Travel to and from this small island I call home is such a trial, I’m surprised I ever do it. I’ve heard stories about cruises…the paperwork and preparation; the check-in process; long lines to get on the ship…and it doesn’t sound like fun. I wonder how many good days I would need – on calm waters – to make up for the stress of getting there. I can pretty much guarantee that will never be a vacation I would choose. And yet, three or four times a year, for the reward of time with family or friends, I arrange to leave my home here.
First, the plans and arrangements: Can I get time off work? Can I afford it? Travel should fall near the payday that is not near the first of the month. The mortgage payment comes out of that one, and little is left over. Is there room for my dogs at the kennel? Where will I stay? Will I have a car to use? Reservations have to be made for kennel, flights, and lodging.
Then the worries. Will the dogs be okay? They get so nervous, lately when they know I’m leaving. What if the power fails while I’m away? What about the weather? No matter how well I plan, there are always surprises. Will the planes be flying? Will the roads be clear? Will I be able to get where I’m going?
Then, there are many steps to take before the actual travel. I imagine the house I’d like to come home to, and set my sights on getting it to that level of cleanliness and organization before I go. I admit this is the area where I usually cut corners. Dog food has to be packed – in meal-sized portions – into labelled, zip-lock bags. Leashes have to be found, treats bagged and labelled, and don’t forget the special dish for Rosa Parks! For myself, clothes have to be tried on to assure that they still fit and are without stains, tears or missing buttons before being stacked for possible inclusion. Camera, lap-top, books, journal, medicine, make-up, deodorant, toothbrush…the long list of non-wearables involves at least one extra bag. If it’s holiday time, there are gifts to wrap and pack.
Finally, the day. Rosa Parks is fitted into her bright pink harness (because she can slide right out of a collar, when she chooses to). The car is loaded: two leashes tucked between the front seats; the tote of dog food and dishes on the front passenger-side floor along with my purse; my luggage in the back seat, driver’s side; Darla, front passenger seat; Rosa sits on my lap – quivering all the way, as she has by now realized where she is going – behind the wheel.
To the kennel. Both dogs are hooked up with leashes, and I hold the other ends. I put Rosa Parks down, let Darla out, then reach in to retrieve their tote bag. We walk the length of the driveway, as they check out the sights and smells. They are greeted at the door by the smiling attendant and – with sad eyes – led into the kennel where I unhook leashes and give hugs and reassurances that “I’ll be back soon.”
At the airport, I park close to the terminal, carry in my luggage and place it on the scale. I pay for my passage, then go to park the car. Because of holiday travel, for this latest trip I had to park in the way-back lot usually used for long-term parking. It was a long, cold walk back to the building, where I had about a half-hour wait for my flight. Luggage is stowed by the airport employees, so then it’s just a matter of climbing up into the small plane when instructed, and buckling in for the flight. I’m a nervous flyer, but I’m used to it. If the weather is good so that we aren’t bouncing around, I can relax and enjoy the view. When the plane is twisted and tossed by the winds, I keep a white-knuckled grip on the seat ahead. In either case, it’s over in about twenty minutes.
That is followed, sometimes, by finding the car in the parking lot, digging it out, clearing the windows and defrosting it for travel, then getting on the road for perhaps a four-hour drive. Not this last trip: my friend met me at the airport. Her truck was warm, and we were staying nearby. Still, the weather complicated things, as it often does.
A storm came through on Christmas Eve night and threatened to continue through the next day. Afraid of the storm, and needing to be back at work on Wednesday, my friend left a day early, on Christmas afternoon. It wasn’t the holiday we’d planned, but we had a good time while it lasted.
Yesterday, I checked out of the room and got a taxi to the airport. Then, I basically reversed the “exit procedure” for coming back home. Last night, with a new book and a cup of hot cider, with both dogs happy to settle in at home, I relished being cozy inside, and finished – for a while, at least – with travel!