Took a travel writing seminar during the Barbara Kingsolver/San Miguel Writing Workshop in mid-February. My workshop was two days' long. Unfortunately I was shopping for mangoes, carnitas, cashews, and oranges at the Tuesday Market on the second day of the conference when I ran into Ann Taylor. She asked me if I had skipped out early on the lecture. Sadly I had my times wrong and missed the whole second day. But the first day was quite inspiring. It was taught by Laurie Gough, author of two travel memoirs: Kiss the Sunset Pig and Kite Strings on the Southern Cross. She's also the mother of Quinn, in first grade at Los Charcos where my boys go to school. So we often saw her and husband, Rob, at the bus stop in the mornings. She asked us to write in class a short piece beginning with" I Want to Write About My Travels Because..."
I want to write about my travels because my children need to know the person I was before I became their mother. This woman they know is new. She is not the girl I was when I moved back and forth across the earth, shifting through time zones as easily as I now slide into bed, worn out by my new role. Before I was their mother I saw my first hooker in a bar in Kuala Lumpur, wrapping her desperate legs around the waist of an American marine, begging him to take her to his home, far away from hers. Before I was their mother I sat in a folding chair on the crest of Naabi Hill in the Serengeti, watching the moon blast out of a cloud cover over a field of wildebeest, whose bark sounded just like a dog. Back then I fell asleep in Sydney when the lights on the Opera House finally winked off around midnight. I sang the same song six times in a cantina in Cuzco, with the bartender, his Asian girlfriend whose belly was flat as a beach, and an Austrian tour guide named Roman.
My children do not know the stories of this woman. When I was fearless, plummeting in a swan dive off a bridge over the Shotover River in New Zealand. When I ate hot noodle soup from a tin can, squatting on a low wooden stool in Hanoi. When I showed up on a ferry in Santorini without a room or a companion. That I once slept in a cave with four cots and a cold water spigot, but at dusk the sun spread out sideways across the sky, a tangle of lavender ropes.
They don’t know that I learned to scuba dive in a warm but nearly empty cove below my room on that island. That I could have gotten on a plane to leave, feeling the weight of my aloneness then. But instead I ate sea urchins straight from their armored black shells on a fishing boat with Greek men and after that I was fortified for years of travel.
One day they will know this mother, the woman who always said yes.