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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

It’s almost midnight. December 26th, 2006. I’m leaving for Sydney, Australia in one, yes one, day and…I have absolutely nothing to wear. Sydney is chic, as is Melbourne. The Outback is rugged, New Zealand is hike-centered, the islands of the South Pacific and the Great Barrier Reef are all linen and lycra, flowy skirts and skimpy swimwear. I’ve forgotten how to pack; my list isn’t helping. I don’t know what to bring. I’m overwhelmed, I haven’t done this in a while. Clothes are strewn all over my floor, shoes are no longer neatly tucked in their shoe-rack homes, and I’ve decided that I use way too many products. Frocks that fit perfectly in South America, yeah…not so much. (I guess I won’t bring THREE bagel sandwiches of varied assortment on the 24-hour plane ride to Sydney). That cute go-to skirt from Vietnam, yeah…not so cute. (I guess I’ll remember the term “impulse buy” this time out). New York has seeped back into my blood. I’ve been here too long. I’m stressing over the pack, not the trip. Good and bad. Just pack and go, Marie. Pack and go.

So, it’s been a while since we’ve done this. The blog dance. I’ll have to reacquaint myself with it, though I’m looking forward. Since we left off in Paris with my mom and sister, I’ve spent 4 months in New York trying to sort myself out. It took a while, I’ll admit. The other home stays were all short-lived. I had weddings and commitments, other people’s stuff—things that deflected attention from “being home.” Being home, for real, was tough. I’d gotten used to the travel schtick, the life it entailed, being on the move, waking each day to a new sunrise over a different horizon. I fell in love with the constantly rotating cast of characters; I adored the challenges of each new cultural situation. New York, I felt, hadn’t changed. I yearned to be back out there, in the world, on the road. There’s so much to see, why see the same thing every day?

However, part of this year was the desire to try my hand at not just traveling, but writing. Not this, the off-the-cuff blogging. A real sit down attempt at actually creating a piece of narrative about my adventures. Me-speak sure; but with great scenery, completely honest stories (good and bad) and a genuine respect for punctuation and vocabulary. I had to spend some time doing that. I felt it part of the process; it was equally important. So, after tending to bone spurs from walking the world in flip-flops (another lesson), readjusting to Eastern Standard Time and getting out of bed when I had really didn’t have anything pressing to do (for those who know me well, always a struggle), I took some woe-is-me (if world travelers can actually partake in woe) isolation time. I wrote off everyone I knew and spent a few solitary weeks in the Hamptons at the house of the very generous Millers; it was only then that I FINALLY started to write. Like traveling, I became obsessed.

Back in the city, I would venture to the gym in the AM, waving hi to Rosenberg and her trainer on Mondays and Thursdays, then hit Gotham Coffee House on 68th Street and settle into (after hovering for a vacancy) one of the two bay window seats in the joint and write all day. Usually about 6-7 hours (yes, that includes "screwing around online" time), surrounded by my journals, my guidebooks, my photos, my blogs, and my ruled notebooks of each country’s details. Gotham became my office; people popped by to say hi; Cathy and Hayden (who work there) knew me by name and put my daily soup in a to-go container instead of a fancy ceramic bowl because they knew it took up too much room on my “desk.” Everyone asked a million questions about my coffee shop days:
"They just let you sit there all day, like it's your cubicle?" Yes, though I never had a cubicle.
"Do you put money in the communal tip jar?" Yep.
"What if you don't get a seat?" I wait. Someone is always leaving.
"Do you make friends with other daily patrons?" Some. "Which ones? What's mingling criteria?" It varies.
"Do you go outside to make phone calls?" I rarely answer while I'm there, but yes.
"Are there some people who you can't stand, who have bad coffee shop manners?" Oh yes...
But, these are all stories for another day, as coffee shop culture is a whole other blog.....

After about five recounted country experiences and two hundred pages of writing that I’m insanely proud of, I realized it was turning summer in Australia. Temptation. Big time. Torn between sticking around New York (ducking old-college-acquaintance-turned-Mommy-run-ins on the Upper East Side) and finishing my book at the coffee shop OR heading off to Australia to complete the trip I planned 14 months ago, learning to incorporate writing into my life wherever I happen to be, I opted for the latter. I leave in a day. I’m overjoyed to be continuing my journey, thrilled to see travel friends from along the way, and eager to put both passions that the year has brought me together into one grand adventure. The South Pacific awaits.

But, for this moment, so does my closet.
More soon from the Land of Oz…


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