I am just back from a two night stay in New York City to visit with my son who lives and works there. We had a low- key easy weekend trying not to spend unnecessary money but finding good eats nonetheless. The thing is, traveling up on BOLT bus was fine, but once I set foot on terra firma, somehow, I got lost. I have been geographically dyslexic for the past 15 years, but recently, it’s getting worse. There have been a few years where I wouldn’t go anywhere without my husband driving. There were summers when I wouldn’t take a vacation without a friend. I don’t really understand why I became like this. It is not Altzheimer’s, thank heavens. But I have gotten lost in Malls, too, like Columbia Mall, circling the food court like a wind up toy on speed. I literally “thought” I remembered how to walk from the BOLT bus stop to 6th Street, but somehow I walked for miles across 11th until it dawned on me that I wasn’t leaving 11th behind. That realization, embarrassment, heat of the day, lugging 2 heavy shoulder bags, and panic almost put a damper on the weekend. And the more turned around I got, the more panic set in. Finally, I had to concede to my son that I needed help. I could have called a cab, yes, but I only had $5 on me. And I wanted to do what I’d set out to do. Visit my son.
When I was in my 20s, I traveled all over the world. I had a great job with the Federal government and got 4 week’s vacation per year. Every 6 months I would go somewhere exotic. Not exotic so much as the Caymans, but exotic as in “I better go here now because once I get married and have kids, I will probably never be able to afford this again.” So I followed my heart, and went to South America, including Rio, Impanema Beach, the Galapagos, rode a Russian aircraft to see the Mayan ruins, went to Cancun before it got developed, when it was only miles and miles of beach and naked natives, Istanbul where I rode a camel, Yugoslavia (before the walled city of Dubrovnik was bombed), the Greek Islands (learned Conversational Greek beforehand, for fun), and Athens, just before a military coup, Hawaii (following a volcano eruption and tsunami) & preceding an airline strike – traveled home on a mail plane, where we stopped in every state, Switzerland, South America again where I bought leather goods at a fraction of the cost of what I’d have paid in America, crossed Antartica, traveled through the locks of Panema, Canada, California, and mid west USA. Once married and with child, our travels consisted mainly of trips to New England where we summered in Nantucket for 22 years. Most of those two week sojourns I would start on my own with our child, driving 10 hours solo, and then ferrying our car across the Atlantic until my husband flew up for his one week vacation. Sometimes I traveled in clear weather, sometimes in rain, and sometimes in good traffic, and sometimes in mostly detoured traffic, but I never got lost, and never thought about it happening.
So this getting lost bit is getting old. Looking at maps makes it worse. For me, it’s like seeing jumbles of cobwebs in red and black magic marker. I am more of an “do I go left, or do I go right” sort of person. Don’t talk to me about east and west. It makes no sense. Five years ago, I drove through New York City after a vacation to Nantucket, when I had to drop my son off at his apartment. He got me into the city, but leaving it was hell on earth. Holding the cell phone to my ear, I tried to follow my son’s directions, but finally got the brilliant idea of wedging my car behind a motor coach that just happened to be traveling to the Lincoln Tunnel. And that’s how I got out of the city.
A year ago, I traveled solo to Edinburgh to visit my son who was attending University there. He tried to spend a lot of time with me, but there were days or part days when I was on my own. I never once panicked, or got lost to the point where I didn’t hail a cab and get back home safely. In fact, returning to the States, I missed a connecting flight, and got redirected onto a better flight that flew directly into Baltimore. Panic didn’t even surface.
Nowadays, I go to a little tiny beach town for my beach fix. It’s up Interstate 95 and across Route 1 North. Very very easy and only 2 hours door to door. I could do a day’s diversion to Cape May by putting my car on the ferry, but I’m too timid. What if I get over there and can’t find my way back? The anxiety ruins everything, and so I just stay put.
I have a lot of friends who never do anything without their husbands. They never meet up with friends unless their husband will be out that night. They never travel to the ocean unless it’s a family trip. They won’t go to the movies or the Mall or even a restaurant without involving their husband. That, I don’t get. It seems awfully constricting to have a marriage bound in such tight quarters. I find myself fortunate in that my husband encourages me to “go” when I want to “go.”
Yes, home is great, especially when you’ve not been there for awhile. But there’s still so much I want to do, and see. I want to go to Montana, I want to go to Texas, I want to go to Maine, and I want to return to Hawaii and New York. I especially want to see the Turks and Caicos. As for Nantucket, I hope to return next summer. In fact, I want my ashes scattered over Nantucket Sound when I die. I keep a bucket list, not a fuck it list, that keeps growing the more time I spend “traveling” on PINTEREST.
I wish there were a study being conducted on why people get lost. Is it a short circuit of the memory part of the brain? Is it having too much on your mind? Is it a lack of attention to detail? Is it related to panic disorder? Or is just a stupid little thing that flies into my mouth and makes me black out for a moment or two?
Ebbs and floes. That’s what getting lost is like. Mostly I’m fine, especially in Baltimore, where I travel more side streets than main roads, or look for my bearings by street corners and buildings. But when I do get lost, usually out of the blue, it strikes me like a dagger to my ego. I blame it on multi tasking. As an administrative assistant for the past 14 years, I’ve been a multi tasker, juggling many balls, and handling multiple tasks all at the same time. I almost never get a grocery cart in the store. Instead, I pile items into my hands and hope for the best before I reach the cashier. But now that I’m retired, I’ve lost my magic touch. I throw two balls in the air, and only catch one. I hope it’s not an aging “thing”. I’m not that old yet, my feet have barely begun to climb the hill, and I certainly hope I don’t get lost along the way!