I travel. A LOT. Almost all of it in the US of A. Oh, I occasionally head north or south of the border for a strategic foray, but most of the time I am bouncing state-to-state, American city to city and this travel pattern breeds the embrace of the familiar and causes one to succumb to convenience.
You wake up in customary surroundings. You exit the hotel to find the corner Starbucks. It’s good. I like a big cup of coffee. I like it when I know how to order. I like it and the taste brings a sense of, OK, yeah. You sit in the bed and flick on the TV searching for something you like, maybe another rerun of The Big Bang Theory or a football game. You may not care about the teams, but it’s something you know and like. OK, yeah.
You get a blister on a toe and ask the guy at the desk, is there a CVS nearby. Sure he says, “There’s always a CVS”. I also like a Sprite Zero and CVS has it.
I easily recognize things. I understand the menus. I automatically get ice in my drink. Ice in my drink isn’t a foreign idea. I can read the street signs. I’m pretty sure that cars will stop at a red light. I can speak the language.
All of this I get, but venture beyond the fern-covered lobbies and TSA lines of the accustomed, head off across the sea and things change. You get that’’ “you’re not in Kansas” feel pretty damn quick. Things rapidly don’t make sense. The plane ride seems to take as long as Apollo 11 took to get to the moon. Steering wheels are on the wrong side of the car. The TV rattles off rapid-fire unusual language. There are no closets, just cabinets. The showers are kind of weird. People eat dinner at 10 PM. Lunches last two hours. Locals gather in small narrow streets dotted with cafés. No ice cream, instead you might find gelato (so goooood). Drivers seem to intuitively know when to yield, to hell with traffic lights. You see street signs that have no context.
You are adventurously CHALLENGED, really CHALLENGED, well I am. I find that what I considered comfort is blown away in the bomb of a new experience. You feebly try to communicate with some bizarre mixture of what you think is a semblance of a language. You look at money in different colors and shapes hoping the merchant will reach into your ignorant palm and take the right amount. You smile at the flowers. Your brow furrows at the food on your plate, but you try it. You wander. You venture. If you are lucky enough to share these moments with someone, you find yourself holding hands. It is different, full of the unusual.
I don’t venture across the great seas very often, but when I do I come away with something, a unique cross between an adventure and a somewhat forced discomfort. It’s a wondrous combination.
I can’t believe that my creative life has opened so many doors, some attached to the familiar and some to the unknown. I hope it opens a few more.