states. There are, of course, all sorts of personal rules for counting a visit to a state or a country.  An airport layover or just driving through doesn’t count.  You’ve got to at least have lunch!  I didn’t count Belgium until 1998 even though we’d driven through in 1993.   But the point isn’t just to check things off a list (though I do get great pleasure from that).  The point of visiting these countries and states is to experience the culture, to see new things and meet the people.  To learn about the world and my place in it.  Particularly now that I’m living on the West Coast, I really appreciate the differences in culture within the United States.  It’s a big country with a lot of people and interesting history.

This past summer, I had a few weeks between contracts and my friend was already planning to attend the Avignon Theatre Festival in France.  The timing was perfect, and he was so excited to travel with a stage manager. On the way to JFK, he said, “Oh, I’m glad you printed our hostel reservations.” That statement signifies the rest of the trip and the two of us as traveling companions.  He was appreciative and fun, but I handled all of the logistics!

We had to change hostels a few times, and stay at one that was a half hour outside the city walls.  On a Sunday night, the only bus running was the Festival bus.  It didn’t start service until 7:30pm, so we had to pick up our luggage and head to the next hostel as it was getting dark.  When we arrived at the Acotel Confort, the reception desk was shuttered and locked! This is where my friend shined as a travel companion.  He was calm as I was starting to envision sleeping on the floor somewhere in this dark, warehouse-filled suburb. The next hotel down the street was also closed, but had an automated concierge. (Great invention!  Right up there with the Tide Pen.) We found an available twin room, put in a credit card and got a door code! Amazing. The room was fine and actually cheaper than our original reservation. The next morning, we discovered there was another Acotel Confort – a hostel with the same name – just 200 meters down the road, and with 24-hour reception! How silly. The real stress that evening lasted only 30 minutes and we spent the next morning in the lavender fields of Provence, where any residual tension melted away.

The rest of the Avignon Festival was a treat!  We saw a few shows, all in French, which were fairly abstract and avante-guarde.  We spent time with friends, met new people, saw some interesting museum exhibits and ate some truly delicious meals.

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