One day in the not too distant future, when I have more than three recreational hours in a row, I would like to travel the world. I want to go to Italy and see the art that virtually litters every street corner. I want to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I want to take a tour of the wine country in northern California, and drink champagne in the actual Champagne region of France. I want to go to Ireland and Scotland and see London and Paris and Tokyo and Hawaii and Costa Rica and many other places I’ve read about in books and seen on television. I’d like to take a road trip around America in search of the World’s Greatest Burger and stop at all the tacky tourist traps like the world’s largest ball of twine.
I know from the few trips I took pre-children that there are some things that you simply cannot appreciate unless you are there. A picture of a thousands of years old Roman aqueduct or biblical-era fort is one thing. To touch it is another. A picture of a small dot of a person standing atop Hoover Dam makes you realize it is big: Standing next to it is an entirely different scale of things.
But I have a problem. The problem is that I am a real homebody. It is a big deal to get me out of my house for a social occasion. Packing things up and going somewhere unfamiliar? Not my favorite.
This is why all my vacation money goes into paying for my lake house. I can “get away from it all” in a place where my drawers are already in the drawers, and I know exactly where the mugs and coffee are kept.
It is really stupid how I feel about this, and I fear my children’s horizons will be narrower than they should be because I like being in familiar surroundings. It is pathological. I mean, take how I felt a few weeks ago. I’d been visiting my parents in Ft. Myers, Florida. Although theirs isn’t the house I grew up in, my folks have lived in this house for about ten years now, and some of the furniture and dishes are the same as I remember from childhood. In fact, I noticed that my Dad has had the same flip-flops I remember from the early 70s. This is about as familiar as a place that isn’t mine is going to get. I know exactly where everything is and what to bring (and not bring) and what I am and am not allowed to do. I don’t have to worry about fitting in to the local culture. This is the local culture that raised me.
And yet. In my house, there are only three places I would put my phone. None of those three places are here, so I am constantly looking for it. I took my drivers license, a credit card, and a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet and stuck it in my pocket so I wouldn’t have to bring my purse when we went out. I spent two days after that forgetting to put them back in my wallet, and freaking out every time I went to pay for something. I can’t do my bedtime routine. I wake up every morning and spend the first ten seconds trying to figure out where I am. I can’t keep track of my bathtowel. I forgot a razor, and so I’m desperately trying to tan my legs so as to camouflage the stubble.
I’m a creature of habit. In my natural habitat, I’m a bit of an absent-minded professor. I can still remember the home phone of my best friend when I was nine. I can recall enough in the trivia department department that I was a real-live contestant on Jeopardy! and made a pretty good showing at it. I am good with academic recall. That said, I rarely remember to bring the lunch I made and set on the counter. I can’t keep track of my keys or sunglasses or reading glasses. And so, over the years, I have developed a great arsenal of compensating behaviors. I know exactly where my checkbook is and where all the bills to be paid are, because there is only one place I would put them. My keys are only in one place. I keep a pair of reading glasses in each place I am likely to need them. (In my purse, on my desk at work, next to my bed, next to the place where I do the most crossword puzzles, and next to the La-Z-Boy in the living room.)
I can’t do that when I’m not at home. Every single time I have gone on a trip I have had to buy a pair of sunglasses at a gas station or a dollar store because I can’t find (or forgot to bring) the pair I bought the last time I went out of town. My keys, my phone, my laptop, and my purse are always missing. I never get the right number of shirts/pants/socks in my suitcase. I feel out of sorts. My digestive system doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. I want to go home. I don’t want to leave where I am, but I want to go home. I’ll miss my parents the second I leave, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to sleep in my own bed.
Dadblast it, you know what I forgot to pack? My ruby slippers. Oz is a great place to visit and all, but truly, there is no place like home.
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Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.