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Spreadsheet Travel

From a mere vacation, one goes home older, but from true travel, one returns changed by challenge.~William Least Heat-Moon, “By the Big Sea Water,” The Best American Travel Writing of 2005

I laminated the itinerary yesterday. I’ll have it on the computer, but the hard copy is a defense against the vagaries of wi-fi. It’s the plan: flights, accommodations, and cities. From large (Madrid, population 3,600,000) to small (the island of Kaprije, pronounced Kapreyon, population 140).

It’s a comfort. It tells us where we’ll sleep and where we’ll wake, columns I adopted from Corey and her husband Jon, masters of the spreadsheet.

Hot pink cells are airport hotels — a stop en route where we won’t stay long.

Pale yellow means there’s something still to figure out.

Light blue: we’ll join a tour along the Adriatic Coast and again in Spain. These are islands of time which someone else arranges.

My favorite cells are bright yellow — the time without a plan. Jake and I will fill it later, according to our moods. Settle in Seville? See Cadiz? A week in the Algarve? Lisbon?

Dessert comes last — Paris.

We’ve hacked the tour guides down to seven pounds. Malta, Sicily, and southern Italy are kindled. There are dictionaries in our phones: French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

My packing spreadsheet, with weights, will stay behind; we’re packed. The black shirt was more stylish, but the green is lighter (3.5 ounces as compared with 8), and it’s wool so it can double as long underwear, when we meet November in Paris. A cotton dress (3.6 oz) can serve as pajamas (9 oz) and double as… a dress. Flipflops are extravagant at 6 oz, but if I didn’t have them, I’d probably buy some. The bottom of my suitcase is filled with pills, a sign of age and why it’s time to go.

Here at home since I retired, I wake and step into hot water each day. I gaze at the green in the garden as the water swirls. Beanie keeps me company. Upstairs, I open a shade toward the sun, arrange my coffee and a muffin, and write. When I stop to look outside, Mom’s bugbane waves gently. As August ends now, its tall white plumes bloom above the maple’s red as Beanie strolls down the walk.

This year I’ve been writing about leaving home when first I left, all those years ago. Inspired by boxes of photos and letters that came to me from Mom. Today I’ll leave those thoughts behind.

At home

But the itinerary answers so few questions. What will we find? What don’t we know? What challenges will we discover as we go?

Last year when we flew to Uruguay, we knew where we’d be sleeping. But we didn’t know that Montevideo would be recovering from carnaval when we arrived. It was sad to miss the celebration but a pleasure to walk the quiet streets, and we were there for their “Goodbye Pepe” party for President Mujica.

Ferrying to Buenos Aires in time for March 24, we’d never heard of their Day of Remembrance for Truth and Justice. But we joined the massive demonstrations at La Plaza de Mayo, witnessing the reverence they hold for their Las Madres. A great introduction to Argentina.

No spreadsheet or guide book warned us that Panama City would host La Cumbre de Las Americas, the Summit of the Americas, during our stay. That was serendipity. No, we weren’t invited to join and yes, everything was closed. But we got to watch as this tiny country rose to the occasion of 37 heads of state converging. We visited Frank Gehry’s Museo de Biodiversidad as body guards followed United Nations officials through exhibits and preparations were laid for an outdoor banquet. It was quiet in the museum that day, as present came alive alongside the past.

Our housesitters arrived last night, found on Beanie stalked nervously between piles of clothes and suitcases as we packed. She’ll teach these new folks how life goes here.

And today we move from the spreadsheets to the travel. From what’s known to what we’ll meet…

“What? Again?!”
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