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I am jumping around in time, because I can’t let another day go by without telling you about Peru. My tales from Florida, from New York, from Philly (including the best cupcake I have ever had),  and from our road trip to Ashland will all have to wait.

Our trip to Peru was one of contrasts. We landed in Lima and spent a few days there. Our hosts were gracious, and people were absurdly friendly. Even the cabby who ripped us off (yes, there was one) though a liar and a cretin, was not that much of a jerk. It felt remarkably safe, and people seemed to be enthused – or, at least, not thoroughly annoyed – by tourists. It was a delightful change of pace.

I found the city to be at a crossroads – both striving to preserve its past and ready to launch into the future.

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As a kid, I never understood the expression “You can’t go home again”. I thought it was idiotic. After sleepovers at friends’ houses, after long afternoons at band practice, after a week at SeaCamp (oh, don’t act so surprised: I was and still am a dork), home was always waiting for me. No matter how much time had passed, I’d reasoned that the one thing that you could always go back to was go home.

As I grew older, my understanding of this concept changed slightly. You could still go home, but you might find that someone else lives there. Or that you aren’t welcome any more. Or that your room has been turned into a storage closet and all of your personal possessions are “in the attic” or were “given to the Goodwill.”

Time passes, people change, and sometimes home is no longer that. This realization hit me a few weeks ago, when I returned to the only place besides Seattle that I’ve ever called home: Indialantic, Florida.

What’s that? … Oh, please. You have NOT heard of it. You are thinking of Indiana. Or possibly Atlantis. Both of which have a larger population of residents/mer-people than Indialatic (pop: 3,000).

Indialantic lies on a spit of land sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, and its name is as portmanteau of those two bodies of water. It is not vibrant or bustling. There’s no movie theater. I don’t know what kids nowadays do on a Saturday night (I know what we did. We rented Jeff Goldblum movies and giggled at his impossibly small waist. Kids today now ogle hairless, poreless young men who were probably genetically engineered by Disney. How sad.)

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Kelsey, the blogatrix behind Drifting Focus, recently wrote about her struggles with OCD before she leaves on a trip. She often finds herself packing and re-packing her bags, double-checking to make sure everything is where it should be. It is an honest, candid account of what she has to deal with before traveling, and an inspiring one as well –  as uncomfortable as preparing for a trip is, she doesn’t let it stop her from seeing the world.

While I can’t say that my compulsions are as strong as Kelsey’s, I, too, find that in the days and hours before I’m about to leave for a trip I get, as I like to call it, “a little buggy.” As I say this, please note that I in no way intend to trivialized the difficulties of living with OCD. So please, save that hate email for a post in which I truly deserve it. There are many.

I’m merely saying that to a very small, small degree, I empathize.

My pre-trip compulsion is this: I obsessively clean my home from top to bottom. I dust. I polish. I organize. I place items at right angles, and indiscriminately shred documents, prompting my husband to ask, “Um, are you making sure the house is spotless for anyone who breaks in while we’re away?”

“Yes,” I respond, scrubbing behind the guest toilet that never gets used. I’ll proceed to wash every bit of laundry I can find, including pulling just-washed throw blankets off the couch and tossing them into the machine, thankfully stopping before I get to the pillows (which reminds me – I need to fluff those).

“Baby,” Rand will say, gently, “The house looks great. Please stop.”

“Whatever. Hand me the vacuum and that bottle of bleach. I need to go brush my teeth.”

Excuse me a moment while I clean parts of the stove no one will ever use or see.

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Years ago, my husband made a crucial mistake when speaking to my mother.

He was honest.

I know, I know – the idiot, right? He has yet to live it down. The date of his grievous error was sometime in 2006. We had had a fantastic time visiting my dad in Germany before driving down to Italy, where we spent a few days hopping around between Milan, Como, and Venice. When we got back, my mother asked Rand how the trip was.

What he said, exactly, when he replied to her, is a subject of debate. I hold to my own, because my memory is a vast and incredible thing, and has rarely let me down. My mother (though she has yet to say it outright) believes that my account of history has been tainted by my feelings of affection towards my husband. And Rand has the memory of a goldfish, so he’s not really part of this discussion, even though he’s the reason for it.

My account is this: Rand told her, truthfully, that he while he enjoyed Italy, he was surprised by how much he loved Germany. Bavaria in particular had started to grow on him.

My mother’s account, however is this: Rand told her, to her face no less, how much he hated Italians, and Italy, and how Germany was far superior. Also, he obviously loves my dad more than her, and apparently, so do I.

Sigh.

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Having spent the last few days whining (yes, I admitted it) about the injustices that the TSA has committed against law-abiding U.S. citizens, I thought I’d switch gears today and not complain about anything.

Yeah, I know. I’m surprised, too. It’s not that I’ve suddenly started agreeing with what’s going on in our nation’s airports (here I go again …) but rather that Thanksgiving is around the corner, and rather than focus on the bad (of which there is very little in my life) I’d like to talk about the good.

And believe me, there’s a lot of good.

Here’s the thing: life hasn’t always been quite as awesome as it is now, but it’s always been pretty darn good. Despite the few speedbumps of douchebaggery, I’ve enjoyed a rather smooth ride on the highway of existence. And now seems a particularly good time to talk about those wonderful things in my life, as they pertain to travel, among other things.

So, with no further rambling, here are 20 things (travel-related and otherwise) for which I am thankful:

  1. My Samsonite spinner suitcase. Not only did I get it for 75% off at Ross (I. LOVE. THAT. PLACE) but it handles better than my KIA (then again, so do most shopping carts).

    It has the about the same horsepower as my KIA, too.

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  2. The occasional upgrade. They’re all too rare, but when they do come along? FREE HOT NUTS (that’s what I said).
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    Also, silverware! Just like real humans use!

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  3. Waking up in time for the hotel buffet breakfast. Oh, and the ubiquity of Nutella in said buffets. HOW HAS AMERICA NOT CAUGHT ON?
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When I woke up this morning, my husband was curled up next to me. He even had even moved his head over so that we were sharing a pillow. This is no small thing, since we have a king-size bed.

It reminded me that even when things are crazy, we occasionally have 6 or 7 hours that we get to spend together. They aren’t conscious, but still: they’re there. And it’s a funny and sweet realization to know that someone loves you, even in their sleep. That they move towards you, hug you, share your pillow, despite the expanse of valuable mattress real estate left empty behind them.

I wish I saw more of my husband. Sometimes, I sit in the floor of his office reading a book while he works. It’s not quite spending time together, but it’s spending time near each other. And sometimes that has to be enough. And it is.

But every now and then, Rand has time to explore a city with me. It’s rare – and that’s probably what makes it so damn special. On the days when he plays hooky, I move between feeling absolutely guilt-ridden for infringing on his work and giggling like a schoolgirl.

There are plenty of joys to seeing a city on your own (just ask Gray from SoloFriendly) – seeing exactly what you want, when you want to. Eating snacks every 10 minutes. Shopping. More shopping.

And yet, and yet, and yet … there is something wonderful about traveling with someone who knows you better that anyone else. Someone who you may see all the time, but rarely get to see.

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Reason #17: It’s probably a bad idea if I’m left home alone.

My husband travels. A lot. There are days when I forget where he’s gone. Someone will ask, and I’ll stare blankly for a few seconds, before answering, “Um … California?” I live terror of the idea that I’ll be involved in a car accident, after which a doctor will ask me a series of questions to make sure I haven’t completely lost it.  And he or she will ask me where my husband is, or what day it is, and I won’t have the faintest idea (because I also never know what day it is). Then they’ll lock me up someplace quiet and bring me Jell-O in plastic cups.

Which actually wouldn’t be that bad, or that undeserving. (more…)