Sunday, June 28, 2009

Turn Left at Naypyidaw

I'm beginning to feel like Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. One minute I'm hiking in the Appalachians and the next I'm in Argentina.

If you are not living in America you probably don't know the latest goss on the guv. Those people can click on the link below. You others, just read on ...

For a well-traveled woman, I'm surprisingly hopeless when I am forced to make a change in my vacation travel plans.

In 1969 to 1970 I traveled 'overland' from Melbourne to London. And you'd think that anyone who could do that, could travel anywhere, any way. But no. THAT trip was easy. You only ever had to know the next town. From Melbourne go to Darwin and then look at the map for the next place. It's Bacau, Timor. OK. Go there. And so on. If water was involved, get a plane. Otherwise bus or train. Simple. There was only ever one destination.

When it comes to traveling I'm a linear kinda gal.

Complicated travel plans are not my scene. Pouring over brochures, making decisions is not fun for me, though I do understand that others love doing so. Travel-planning brings out the neurotic in me, and I'm neurotic enough without having my neurosis-quota topped up.

I'd rather just stay at home unless something in the way of a vacation crops up. And then if it sounds good, I'll be in it.

So when Alice suggested staying in a little village in Sweden with her relatives, I was all for it. Count me in, I'll be there with bells on, I thought.

I imagined waking up to the sound of Swedish-speaking roosters and strolling to the nearby lake. Perhaps I'd sit under a shady tree and read a book or two. Ten days of relaxation away from the sounds and stress of the city. Bliss.

And then it changed. "There's no room," Alice said, "in the family car. It holds only five and we are six altogether. We'd better rent a car. You will drive." Huh? Moi?

Anyone who has driven in car with me as the driver knows I am not your natural motorist. I can't even parallel park in my home town of Melbourne where people very sensibly drive on the left. One reason I love New York is that private cars are useless here. I haven't owned or driven a car since the turn of the century. I could not imagine myself driving around Sweden with Alice and her family.

I explained my position. "It's like riding a bike, you never forget," argued Alice who has never driven a car herself.

But eventually she was convinced. "We can get cabs," I said. "And buses."

The scary images I'd been conjuring up of me squinting at road signs with Umlauts and god knows what else, while listening to people shrieking in Mandarin in the back-seat, faded. It was back to the Seurat-like scenes of me lazing near a lake beneath a parasol, a book lying carelessly in my hand as I doze off ...

Not so fast, girl. No sooner had the parasol scenes crowded into my now-relieved mind, than my cell phone beeped. A text message. Oh no! Text messages, like ancient Greeks, rarely bring good news.

I opened up the little screen and read,

Well what about Barcelona and Poland?

Christ! I nearly dropped the phone. I calculated. Get to Stockholm. Travel to cute village. Turn around. Do not pass GO but go to Stockholm and then airport. Next day in Poland. Then to whatever in Barcelona. And after all that, do it all over again but in reverse. It wasn't working!

I tried to get into her mind-set. Sweden, Poland and Barcelona. Apart from all being in Europe what do these three places have in common? What sort of mind could conjure up such a ten day tour. Certainly not one I wanted to accompany.

"Count me out," I texted.

Seconds later the message came back, "I think you are over reacting. It'll be cool."

Yeah, whatever.

So now I'm stuck with a non-refundable return ticket to one of the most expensive cities in the world. I imagine Stockholm as like New York except that the people are blond and the wine costs more. Why on earth would I want to go there alone?

I wouldn't. I turn on the telly to blot out the world. The South Carolina governor is crying about Argentina. I join him and weep for Latvia.

Enjoy planning your vacation, people tell me. Why not pop over to Italy? Or the UK? Or even France.

Where is their logic? If I didn't want to go from Stockholm to Barcelona, why on earth would I want to go from Stockholm to Florence? Florence in July! If I want to experience Americans I can stay right here in New York.

"The Baltic States!" another suggests. Now at least that's a bit more realistic. I google away. Castles, museums about the Iron Curtain. Fun fun fun. Hotels with unlikely names advertising free Internet access. I have Internet access at home.

"Have fun planning!" my husband emails. I HATE planning! That's what I do all day at work. Plan. Where's the fun in planning?

I'm going bananas. It's like that part of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four where the torturers discover your worst fears/phobias and deliberately put you in the very situation you dread.

No. I refuse. I'll make a stand on this one, folks. Like the ducks and Noah's ark, I'm NOT GETTING ON!

And if anyone asks me where I'm off to on the 16th July, I'll tell 'em, I'm going hiking in the Appalachians.

1 comment:

nautiaussie said...

"Kam raudi tu, ak daila Staburadze??"

This is a line from a beautiful Latvian song about a weeping rock/cliff face. The singer asks if the rock too, feels the pain and misery of life. From that you an deduce that the Latvians sing in a minor key and most of their songs have a melancholy bent. The country, however, is beautiful and should you travel through any part of it, I want pictures ;)

I am looking forward to the next chapter in this saga and if yu do go, enjoy your stay thoroughly!

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