I travel four or five times a year on business -- to conferences and board meetings, mostly. It's not like I'm a salesman on the road five days a week 50 weeks a year. Travel's not my way of life. But I do it regularly enough that it's not an unusual sensation to say goodbye to the family and spend hours in airports.
So you'd think it would get easier to tear myself away from my home and my husband and my children. Not everyday routine, but not dreadful or extraordinary either.
And yet every time I stand at the door, sit in the garage, pause at the interstate on-ramp, and think -- Can I do this?
The bond between me and my home and family feels like the elastic cord that attaches the rubber ball to the bolo paddle. It stretches, it stresses; there's a risk of breaking that can be palpably felt in the muscles and the materials. Just the thought of pulling on the cord makes me nervous. At every segment of the journey, I have to take a deep breath to steel myself for stretching the bond again.
Here in the airport, ninety minutes away from the first leg of my trip to Aarhus by way of Chicago and Copenhagen, the urge to bail out and return home is less intense than it was when I closed the front door. In Chicago, it will be less still; in Copenhagen, almost gone; in Aarhus, I won't even remember it. The adventure takes over, and the homesickness recedes.
But traveling is a kind of powerlessness. The solo traveler's freedom of movement, of choice, of self-determination is purchased at the price of distance from the ordinary processes of home and hearth and loved ones, locations of control that she takes for granted. Temporary loss of contact with those people and places leaves the traveler weightless -- half exhilerated, half sick.