The great summer trip of 2016 begins in less than a week, so I thought it was about time that I check back in here with an update. And the only update I really have has already been said: I leave in less than a week!
Does time seem to be moving fast for anyone else? Like, really really fast? Until only a few days ago I was convinced that it was still May, that I had over a month to plan and prepare for my trip, that the days are continuing to lengthen, that summer was still far off.
But all of a sudden it was summer, and work had ended for the year, and the only thing that was looming before me was my big trip. I should be used to this by now, it’s been my pattern for the last three years: work ends around the middle of June, and I promptly hop on a plane for Europe.
So why does it feel like this trip is still weeks and weeks away? Last year, on the first day of summer, I was doing this:
I’d already been walking on the Camino for a few days, life at home felt like it was another world away.
My trip begins a bit later than usual this year, maybe that’s part of it. Or maybe it’s just that life is speeding by so fast that I yearn to hit a pause button, and give myself some time to catch up.
But there’s no stopping time so here we go. I think that finally, in these last few days, I’ve accepted that summer is here. I’ve gone to a baseball game and drank a coke slushey and had a dish of ice cream and spent a day at the beach. I’ve stretched in the lounge chair on my porch with my feet in the sun and read a book that I was too busy to finish months ago. Two days ago I went on a 10-mile hike; tomorrow I’ll try for 12-miles. This is the most hiking I’ve done in a long, long time, and well, it’s about time.
And then next week, I’ll leave for Europe. My first stop is England, something I don’t think I even mentioned in my Summer 2016 blog post. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of my mind, and stayed lost until just a couple days ago. But- oh yeah!- I decided to fly into London because it’s been a solid 15 years since I’ve been there and I thought it could be nice to do something a little new.
This photo is from my last trip to England, all those years ago:
My friend reminded me that our original plan was to spend a few days in London, then head to Stonehenge. But in 2001, Stonehenge was closed for 5 1/2 weeks because of foot-and-mouth disease, so we went to Liverpool instead (and honestly, this was probably my vote all along… Long Live Ringo!).
It’s a bit crazy to think back to that trip- parts of it that feel like a lifetime ago, other parts that are so recent in my memory I could swear that I was just there. Wasn’t I just there? Leaving notes for our friends on scraps of paper at the hotel lobby because this was just before any of us had a cell phone; crossing the street at the wrong end of Abbey Road (and causing quite the pile up of traffic in order to get a photo); battling a cold on the train to London and the endless cups of tea to soothe my throat; noticing that a small magnolia tree was growing in the front yard of the house where George Harrison grew up.
These memories are creeping in because I finally sat down and planned some things for my three days in England. I focus on these details for a moment- there’s a Jane Austen Centre in Bath! I can finally make it to Stonehenge!- but then an email pulls me into another part of the trip. It’s from the writer’s retreat in southern France- our host has forwarded a suggested shopping list so that we’re not overwhelmed when we arrive and are whisked off to the grocery store. And then I think back to my time there three years ago, and how I was overwhelmed, and didn’t buy quite enough food. Will that happen again? What will the village be like- will it be just as I remembered, or will there be changes?
And what am I like, this time? Three years wasn’t all that long ago, and yet, I know that I am different. And certainly, I’m different than I was 15 years ago, on that first trip to London and Liverpool.
Different, and yet… still me. Always me.
There’s more, too: another Amazon package arrived at my door, it’s a guide to walking the West Highland Way. And then I need to push the days in England and the writer’s retreat from my mind, and focus on Scotland. Scotland! I know nothing about Scotland! Shouldn’t I learn something, shouldn’t I do some research? A friend warns me about the haggis, and I wonder if I will try it.
And then, finally, in the very back corner of my mind, I remember that I’m also walking a Camino. That I’m returning to Spain. I’ve barely given it any thought, because this is the thing that feels the most familiar, the most comfortable. Other than breaking in a new pair of shoes, I haven’t done much in preparation. I have all my gear, I know where I’m going; this is the thing that I don’t have to plan for.
But remember just two years ago? My fretting and my fear in the weeks before I left for Spain that first time? Wasn’t I just memorizing the Spanish words for ‘I’m allergic to nuts’ and wondering how, exactly, I was to go about hand-washing my clothing?
Ah, time. I still don’t know what to make of it, of how quickly life is streaming past, yet of how far I’ve seemed to travel in what feels like very fleeting moments. I know that in August, I’m going to be back here at my computer, in my apartment, marveling over how fast the summer just went by.
Of course I will. But I’m not at the end yet, I’m only at the very beginning. So, here’s to summer! May it be the best one yet.