On Travel

In case you're wondering: yep, that's me. A photo my sister snapped while on the crest of the sunrise on a very high mountain in Hawaii. I'd foolishly predicted the temperature for my family based on sea level and Oh oh oh, we were freezing at 5 AM.

I've been in the grip of a spate of fellowship applications as of late--to New Hampshire, to Stonington, to Tokyo and Riga--which raises the question of "Um, why?" I am not fleeing a 9-to-5 job, or motherhood. I seem to have stumbled into this vagabond life.

That was never what I intended for this decade. I thought I'd do what most folks (and certainly, my high school girlfriends) do: get married, invest in significant pieces of furniture and fine place settings, have a kid or two. But things happened, and I had to upturn the apple cart and run hollering into a different kind of life.

2012 is going to be a lot like 2011. 2011 put 30,000 miles on my car, so I say that with a certain amount of trepidation. But I am learning how to take it all in: when to push, when to stop, when to crash for 18 minutes in the McDonald's parking lot. When to pay for the fancy sushi and when to skimp on canned sardines in the hotel room. 

During November's Miami trip, I marched a friend through a fancy-ass hotel lobby at midnight (en route to a sublimely ridiculous South Beach poolside lounge) and he said "You seem very comfortable in this world." Nah. I have no natural affinity for skinny jeans and Laboutins, anymore than I'd make a natural Brooklyner. It's not about being comfortable in the world; it's about being mildly uneasy, but proceeding regardless. Always. You arrive. You orient. You risk embarrassment. You plunge.

Growing up, my father's Army commands always took him away from us. Sometimes it was far--Panama, Bosnia, Kuwait--but more often it was within driving distance. When I mention I was a military kid people always assume I was a peripatetic "brat," but the truth is we stayed in proximity to the Pentagon via homes in Virginia, while my dad journeyed on his own. He went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina; to the Civil Affairs command in Pensacola; to Fort Snelling in Minnesota. He went. We stayed. I thought surely that in becoming a poet, I was following a career path very unlike his. So it's funny that I find myself following the same merciless paths of I-95, I-81, I-40.

I travel because I'm strong enough to travel, which is part of proving to myself that I can step into this time of life alone. I travel because I'm crafty and I guess where to find the free microwave access. I travel because though I don't speak many languages, I'm polite and a quick study. I travel because I can stop and appreciate a view. I travel because I'm thirsty (not just for scotch, though that helps). I travel because I'm unsure of myself on some fronts. I travel because I'm damn cocky on other fronts.

When I next check in, it will be from Virginia Center for Creative Arts. A writer's job is to venture. Doesn't have to be measured in geography--I respect inner delving. But for me, for now, I gotta move. 2012: See where I land. Follow along, if you've got time.