Thursday, September 1, 2011

When the World Comes To You

Funny thing about traveling - for all that I enjoy going places in my mind and telling stories of far away lands, I'm usually far more content to just stay at home than get out there and have an adventure myself. That's not to say I've never traveled. We did the usual family vacation thing when I was growing up - the cottage on Lake Champlain in Vermont, trips to Disney World off and on, cruises to Mexico and the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, a week in Germany, a day in France, hanging out with my grandfather in Texas.  Most of those trips were seen through a child's eyes, though, so the memories are a little fuzzy in places.

I don't even have any pictures to post at the moment - all of those photos are buried in a box somewhere at my dad's.

I did several trips to Ireland when I was in college - once for credit, once to go back and find a boy I'd fallen for. (Sounds more torrid than it was. Turns out he was engaged, alas.) It wasn't all bad, though - there aren't too many who can claim to have tumbled down the Hill of Tara these days. (In fact there's a highway cutting through a big portion of the land I walked now. Sad, really.) Also? I got totally molested by a guy at a club called "Baywatch." Just like the show - pictures of the actors blown up all over the place. Really not the sort of thing I expected to find in Ireland, but there you go. And by molested, I mean some dude came up and grabbed my boobs while I was dancing and told me to "shake it baby."


After I got out of school and "Grew up" with a real job and eventually getting married and all that, going places wasn't remotely a concern. I didn't have the budget, I didn't have the vacation time, and I just didn't have the inclination.  (Very much like the concept of writing - I've begun to suspect there are some parallels there.)

Since becoming an author, I've done far more for conventions in the past few years than I've done for decades before that. And I'll admit the convention circuit has been fun - getting to meet tons of online friends, going to cities I haven't been to frequently - L.A., NY, Orlando, Chicago, Philly. There's something about tossing off the yoke of "real life" and getting 3 or 4 days without having to deal with family or jobs that is extremely refreshing. Next year I'll be going to New Orleans and Toronto...and possibly San Francisco if I can swing it. (Ah, budget, how fickle you are.)

I've already mentioned in previous posts about spending my summers at the beach, and that's where the title of the post comes in. There's a very interesting distinction between being a tourist and a local, particularly in a place with a high turnover rate of visitors. For three or four months, the island would wake up from its winter slumber, hordes of people descending upon the sand like locusts. There's something about people lying around a beach in their bathing suits that opens them up to talking, particularly if there's a cooler of beers nearby. Different then people visiting specific tourist attractions, anyway.

Maybe it's something about the vulnerability of having your body displayed so easily that allows for a looser tongue? If it's all hanging out anyway...

But each day I'd run into new people, or even the same people. Lying in the sand and reading a book, I'd overhear the strangest bits of conversations, the flurry of accents telling me they were from New York or Quebec, Alabama or the UK. Soak up the rays and soak up that little bit of culture and then move onto the next: What politics was like back in the old country. How much bagels here cost compared to their local deli. Whether Billy was ever going to get that job with the CIA. I'd see them buy ice cream and feed the gulls, watch the hardbodies hit the surf or play paddle ball or build sandcastles.

(Honestly - for people watching, the beach really is second-to-none, Jersey Shore jokes aside.)

So maybe sometimes it's less about traveling to new places so much as it is taking in the travelers passing through yours.

1 comment:

  1. Allison-- great post, good points. I bet there is much story fodder to be found in those overheard snippets...