Day One – leaving my “dangerous” place
White — the color of the Atlantic Ocean, because I only saw clouds…
August 14, 2013 – Technology and faith and dreams are carrying me across the Atlantic again.
But what a difference. Two summers ago I spent 11 days crossing a blue ocean more than 1,500 miles wide and in places, more than two miles deep. Then I was on a 590-foot ship. Today I am riding high above it in a eight-across-two-aisles 767 Boeing jet.
Those days I spent at the rail, either looking forward or watching the wake behind me, taught me an appreciation of oceans, water, space, time and the perseverance of early explorers that no other experience could have. Certainly nothing like what any of us learn crossing the Atlantic at 37,000 feet, hundreds of miles per hour with fuzzy Hollywood movies on overhead screens.
The Bahamas to Spain, from June 17 to June 28, 2011 was the beginning of my first Semester at Sea voyage. An unforgettable beginning to a summer full of extraordinary sights. I taught a 10-day writing workshop during that crossing and discovered what “Mr. Myers and/or Ms. Briggs” knew all along.
I like teaching.
At the end of the summer I knew I wanted to make more of these experiences happen. Both the teaching and the voyaging. I didn’t know when, but to capture that feeling I made a password I knew I would use regularly — “voyage#1″ — just to make sure I didn’t become too secure, too comfortable in my at-home world. Each time I had to enter that password at my desk job I was reminded to push back against the inertia and its seduction that works against being an explorer. I reinforced the sentiment at home by pasting a John le Carre´ quote where I would see it daily:
“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
I suppose I don’t really need reminders, given that for decades I have been re-purchasing the same shower curtain, a world map, another daily reminder of my dreams to see and go places.
So now here I am in seat 27A. A window seat without a decent view, except for the arcing curve we had flying over Lake Michigan, after leaving Chicago. I’m starting a discovery process over again. Thinking the next four months may hold some of the wonder I longed for when the 2011 voyage had become past tense, but not sure, even now, what the balance will be:
Am I just wanting the past to repeat, or seeking newness in my future?
In the next couple months I will be going to some places I have been before — but years ago. The Netherlands beckons again, 40 years after I lived there with the family Vrijdag. I’m going back to Ireland, where I traveled by bicycle and car a few years after that. Our route this fall shares a common port with my 2011 voyage, and we will dock again in Casablanca.
I’m not so naive as to think it won’t all look different. It will. I can’t repeat any portion of the past really. But I am eager to stay tethered to my present, too. Thankfully there is a free seat beside me on the seven-hour flight to London, so I can curl up with the black velour travel blanket and matching neck pillow I purchased on my way back home in August 2011, when a late afternoon thunderstorm stranded me in La Guardia overnight.
(that’s a whole ‘nother story…)
Two of my four traveling bags are repeats from that trip, too. Two are improvements. With wheels. I will never forget kicking an impossibly heavy duffle across the tiled floors in the humid air of the Nassau airport terminal on the first day of that most memorable summer. Much of my clothing dates from the earlier trip. And I have packed my Semester at Sea lanyard and coffee mug. So I am not starting out the same way as before at all, with no expectations.
Just the understanding that I still don’t know what to expect.