So, how was your trip, Dave? Well, not too bad all told. Betty and Jerry, neighbors at Channing House who took either the same or a similar tour last year, raved about it. Me? Well… I’m glad I went, especially glad to have seen Santorini and Crete. Santorini is spectacular to look at, although I would certainly not want to live there, or spend another day there for that matter. Crete was a surprise, a really attractive and scenic countryside, pleasant towns, and a functioning economy–as opposed to an economy based 90% on hotels and tourist shops, as at Santorini or the other islands. The other islands, Mykonos, Paros, Delos, are, frankly, bleak, windy deserts. Their villages are photogenic for sure, but only a hopeless romantic would dream of living in one.
Just for the record, according to the Health app in the phone, I walked an average of 4.3 miles per day, 51.4 miles total in 12 days. All the Road Scholar systems worked well; I can’t imagine a more competent, patient, charming group leader than Anastasia; and the other members were compatible and friendly.
I didn’t enjoy seeing the ancient ruins as much as I had anticipated. It’s interesting to think about people 3500 years ago (1500BCE, at Knossos and Phaistos, even earlier on Delos) building elaborate homes and having elaborate trading systems and rich religious beliefs. But on the spot, there’s just waist-high stone walls and a few fallen columns, and it’s hard to feel the history.
So how did it feel, traveling alone?
This was my first voyage as a lone bachelor. I can only think of three times I traveled alone, after I was married. In 1991 I attended Clarion West, an intensive residential writers workshop, hoping to find that I could write science fiction. I drove alone in our camper van to Seattle and lived in a dorm at Seattle University for—was it really six weeks? At the end Marian flew up to join me, and from there we went on a couple of weeks tour into Wyoming and the Tetons.
The other times were bike tours. I signed up for a ten-day, supported bike tour of Oregon. We drove the van to Corvallis for the start, then Marian went to a motel on the coast while I rode with the group, camping each night. A few years later I tried to do an unsupported solo bike tour around the wine country. Four days in I strained my knee and had to call Marian to come fetch me.
Those are the only times I remember being separated from her, phoning in every other night or so. All my other travels have been as half of a couple. The common theme is that these three were challenges I set for myself, really to test myself: could I become a fiction writer? could I handle an extended bike ride, with or without support? Marian supported me in these, but wasn’t interested in taking part herself.
Anyway, here I was this month, alone on another tour. I suppose it was again a challenge, to see if it would be enjoyable, or even tolerable, to travel alone.
Did I miss Marian, or miss having a travel companion in general? An emphatic yes to both. Several times I caught myself imagining sharing the experience with her, and getting emotional.
Also (and this was the big lesson I took away from that solo bike tour as well) having new experiences (good or bad) is richer, more real, more significant and memorable, when you share the experience with someone else. Being part of a tour group is a help. At meals we could talk about the wacky traffic in the narrow village streets, or the fact that Greek hotels, even the upscale ones, don’t supply washcloths. Sharing such observations validates them and resolves one’s feelings about them. This was an emotional support that Marian and I gave each other, minute by minute, through hundreds of travel days. Being in a group of friendly strangers was not the same as that, but better than being alone. A journal (i.e. this blog) is another partial substitute for a companion.
But also, as I realized a few days in, Marian’n’Dave was a bolder, more adventurous traveler than Dave is alone. Partly that was because Marian was more disciplined than I about traveling. She was on a trip, and she would by god make the most of it; where I am shamefully willing to back away from the effort to go out and explore this town, or attend that concert, or go find a meal in a strange restaurant. I have to fight the tendency to just wimp out and go sit in the hotel room.
Partly, it was that a couple can encourage each other, spot possibilities and explore trade-offs of different plans, more efficiently than a single person can do. Dave’n’Marian were quite a bit smarter, more flexible, and more observant traveler than Dave alone is.
I slept for 10 hours, from 6:30pm to 4:30am. Then I got up, made coffee, and spent two hours cleaning up the accumulation of papers on my desk, and another hour reading the paper, before time for breakfast downstairs.
I had debated whether to go and work at Yosemite today as scheduled, but I felt dandy at 9am so I headed down to the garage… and found that I had left the front door of the car ajar, and the battery was dead. Now what? I checked with the front desk and no, Facilities doesn’t have any way to boost your car; call triple-A. Which I did. The truck arrived around 10. It was too big to fit down the ramp to the garage, but no problem, they had a portable booster pack. I escorted them through the front door and down the many basement hallways to the garage. In five minutes the car was running.
So off to Yosemite for a day’s work. The 1401 restoration crew were all there, scanning old ALDs (logic diagrams) for use in maintenance.
On return I wrote up this blog. After supper I shall for the first time in two-plus weeks, turn on the TV and see what has been recorded in my absence.