Traveling to Oaxaca

“Peculiar travel plans are dancing lessons from God.” Kurt Vonnegut.

PART ONE: Planning the trip

In late January I received an invitation to go to an art workshop in Oaxaca Mexico. I’m sure invitations were sent out back in the Fall, and I may have seen it before and ignored it, thinking it wasn’t something I could do.  By January I had a niggling little urge to go to Mexico. My mom lived there for the last 25 years of her life, and I visited her frequently. Since she passed in 2011 I haven’t been there, and I was missing it. But the idea of figuring out a whole trip by myself wasn’t something I’d gotten around to yet. The idea was still just a little flicker in the background until this email arrived. The workshop is called “Textiles and Talismans,” and the invitation was accompanied by brilliantly colorful photos of Oaxaca’s signature textiles.  Hello! Who doesn’t like a good talisman? And those brilliant textiles and the little carved, painted animals? Yeah. That was pretty irresistible to me!

The art part of the workshop is making a travel journal. Lots of paint and collage, it looks like. While I have never really aspired to learn to make a travel journal, I’m sure I”ll enjoy it. It was the other details of this trip that grabbed my attention. The workshop includes traveling to some textile villages and shopping in the mercados. And there is Monte Alban, a Zapotec ruin that very much intrigues me, only a half hour away by bus.  Dinner out and about every night.  As soon as I’d read the details I signed up. All of it sounds super interesting to me, and I get a trip to Mexico by myself without having to figure out the where to go and where to stay. I can scope it out and come back if I want to later. Done and done!

So I have been getting ready ever since that day. Preparing to travel, for me, begins with the lists. What I will take with me, coordinating clothes to keep the bulk down, art supplies, journal, books…the list is mighty. Then who will stay at my house and care for my dogs, how will I get to the airport and back, on and on. According to an article in the Huffington Post, planning and anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking the trip. I linked it here so you can read it. It’s a little fluffy, but never mind. I agree with it because planning my travel makes me so happy. I love the actual travel too, but am I ever a planner.

However, here’s the kicker. For all the planning I do, I still don’t have a good carrying bag figured out. I’ve got two suitcases, one of which will fit inside the other so I have room to bring some things home, but I have no idea what I’ll use to carry the extra change of underwear and toothbrush I would need if my checked luggage got lost. I had plenty of time to figure this out, and for all my planning I failed to nail this one down, and I leave the day after tomorrow. But I’m not worried about it. I’ll figure it out. (UPDATE: I found something serviceable at Ross and after my “Tuesday Club” -read Senior- discount, it was only $39. The exact one I wanted was $319 at Kohls. WHAT?? Does anyone pay that much for luggage now that we have TJ Maxx or Ross?!) So I’m all ready now.

I’m taking one book, The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho. I love this book and have read it so many times. My favorite version is El Alquimista, in Spanish. There is a beauty in the Spanish version that supercedes that of the English and I’m taking that one. I will probably need some refreshment of my Spanish, so reading my favorite book in Spanish ought to be just the ticket.

Having decided to go and having added three days to the actual workshop time, I’ll be gone for ten days. That is a good amount of time and I plan to make it a retreat. I’m leaving my iPad and computer behind, and have decided to ‘go analog” for the duration of the trip. I’ll have my phone for taking photos – I’m not taking my big fancy ass heavy camera with me – and I’m deleting Facebook and Solitaire and that word game that sucks me in before I go. All those things that draw me to look at my phone rather than paint or write or draw or meditate or take a walk are going on hiatus for ten days. It’s been a long time since I haven’t had those things. I’m sure I can do it.

Here’s an interesting thing. Every single time I’ve told someone I’m going to Mexico they have asked, “Who are you going with?”  I guess I understand that, because most people do travel with someone else. I learned years ago that if I waited for someone to go with me, I would never go anywhere. Usually I am going someplace where I will meet and spend time with other people, often people I don’t know yet, but I’ve traveled by myself for a long time. I think it’s an important thing to do, actually. It lets me see myself in the context of unfamiliar places, situations and cultures. I see how I react to unforeseen  events and it helps me to grow. I have found that every single time I travel alone the world seems to pick me up and help me along. Problems are resolved in ways I don’t expect and things just seem to work out. It’s like Kurt Vonnegut said in Cat’s Cradle, “Peculiar travel instructions are dancing lessons from God.” I believe that, and I’m ready to dance!

So that’s that. The preparations are made, bags are packed, my son is staying at the house to take care of the dogs and tomorrow morning I’ll be off! I’ll Post Part 2 in about two weeks! It’ll have photos. Bye!

 

Gifts From the Sea

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Tiny perfect things.

I’ve come to the beach for a few days.  I’m in the company of two dear friends, both of whom live far from me. Our times together are infrequent, yet the friendship runs deep and true and is instantly alive whenever we meet.

The trip to get here was grueling. Like passing through a portal that is far too small for comfort. Three plane rides, sitting in middle seats between people who were not my people. They were unobtrusive enough, although the weirdness seemed to intensify with each plane ride. On the longest one I sat between a young man who had a big lipful of chew, the spittle constantly being added to a water bottle that he kept in his seat pocket and a habitually vacationing margarita drinker from Coeur d’Alene Idaho who was just tryin’ to get through the winter. Between the smell of alcohol on her breath and the sight of his brown liquid…well, it was a long flight. Maybe I was just being a little precious about it all, but nevertheless I was grossed out.

Then there was my choice of traveling equipment. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to buy a new backpack, as I haven’t had one for years. I found one at TJ Maxx a couple of days before I left that just looked perfect. And it is pretty perfect, easy enough to carry and all, with a cunning little compartment for my laptop and lots of well placed pockets everywhere. I loaded it up with my computer and other special stuff and used it as my carryon. It fit alright under the seat and all, but it’s heavy, and it has no hidden wheels. So as I slogged through the airport weighted down with my perfect backpack, my knee beginning to ache, I kind of wished for some of those little wheels on the flashy new underseat bags I’ve been seeing hawked on Facebook so much lately. However, one of those wouldn’t have fit under Delta’s new supremely skinny seats. Why they fit three seats in such a small space I can’t imagine. They were definitely not considering the comfort of their guests. It’s clearly about dollars.

Anyway, after a long day of travel I arrived at this perfect beach house in Panama City Beach, Florida. It is right on the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphins cavort out in front of us as we sit in our Restoration Hardware living room or on our lovely white wooden balcony. The sand is white with trails of bird footsteps and the shells plentiful, small and perfect.

I walked on the beach today and it occurred to me that sometimes the best life experiences include an ordeal in order to arrive and be fully present.  As I walked along the water’s edge picking up tiny shells I kept thinking “Gifts from the Sea.” And then my mind went to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s book of nearly the same title. Was she talking about seashells or a different sort of gifts? I haven’t read it yet, but I will soon.

When the water lapped at my feet I thought of the gifts of peace and rhythm that the sea offers, the opportunity to think of nothing as I watch for the next wave to arrive, knowing without a doubt that it will.  It seems to loosen the knots within me without any effort on my part and there comes an understanding that all things soften with time. Will that knowledge lead to a nurturing of my patience? For a few days anyway? One can hope.