On the road with Carol and Reid

November 16, 2020

At the time Carol and I took off for our first European trip together, I had completed two solo journeys of my own during my year of widowhood. I had not traveled solo since my vagabonding days of the early 1970s, and I immediately experienced the true “freedom of the road” again that traveling alone had first felt like almost fifty years ago. I had also traveled with companions occasionally back in those vagabonding days, and I believe those companions were happy and relieved when those trips were completed.

The thing is, I’m a flake. Travel requires things like planning, logistics, schedules, lists of things to see and do and a general sense of geography, at least sufficient to know that you can’t get from, say, London to Dublin by train. None of these things matter to me. Back in the 70s, my occasional travel companions would eye me witheringly and say things like, “Why did you convert so much currency? We’re only going to be here for one day.” Or, “How could you not check to make sure you had your passport?” The best I could muster back then was a disconsolate shrug. I still would, if it had happened in any of the recent trips with Carol and me. It hasn’t, not because I’ve gotten better at personal accountability; it’s that Carol has so smoothly slid into that void and filled it on her own.

The thing is, I’m a flake. Travel requires things like planning, logistics, schedules, lists of things to see and do and a general sense of geography, at least sufficient to know that you can’t get from, say, London to Dublin by train.

Once, facing a five-hour delay coming home from Rome, Carol noticed they were loading a plane for New York at the gate across from us. (We fly Delta standby, thanks to a legacy perk from Carolyn’s forty plus years with the airline.) I looked up from my tablet, where I’d been reading a biography of Mussolini, and said, “Yeah?” “Well, you want to try to get on that flight?” Carol asked matter-of-factly. “Oh, okay,” I said, figuring I could get back to Mussolini while inflight, rather than slouching in a hard plastic airport chair for another five hours. Then, there was the time we boarded a local train in France, and Carol turned to me and asked, again matter-of-factly, “Where’s your backpack?” I looked out the window, and saw it was safely where I’d left it on the platform. Finally, we did once board a train without our tickets, which we’d left back at the hotel. “No worries,” I said. “We’ll just hang out in Lyon for the day.” See? That’s how not nailing yourself to a fixed, detailed schedule can pay off.

Needless to say, as a travel companion, Carol has filled in all the blank spaces that had accompanied my itineraries when I had traveled alone. We see and do so much more than when I’d traveled solo. As Carol puts it, “I never got to travel abroad when my kids were young. I think I know now what it would have been like.” I’m happy to be the one that has contributed to her fulfilling that part of her past. And it’s good to know that I can travel with the same innocent sense of responsibility as a six-year-old, and fulfill that part of my past when my parents never took me anywhere. I still don’t understand why, though. I think we had the money for some trips at least.    

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