An Ars Poetica to Travel Writing

Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, Spain, 2015
Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, Spain, 2015

As Eli and I sit in the huge hotel dining room amidst the new construction and amber-colored dangling glass pendant lights, I think about travel. I look around and listen to the sounds. People are traveling here from everywhere. There is the Brazilian family I see each day. This morning they are sitting near the coffee makers.  They are laughing as the father butters a toasted bagel.  I wonder what is so funny. Moments later I walk through the dining room with a banana-for-my-oatmeal in hand and hear the not-quite-German-sounding voices of three men, who I assume are Russian.  As I look at one of the men in particular I am drawn to his obnoxiously printed black and white v-neck tee. The words I hear in my brain are, “I want to go to Prague, (which yes, I know is actually in the Czech Republic, not Russia).” And that is how it always starts. I see or hear something, that gets me thinking and my conclusion is always, “I need to check that out.” This morning it was, “Could I take the boys to Prague the last two weeks of May? Prague is safe, right?” My brain immediately shifts to Miles and Points mode. I literally see the American Airlines online award screen in my head. And yes, it is American Airlines, because they have the most user friendly Awards Miles interface, and I think we have enough AA points saved up to get the three of us to Europe. I see the screen and I think, “How can I make this work?”

Breakfast now finished. I grabbed some mint herbal tea for the road. Hotels always seem to have some brand of mint tea. Today it is Tazo, one of my favorites. As we leave, I stop and tell the lovely Polynesian girl with her big, long ponytail that, “Yes, there is no more Zen Tea. I know. I am always the one who tells you.” She stopped wiping the table and looked up and in her super easy-going-friendly voice said, “thank you.”

“It is our last day.” I said.

“It is?”

“You will not have to hear about the Zen tea anymore.” I laughed.

“Oh no. You are always so nice. We will miss you.” She responded.

“You are sweet.” I said.

“Not everyone is like that.”

“Well thank you.”

She told us to enjoy our trip home as I thought, “she has no idea that we do not have one.”

Here is where I need to stop, and here is where today’s issue lies. Yes, it is no secret that I love travel. I basically told you as much in my fist paragraph.  My issue here is that so much of my (past) writing has been solely based solely on working out issues, whether they be fertility issues, mean girl issues, or parenting woes.  I feel bad and wonder. Because I have used an online platform to ruminate out loud, has my real passion (travel) been missed? See, I am even doing it now. I am trying to work through how my travel love is watered down when I write.

Don’t get me wrong. Feelings talk is good. And when I talk about my feelings, I process. There is a place for feelings talk when it comes to travel. That being said, I have spent many years writing out the feelings, and what I see is that as much feelings writing I do, I will never have control over how someone else feels about. And what I see and felt in the hotel hallway this morning is that unlike feelings talk, travel does not keep repeating itself. It gets better and it moves forward. It really is an adventure. Ultimately, travel makes me feel possible. I can plan a trip and then I can go. The end.

Eli and I walk in the elevator. “There were more people than usual at breakfast today.” I say.  He pushes the elevator button. “I think it is because it is the weekend.” He answers. The elevator stops. The doors open, we exit, and head back to our room.  Somewhere between the elevator and our room I think it again. “I love to travel and I love to write.” I think more about writing. Wait. Wait. Hold up. Ok, so before you fall asleep reading this and while I fight the urge to go back to bed myself, can I tell you something? You see, I think I had an epiphany. And in the upheaval of vagabond-living a.k.a. homelessness, an epiphany is something I need. The epiphany happened while I was both rounding the corner and scolding myself.  Eli, of course, had no idea I was scolding myself, because the scolding was all in my head.

Ok. Maybe I did not scold. I admonished. I told myself this, “Beth, maybe if you write out all the whiny stuff, you will write about what you really love – travel. And that whole ruminating thing you do, well, that can simply be an entertaining (or not) aspect of your adventure.”

Maybe it was simply something I saw, like a loud black and white v-neck T, or maybe all of this is on my brain because I am helping read essays for a scholarship in his name. Or possibly it is because I thought of him after my friend Jody, emailed pictures of my poems from his Creative Writing and Poetry class. And then there is the whole truth that National Poetry Month ended yesterday. Whatever it was, my very favorite creative writing teacher’s loud German-accented words entered my brain. “Write the garbage out and then you will find the beauty.”  Once again I was having my own little Archibald-Machleish’s-Ars -Poetica moment right in our hotel hallway, “A poem should not mean/But be.”

We were almost to our room.  As I reached for my key card, Eli grabbed his and said, “I’ve got it.”

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