Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: best of...travels

I spent 194 days on the road this year (in 28 cities, 14 states and 3 countries), which makes for 53.15% of life lived not at home and lacking any semblance of routine. Unhealthy, you say? In so many ways. But filled nonetheless with unexpected encounters of intrigue, grace, and beauty.

1. Stranded in Europe: with John and Ash and...ash.
What started as a quick jaunt fueled by frequent flyer miles ended up being an unexpected 17-day forced vacation. After a rather perfect few days wandering around Paris with my pilgrim friend John, the unpronounceable Icelandic volcano shut down every major European airport and stranded me in Mannheim for a week and a half with my cousin Ashley. Swirling ash from the eruptions interrupted millions of travel plans, but I honestly can't say that I minded visiting ancient castles, flexing my culinary muscles and eating my weight in German gummis and flammekueche all that much. Of course, I chronicled the entire experience here and here.

2. The Lenten Pilgrimage: Mississippi, Michigan, Miami.
It's going on 4 years since I've spent 4 consecutive weeks in one place, and the travel is surely taking its toll. After a minor breakdown and an avowal to never leave my apartment again, I decided to take the bull by the horns and cure myself once and for all of my travel anxieties and disaffections. Lent seemed the perfect liturgical season and I (somewhat ironically) seized upon it by fasting from home. The wisdom and spirituality of the exercise might be a bit questionable, but the time spent with good people eating good food and talking about good things most certainly was not. Russell and J welcomed me back to Oxford with the drawl dripping off their lips, Jess and Katie filled me with wine and sauce and much-needed girl time, and Beth and I giggled our way all the way to Key West and back.

3. The Fairytale Land: Oregon in the fall.
Camp Myrtlewood is so idyllic that the volunteers we oriented there simply assumed it to be where BVS does every orientation. Moss hanging from the giant trees, spongy new earth underfoot, tin roofed buildings with slanted plank floors and skies so filled with stars that they actually took my breath away - it honestly felt like stepping into a storybook. A few dozen passionate volunteers, the incredibly chill BVS team, lazy kitties, banana slugs, and unexpected nighttime bat visitors in the bathroom complete the picture. As if that weren't enough, we spent the next week in Portland: home of Powell's City of Books, Stumptown Coffee and Burgerville, not to mention the people of Portland Peace Church of the Brethren and the one and only Beth(any) Merrill. There's a small group waging a casual campaign to get me to move out there, and I have to say that there really isn't all that much convincing to be done.

4. The Second City: Various and sundry trips to Chicago and Elgin
O'Hare airport (aka ORD) is so familiar to me at this point that I know exactly which bench in which hallway is the most comfortable for an hour's layover. Or an eight hour layover, for that matter. But it's not the airport that makes the Windy City and its environs one of the best travels of the year, and a good portion of all this travel is, ironically, precisely planned because I refuse to live there. But visiting every few weeks, staying in the gargantuan BVS house that holds plenty of memories, working in the BVS office with some of my favorite people, witnessing winter sunsets over the flatlands, sipping the Intelligentsia coffee at Benedict's and sticking around just long enough to be reminded of the good bits about working for the Church (which mostly consist of getting to be around the committed people who deign to do it) and escaping before I can get bogged down by all the horrendous bits - all that makes it almost worth it.

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