“I can one-up you,” I said after hearing a fellow writer describe her boyfriend’s long flight travel delay.
And so begins the story that I tell about the three weeks of travel in the Netherlands and Ohio. Of course, I could have started with beautiful, inspiring stories about the (positive) things I did—relief and wonder of being outside of the country, new foods, new people, giving a conference talk, writing workshops, self-discovery and all that woo woo stuff. But sometimes to me, those things are boring and I cannot help but resort to stories about that-was-so-bad-and-you-don’t-want-to-do-this. Perhaps an internal desire not to have someone follow my path?
I first talk about the nearly six hour delay of my flight to the Netherlands. But sometimes I might neglect to mention that I wasn’t in the economy class—a sign of privileged comforts. The lack of cleaning staff. The sudden medical emergency that forced a landing in Salt Lake City. The despair that as I looked out the window, I saw the fuel release, feeling like everything I had done to reduce my climate footprint in the last few years had disappeared right in that moment. The refueling and restocking of the catering supplies. The wait for maintenance and everything else. In all, a seventeen-hour ordeal of being in a metal tube reminded me why I disliked flying (the discomfort primarily of being squeezed in a singular position for hours on end among people I don’t want to be around), which started around when I started interviewing for Ice Cream Travel Guide. What I don’t mention of course were the surprisingly easy transiting afterward (minus the time it took to orient in a new city) from cycling, city light rail, and regional trains. And of course my return flight.
Then I lament the woes of my Ohio travel. The power outage in 90 degree humid weather for almost 24 hours in the areas where I was lodging. And how the power outage continued in some buildings including the dining hall. The worry that I was in unventilated spaces (but I had to EAT!) And how the airline made me stay overnight in Seattle because they rescheduled the second leg of my flight and the only available substitute flights (without just taking a full refund and paying more for another unpartnered airline) were the following morning.
I say all of this and then I mention that a writing instructor in one of the first writing classes (Travel Writing!) I took as an adult once mentioned that essays about travel headaches are boring. “Don’t write about them,” she said.
And now, I say, “You can’t inspire anyone with that kind of story. Everyone experiences it. And because you learn nothing. Except that you don’t ever want to do it again.”