We are currently staying at a modern, well-styled, fairly new, and well-trafficked hotel. As a result of the high traffic, I think the hotel feels older than it really is. It is located at the edge of the newish, trendy Spitalfields neighborhood. Spitalfields is a gritty, urbanized, hip area of East London. As we left our train the other night, two local London girls asked me where we were staying. “Near Aldgate East Station.” They looked concerned and as we parted ways they said, “Please be safe.” So far so good.
We love the neighborhood. We like our hotel. Our hotel is close to Dave’s London office. We are surrounded by graffiti-covered streets, immense cultural diversity, yummy noodle restaurants, bronze elephant statues on sidewalks, and the super cool Spitalfields market. We also like that our hotel is not in London’s tourist neighborhoods such as Covent Garden or The Shard. Better, we like that we are amongst the people, the Londoners, or that is what we hope.
Here I sit in the lobby – for the second time. A few moments ago I gathered all of my work stuff, left my room, took the elevator to the wrong floor, made my way to the right floor, and found a semi-quiet place (there are no quiet spaces). I pulled out my cords, my laptop and my giant Bose noise canceling headphones. I looked for an outlet and began plugging in my 100% dead laptop when I realized there was a problem. I was in another country. I did not have my adapter. In fact, I left my US to UK adapter up in the room. I admit I actually tried charging my laptop from the very tiniest backup battery. That was a bust and I am sure someone will tell me that I was lucky I didn’t short out my laptop. I didn’t. I paused to think if there was any other way I could just stay put: “Can I work on my phone?” I knew the answer. As a result, I packed up my laptop, giant Bose headphones, cords and batteries. I walked up to the front desk and asked the dude, “Hey, do you have an adapter I can borrow?” In the self righteous tone of a pubescent teenager, this grown man said, “Um, no. There is a Tesco down the street. Maybe they will have one.” I looked at him, perplexed. Sensing my confusion, or sensing he had crossed a line, he said, “Well, we used to sell them here.” I assured him that I have an adapter in my room seven floors up (in this nine story hotel). “Well, why don’t you just go get it? Did you lose your key? I will make you another key.” I took a deep breath, looked him directly in the eyes, and responded, “It was just easier to ask you.”
I grabbed my two backpacks, (I travel heavy), and made my way back to our room where I promptly scared the lovely housekeeping lady, who was quietly cleaning our room. I quickly pulled the adapter out of the wall, flashed it at her, apologized while thanking her and left.
I am back in the lobby. My laptop is plugged in. So is my phone. I am wearing my giant Bose headphones, listening to music very loud, and trying not to get too distracted by Social Media. I cannot resist. I skim Twitter. I interact. I fall down a rabbit hole. Oh no!
My mind is back in the lobby. My body never left. We are in London until Saturday. First, we were supposed to take a sleeper train to Edinburgh. As a result of some last minute business plans, we switched our plans to fly to Berlin. There was trouble with our Berlin plane tickets. I often think (hope) Dave married me because I am flexible and in seconds, I am willing to change plans and then change plans again and again. Now this weekend we will head to the South Downs. I believe we are staying on a farm that has horses and llamas.
I have a jet lag headache and could use a little horse therapy. We also plan on driving to Beachy Head, a stunning place covered in rolling hills covered by vivid green grasses, lined with dramatic white chalk cliffs in near Eastbourne in East Sussex on the south England coast. We traveled there eight years ago with our boys and Dave’s mom. It was a rainy, magical day and I am desperate to feel some melancholic nostalgia. Consequently, there is nothing like a visual/sense memory to get you in the feels. Crossing my fingers. Time flies. I miss those days. I ache for them. [insert deep, longing breath here]
As you can imagine via my sentiments in the above paragraph, for me (and many), traveling as a recent, empty nester is painful and a little strange. (By the way, I also feel like I am writing a non-sequitur, letter-from-camp to the world.):
Now just traveling as the two of us, Dave (my husband for those of you who don’t know) are figuring our new life out. Happily, we are making serious breakthroughs in our jet lag issues. We (both) own that we can be super crabby bitches as we adjust to new time zones. Dave admits that he did not have to be such an ass when he gave me shit about leaving my big bottle of sparkling water in at our Cotswold hotel. I quickly apologized after criticizing him for leaving his special allergy meds back in Utah. “Dude, I reminded you like seventeen times. It was on our list! How could you forget?” “Beth, I looked at the pills. They were both tiny, white and round. They looked the same.” “OH MY GOD! Didn’t you read the bottle?” “Why would I do that when I could look at the pills?” [insert my head exploding here]
I know what you are thinking. I am totally justified. We all wish Dave would have read the name of the prescription on the pill bottle. Even though he will edit this before I post it, please don’t tell Dave we all know that I am right. Rest assured, Dave and I also stopped at Boots, the local UK pharmacy yesterday. And as they say here in the United Kingdom, “everything is sorted.”
Moving on, please also know that as I mentioned, we had a breakthrough, I mean, days of breakthroughs. We started with admitting we were really tired and irrational. “Dave, I am really mean. Wow!” We pushed forward, recognizing that we both could be more patient with one another and on to forgiveness. “Beth, I am sorry I said something about the Queen and laundry and the cost of laundry. The Queen is dead and you are really good at laundry.” Ok. That is not exactly what Dave said. He did however apologize for his mean laundry comment and yes, his comment also mentioned the Queen in reference to me doing laundry, may she rest in peace.
Ultimately, I think the observations of me and my life are funny, better, they only grab a slice of reality. I am sure I do the same to others. In our case, my friends and family are always like, “Beth, you love to travel. You always travel. It’s always happy happy joy joy magical wonder.” They are correct. I love to travel. I am not sure if they understand why and I am not sure it matters if they do.
In case you are curious, I love to travel because it is extremely difficult. Every day is an unexpected puzzle and all of the puzzles push me out of my comfort zone. Whether it be sorting through severe melancholy, finding the correct adapters, remembering the sparkling water, or trying not to kill your husband because he cannot read a pill bottle and then explains why not reading a pill bottle is the most logical thing one can do, well, traveling places me in a position to learn, to communicate, to figure my shit out, to work on my marriage and to see the world from someone else’s point of view.
What a gift travel is.
love, Beth & Dave