Living like a story book heroine

[a writer’s take on travel & vacation]

 I love traveling and it plays a huge part in my Rahki Chronicles fantasy series. However, fantasy and reality can be worlds apart. Let’s start with a question to help us understand those differences. Please select one of the following options:

  1. Sampling a homemade brew from an enthusiastic vendor’s back room
  2. Faithfully following a guide into a cave without a backward glance
  3. Trying the local delicacy at an unknown restaurant chosen because the parking lot was crowded
  4. Jumping into a taxi while barely able to communicate in the driver’s native language.

Each of these choices could either be part of a fantastic vacation or the start of a horrifying crime novel. For me, they’ve been part of vacations and, fortunately, no crime scene techs were required. My story started well before those particular plot twists though.

I fell in love with the idea of travel long before I was able to travel. It was books, romances actually, that introduced me to the idea of a world very different from my own. Foreign lands. Exotic animals. Tasty foods. Past, present, or future – the settings were always populated with interesting and beautiful characters. Those characters bested monsters, solved mysteries, and fell in love before my very eyes. Those characters also inspired me to indulge my as yet unproven Gypsy heritage by wandering wherever life takes me whenever the opportunity arises.

Travel wasn’t always a glorious fantasy though. Books often glossed over long lines, cramped seating, and lost luggage. However, these inconveniences were merely bumps in the road toward glorious destinations. Cities or canyons. Beaches or mountains. Sun or rain. It didn’t matter to me. These exotic locales were the destinations I had dreamed of while reading. To be able to dip my toes into the Pacific Ocean, a Colorado hot spring, or the Mediterranean Sea was simply a dream come true. No two places were ever the same, and I have yet to return to a single one. There are simply too many new treasures to find.

Russia. Mexico. Europe. USA.

Each individual location offered a tantalizing array of new opportunities. Modern museums. Ancient ruins. Eerie cemeteries. Farmer’s markets.   There was a new story to not just read but to also live as they unfolded before me each day. I researched the history, culture, and hidden jewels offered by every unique setting. I planned earnestly to not just see but enjoy each opportunity. I left openings in my schedule hoping for spontaneous adventure that I couldn’t possibly have planned.  Even going to the market for groceries could be an adventure!

I could become the heroine of my own exciting tales.

Now, I wasn’t actually taking the ‘road less traveled’ like the heroines in the books. Most of my paths were well-worn by other tourists.   They were all new stories for me. Foreign lands. Exotic animals. Tasty foods. I played in the past, treasured the present, and dreamed of the future. On vacation, I truly felt like one of the brave heroines I’d read about so many times. I loved it too…for one week out of the year.

At home, I’m just me. I follow my routines and rarely deviate from them. Work. Gym. Home. Repeat. Those are the well-worn paths connecting the dots of my normal life. I’m not unhappy by any means and consider myself fortunate in my career, family, friends, and life. However, I do find myself wishing for the clock to move faster, for the pages of the calendar to fly by. I rush toward 5pm, sprint to Friday, and fly headlong into vacation. It seems I spend my time and energy in metaphorical long lines, cramped seating, and searching for lost luggage while dreaming of traveling.

Ah, but on vacation, the shackles of my average life slide from my hands and feet as I become a heroine once again. Hot air balloon rides. Native dishes. Horseback tours. Star gazing. I delight in the feeling of pleasurable exhaustion instead of worrying about if the bed was made. I greet the new day with gratitude and excitement whether I’m up at sunrise or sleep in. It’s not a treadmill but cobbled streets and sandy trails giving me a workout. I’m no longer governed by the clock or the calendar. I am living in the moment.

Free. Grateful. Happy.

It has taken many, many airline miles for me to discover that my favorite part of vacation isn’t the travel or even destination. My favorite part is who I become while traveling. I like the heroine who samples homemade brew from an enthusiastic vendor’s back room. I adore the heroine who faithfully follows a guide into a cave without a backward glance. I’m impressed by the heroine who tries the local delicacy at an unknown restaurant chosen because the parking lot was crowded. I cheer for the heroine who jumps into a taxi while barely able to communicate in the driver’s native language.

Foolhardy? Perhaps. Fiction is often far from reality, but I still want to be that heroine. Yes, I’ll continue to research and be smart as any good traveler should be, but I like who I am when I travel. I want to be that person…and not only one week each year, but every week. Every day.

Travel hasn’t just taught me about other cultures, histories, and foods. It’s taught me about myself. Gypsy heritage or not, I’ll continue to travel and will relish each chance. However, the true journey for me is about writing my own exciting tale of adventure.

The challenge and the fun is to live like a story book heroine in my own everyday life. Here’s hoping you do the same!

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