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Personal Perspectives

Mountains, Ocean, Sky, and Other Gifts of Travel

A Personal Perspective: Travel brings us back to ourselves.

Key points

  • Travel helps you look around and see things differently, including yourself.
  • Breaking your routine makes you feel capable of breaking it again.
  • Life is full of second chances and new beginnings, at any age.

The gift of travel is new perspective. My partner and I kept talking about that on our recent trip—two weeks in the west, Portland and Cannon Beach, Oregon; Richland, Washington; and Missoula, Montana.

It was our first big travel experience together. We’re in a relatively new relationship—we’ve only been together for about a year and a half. I was single for most of my adult life and he was married for 45 years. We’re pretty old by most people’s standards, but we don’t feel old or—at least from my perspective—look old.

One of the two main purposes of the trip was to go to my friend’s wedding in Cannon Beach. My friend met her now-brand-new-husband about nine months before I met my partner, and our stories are somewhat parallel. My friend and I like to say that life plucked these two great men straight out of the universe for us—we met them both on the same dating app, and both of them were living in different not-too-far-away locations than we were.

The wedding was in the backyard of one of two adjoining houses where the whole 18-person wedding-attending group was staying. The groom’s three daughters performed the ceremony; the bride’s 20-year-old son and his (and our) friend—who’s part of a family of choice the bride and I have known for many years—played piano and violin; and the bride’s 30-year-old daughter turned the pages of the music.

I got to say something and read a few short readings. There were mountains and ocean and blue sky in the background. My friend looked beautiful in white jeans, a lacy white top, and a white jacket; her partner was handsome in jeans, a long-sleeved white shirt, and a vest. It’s a second marriage for both of them; they are respectively divorced and widowed, just a few years younger than my boyfriend and I are.

Everybody cried at the wedding, there under the blue sky, the wind whipping our hair—all of us moved by this evidence of second chances, new beginnings, love pure and simple. Each of the groom’s daughters talked about how much they loved both the bride and groom and how much the bride and groom loved each other, how kind and generous they both are. I read that piece from The Velveteen Rabbit about how love makes you real and how sometimes that takes a long time.

Talk about a moment with new perspectives to offer.

After the wedding event, my partner and I drove to Missoula to visit my niece, whom I hadn’t seen since her mother’s memorial service almost ten years ago and whom I had barely seen at all since she moved to Montana about thirty years ago. We spent time with my partner’s cousin and his wife, whom I liked immediately and whom my partner hadn’t seen in at least twenty years. We also visited an old friend that I worked with in the early 1980s. I felt like I was encountering old versions of myself, revived by old memories, and that made me realize how much I’ve changed and grown.

All in all, we drove through incredible scenery, visited a couple of tourist spots, stayed in other people’s houses and in hotels, and ate in a variety of so-so restaurants and a couple of great ones. We listened to part of an audiobook in the car and decided we’d rather make conversation, took photos, enjoyed stretches of silence in each other’s company, and became even more comfortable together than we were before.

I was exhausted when I got home. On the third night home, I slept for nine hours (very unusual for me) and woke up with a bad back. I’d been looking forward to going to the farmer’s market that day and had other things I wanted to do, but I was forced to admit there was nothing for it but to spend the day lying on an ice bag reading a novel.

At first, I was disappointed, but after a while, I realized it was exactly what I needed, that my back was giving me the gift of rest. Still, it was amazingly hard to come to a screeching halt and lie there, reading and thinking and staring out the window, and I was surprised, even a little shocked, by how I kept being visited by waves of some uncomfortable urge to do more, be more, to get up off that daybed and do something. I hadn’t realized I was so addicted to being busy.

And now here I am, back home, back in regular life. I don’t quite feel like myself yet. I can’t quite imagine picking up the reins and carrying on my life the way I was doing just a couple of weeks ago. My house looks a little different too, a little shabby and unfamiliar. But I’m starting to settle in. Having broken my routine, I feel more capable of breaking it again. And I’m happy to be home.

Mary Allen
The Gifts of Travel
Mary Allen
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