Friday, December 9

...buying a metro ticket at 2am in Stuttgart.

I envy those who travel.

People who plan trips to places where you need a passport, and guard it in concealed security pouches once you reach your destination. People who can fly across an ocean without getting motion sickness, jet lag, or the inevitable cold from recycled passenger plane air systems.

People who can live out of what constitutes a carry on bag for a three week jaunt to Italy. And who can order a coffee and ask where the bathroom is, in Italian, once they get there.

I watch travel shows on PBS and ride along with Rick Steves in France. Although he spends too much time in museums for my taste.

Not to say that I have never left home - our honeymoon was spent in Ireland, navigating the highway system and kissing the Blarney stone. I had managed to work myself up into such a heightened state of anxiety that I did not leave the hotel for a day and a half. We did tend to fit in nicely as long as we kept our mouths shut. We managed to fly under the radar at an outdoor side street pub in Cork where the locals were giving some 'obvious' American tourists a hard time.

Another trip to Germany for a friends wedding resulted in dramatic motion sickness from a frighteningly turbulent commuter plane flight over Switzerland which left my nerves jolted for most of the trip. I knew hardly any words in German but soon learned that Americans were called "swine" by the majority of hotel maid staff.

Our last trip to places foreign was a whirlwind trek to 4 countries in a little less than 2 weeks. A brilliant idea gone terribly wrong as we felt like we were participants on The Amazing Race rather than enjoying what my Mother referred to as a once in a lifetime trip. Whether she was impressed by our ambition or didn't think we would make it back alive was not clear.

We spent 3 days in each of Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany, seeing fractions of what they all had to offer. Ireland was old hat to us as it was our second time there so I managed to curb the nerves and visit some places in the hills of Tipperary from which my ancestors left four generations before I set foot in the old cemetery.

Scotland was an amazing place and we spent a great deal of our three days in Edinburgh enjoying the winding streets, thick accents and parking tickets our rental car received. Our visits to Sterling and Loch Ness went without incident until Roy managed to talk me into a boat cruise on the Loch. A repeat of the Switzerland flight soon followed with choppy water, high winds and pelting rain and I was sick to my stomach for the remainder of Scotland.

Leaving Scotland for France almost resulted in Roy making me throw away half of my clothing since our luggage was overweight and would cost a hefty extra amount to haul to Paris. Of course, Roy would not part with his William Wallace inspired sword that we now had to cart through two more countries, and then back to the US. I had over packed, as usual, but I did manage to talk Roy into paying the extra amount so I would not lose my emergency rain coat and extra socks.

Paris - the city of light. We arrived at night and managed to combine enough French with English to get a taxi to drive us to a hotel. With much gesturing and pointing at maps, we arrived and realized that all French people must be under 5 feet tall and less than 100 pounds. At least all those who designed our hotel anyway. Thinking about it, it was actually really nice, in a cute and quaint kind of way. But at the time we arrived, luggage, including large sword in a box, late at night, we were not impressed. The room was the size of my current bathroom and after we had out luggage in there, we were basically walking on said luggage instead of the floor.

Not speaking the language, my nerves took over and I spent most of France in the 'salle de bains'. Doing my best, we did enjoy Paris and our trip to the very tip top of the Eiffel Tower, or 'la tour eiffel'. Normandy won out over nerves given that I am a World War II enthusiast to put it mildly. The most humbling part of the trip, and Bayeux won my heart.

Rounding out our trip was a visit to Germany and our friends who's wedding we had attended a few years previously. Bavaria is beautiful, and more genealogy was a great way to end our time in Europe.

Should we go back? Given that I love the security and peace of mind that staying home provides, should I try to venture out again and test my nerves and my low tolerance for high noise levels?

Should I spend these late, sleepless nights of newborn baby care learning French phrases for ordering a sandwich and a coke? German for 'where is the post office?'? Or the Italian words for 'I do not like ham on my sliced melon.'

Should I give in to my guilty desire to wander back streets and alleyways, surrounded by towering old buildings that serve as apartments with little balconies loaded with drying laundry? Should I try to buy fresh produce where all the signs are in French and I get ripped off and end up paying $10 for an apple? And maybe I won't care because I am an American in France trying to be spontaneous, trusting and half ignoring my anxiety issues? Of course I will have Roy there with me, looking like a menacing body guard - a shorter version of Jason Statham without the English accent.

Do they homestead in Germany? Can I find a place to pick up a pair of knitting needles and some local wool to churn out a quick pair of socks? Not because I have cold feet but because knitting socks is like my anti-panic attack mediation. Can I get my chicken feeding fix at a little place in Galway? Or maybe I should save that location for the knitting - I might have better luck finding the wool there.

My immediate answer is that I would rather be curled up in front of my new wood burning stove with Joel Salatin's latest book than to be trying to buy a metro ticket at 2am in Stuttgart. Or is it because I can keep my anxieties in check when I worry about chicken feed and ordering cords of firewood.

Maybe I do need those socks for my cold feet after all.

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