On the Road Again

In the 18th century, travel was challenging, difficult, expensive, exhausting, and dangerous.  (Sound familiar?)

Rich folks of that era didn’t have expedia.com to help them plan and book reservations.  Instead, they had to write ahead to inns along their route to reserve accommodations and spare horses.  They loaded up the carriage they’d ride in, a carriage for their servants to ride in, and a wagon for the luggage.  At speeds of  three to five miles per hour, they braved the hazards of mud, ruts, dust, bandits, broken wheels, etc.  They had to reach the inn where they’d made reservations before dark because there weren’t any street lights.  Or head lights, for that matter.  They packed their pillow, their own sheets and towels, their favorite books, a hamper of food, and perhaps a caged canary to whistle some tunes.  They played cards instead of texting.  The very rich or persnickety took along their personal chef.  

Once they arrived at their friend’s home, they stayed for at least six weeks because who would go to so much expense and trouble for just a weekend visit?

Well, travel today isn’t quite that difficult, although once you’ve sat on a plane for an hour, waiting for the gate to be cleared so you can disembark, while the five-year-old behind you kicks your seat and chants “Why can’t we get off?  Why can’t we get off?  Why can’t we get off?” and an elderly lady argues with the stewardess who won’t let her use the restroom as long as we’re on the runway, you might ask yourself if it was worthwhile to leave home.

I no longer travel via planes because my allergies have made it too difficult.  I need certain food items and special drinking water.  I need my own pillow.  A hotel’s cleaning products can trigger an attack, so I drag along an air purifier or move to a different hotel.  Earlier this year, when I ventured off for a 12-day trip, my dogs’ boarding fees cost more than my own accommodations.  And if I’m driving across a state where all the gas pumps contain ethanol, it’s best to rent a car rather than use my own.  (The last mechanic’s bill to resusitate my car after one tank of substitute fuel was staggering!)

Like most writers eager to gain new experiences and perspectives, I’ve done my share of roaming.  I’ve been to both coasts and overseas.  I’ve traveled via car, plane, train, and ship.  And I’ve discovered that when it comes to writers gleaning inspiration and filling the well, it’s unnecessary to go to major expense or obtain a passport.

Day trips are delightful, economic ways in which to feed the muse.  Just the act of merging onto the interstate, knowing I’m headed out of town for the afternoon, is enough to kick my imagination into a new gear.  I may travel less than 50 miles from home, but it’s enough to shake off the cobwebs, focus nearsightedly on something other than a computer screen, and feel the exhilaration of adventure, however modest.

This doesn’t mean that I’m ruling out the big, fabulous trips.  But if you’re stuck at home, scrimping and saving for months or years for that once-in-a-lifetime journey, how are you going to fill the well in the meantime?

Sometimes, the well doesn’t have to overflow; all it may need is a gallon or two.

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