Road Trip Detour

Buying street art in NYCSometimes you gotta know when to bail.

A summer road trip from Miami to Cape Cod led me to step away from a good friend, her trusty Toyota Highlander, and her two lovely dogs. En route from Miami to Cape Cod, after leaving Roanoke, VA at 4:30 am, I was filled with guilt – and anxiety- for committing to such a fatigue-inducing trip.

I am a cancer survivor. My mental and physical weariness and the monotony of city traffic were draining me in a BIG way. My traveling companion, a dear high school friend, understood my discomfort. I’m just not as free and easy as I was in my younger days. Or as free and easy as I’d convinced myself I could be, just for the spirit of a summer road trip with dogs, a school buddy and good tunes.

So I listened to my inner needs; I embraced my intuitive need to STOP and REST.

I needed a calm hotel, a soft bed and, most of all, to be OFF the road. I spotted a Marriott Bonvoy in Stamford, Connecticut and jumped out of the Toyota into the asphalt exaggerated heat with my three small duffel bags. I collapsed in the lobby while gathering my wits. I booked a room for two nights but changed it to four. I intended to see Manhattan solo – and salvage a much needed summer escape.

St. Patrick’s CathedralNo agenda, no conforming to other people’s – or dogs’ – schedules. I carved out the ME time I was in such desperate need of after clearing out my family home, the only home I’d ever known, following my mother’s death. As an only child, it had taken a huge emotional toll on me.

Age and weariness – and the stress of discarding and donating 54 years worth of my family’s stuff – had made me a less than ideal travel companion.

The road trip involved too many miles and a sleep schedule that upset my own personal body rhythm. As a cancer survivor, I always need to listen to that intuitive inner guide. So I finally tuned in, turned off and chilled out.

King Cole Bar at St. Regis New YorkWhat followed were the best three days I have ever spent in New York City. Taking the train after a good night’s rest from Stamford, CT, I was revived by the pulsating energy of Grand Central Station. I headed to Soho, Tribeca and the Village. Places I’d heard about but never really experienced.

All I had in mind for the day was a big steak at a French restaurant. No museums, no shopping, no tours, no theater. Just a steak.

I people watched endlessly. I made mental notes of effortlessly chic women who looked cool and comfortable in the 85+ degree heat. I took photos of beautifully staged shop windows on 5th Avenue. I stopped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral and lit a candle, saying prayers for my parents and one to ask for a quick and easy sale of my childhood home.

Here are the highlights of my road trip recovery:

– Brunch at Balthazar’s bar with steak frites and rosé Champagne (plus an extra glass on the house because the bartender read my mind, as good bartenders always do)

– Visiting The Whitney Museum

– Finding a chic black Audrey Hepburn dress with a button down front and ditching my dirty jeans and frumpy t-shirt

– Buying street art from a spirited, witty artist who knew that complimenting a middle aged woman on her dress could lead to a sale

– Cocktails at the St. Regis New York’s legendary King Cole Bar

– Buying soap and facial products from Marianella Soap Bar, a mother/son enterprise I’d supported on Kickstarter

– Capping my last evening in NYC with dim sum at Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers Street)

– Wandering into the open air street fun of Little Italy and savoring a real-deal cannoli

Cannoli in Little Italy

Here are my life lesson takeaways:

– I’m a solo traveler at heart.

– It was good to stimulate my brain by navigating one of the world’s greatest cities all by myself.

– I can find — and document — more beauty by being alone and having the time to focus on the moment.

– I meet people easily and relish their stories. I’m learning to listen more and talk less.

I’ll be paying my friend for my share of the trip and cottage rental. I’m pretty sure that she had a much better time without me.

I sense that she’s a solo traveler, too. We’ll be sharing our journeys with each other when we meet up to see The Rolling Stones together in Miami on August 31.

Back at it Again

carolyn keating

carolyn keating

I am reading a book I was afraid to read for the past 18 months: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Isn’t that funny? The word “fear” is in the title, and apparently something in my subconscious did not want me reading this wonderful book at that particular time in my life.

Big Magic is a witty, serious, deeply soulful guide to embracing your creativity. No matter what you may call your day job, Gilbert believes we are ALL creative beings. The guiding mantra of Big Magic is: “You do not need anybody’s permission to live a creative life.”

As Gilbert explains, “Human beings have been creative beings for a really long time – long enough and consistently enough that it appears to be a totally natural impulse.” 

She says that even if your present-day self doesn’t think you can draw, or sing, or paint, or dance – you’ve simply lost your way. Simply put, your ancestors HAD to make things. The everyday act of living meant that you sewed, cooked, preserved fruits and vegetables, made toys for your children, fixed what was broken, modified tools to suit your needs or came up with mini-inventions in the home or out on the farm that made life go a little bit smoother. Necessity and creativity went hand in hand.
It’s no coincidence that for the 18 months during which I neglected to read Big Magic, I also neglected writing this blog. Saying “oh, life just got in the way” is the easy way out. I think that I was fearful of putting myself out there, of telling the unvarnished truth, which was the whole point of starting this blog in the first place.

I write this blog in order to share my daily adventures, travel-related or simply life-related. 

I call it “Pack and Go Now” because nothing thrills me more than having to pack at a moment’s notice!

Travel is the well-spring of my creativity. Seeing new places feeds my soul, informs my world view, and makes me a happier person. 
I am also a strong believer that travel is a source of healing. Teddy Roosevelt took off for his Western adventures when his mother and wife died on the same day.

I mentally – and physically – “packed my bags” when I got kicked hard in the heart by a painful divorce followed by the sudden death of a boyfriend. My current life philosophy is: GO WHILE YOU STILL CAN. Book the flight, take the cruise, go on the road trip, pitch a tent. What are you waiting for?