Thursday, August 9, 2012

Travel Lust

It's not that I'm surprised that travel is expensive.  There are certain parts of travel everybody knows will require more-than-the-usual allotment of weekly money.  Also, it eats up significant amounts of time.

Just moving bodies from one place to another is costly:  airplanes, rental cars, tolls, gasoline.  Two full days of this eight-day trip we're on are devoted to going to and from Colorado.  We're spending even more time daily driving to see the local sights.   But this, I knew about.

Food, likewise, I was mentally prepared for.  I travel with bags and bags of homemade trail mix, not only to keep down cost but to be able to feed hungry travelers on the fly, so to speak. We bought groceries and mostly cook for ourselves, but we can't use most of the frugal grocery strategies we use at home (buying in bulk, buying in season, knowing where the stores with the good deals are).  We'll end up wasting a bunch of food when we leave.  And of course, a few restaurant meals have been unavoidable.  All this, I knew about, too.  I'm prepared for it.

The touristy things my family does together are a total splurge.  One that, again, I was ready for.  My husband rents a bike and rides up mountains.  My dad loves seeing national parks and historic sights, and the rest of us gladly join him.  Yesterday we climbed up scary-looking ladders to the cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde; tomorrow we'll ride the train to Silverado.  My sisters and I love doing more active things:  we'll spend a day kayaking down a river; we'll ride horses (my favorite thing each year).  And for the kids and geeks among us (that's all of us) we went to a science museum where J-son got to make this cool stop-animation movie.  None of this is even close to being free.  Part of me is twitchy about all this, and part of me loves it.  But either way, again, I knew this was coming.

What I wasn't prepared for is two things:

Surprise One, how much I have come to hate throwing things away.  I carry a water bottle with me everywhere (goes nicely with the spoon and chopsticks, no?), but the second time my husband brought me coffee in a paper cup I resolved to spend real money.  I spent about a half-hour in downtown Durango comparing coffee mugs, and finally dropped [careful, here, this number may shock you] $35.
Lame justification that sort-of makes sense to me:  Since at home I have several 25¢ travel mugs, this is more that 100 times as expensive as my usual purchase.  But there's a reason I don't bring those ones with me:  they spill when tipped over, they don't clip onto my bag.   They're good for cars but not airplanes or hikes.  The one I bought seals completely, insulates really well, and hooks onto my bag so I can carry it hands free.  It is going to be my new everything bottle.  
Surprise Two: I love traveling.  Really love it.  I'm such a well-conditioned miser that spending money usually feels like punishment to me.  (That travel mug really feels like a splurge, and I adore it but I'm also a tad uncomfortable about the expense, honestly.  I know "normal" people don't feel the same).

Traveling through Mesa Verde yesterday, I found myself asking my husband, "wouldn't you love to come here some day to camp?  You could ride your bike; I could hike . . . "  My head is full of both memories of family camping trips when I was young and visions of future trips as the boys get older.  Without my dad and sisters, I know the trip would be much more modest than the current vacation, at least financially.   We don't own a tent or any camping supplies, though.  And we don't have airfare or camping fees worked into the long-term budget.  But I feel like I've been bitten by the bug.  Not like me.

Edna St. Vincent Millay ended her poem on travel this way:
My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing,
But there isn't a train I wouldn't take
No matter where it's going.

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