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October 25, 2020

Window on the World Column: The Nomad

By Lucy Jensen, Soledad Columnist

I’m a brat. There, I said it. I think my mother was the last person who said it to me many years ago and she wasn’t wrong. I have lived and traveled freely all my life. I have cruised back and forth at will across this country and the Atlantic for 32 years now. I have two passports and two nationalities. I should be free to come and go as I please, in my opinion. And that used to be the case, before the “stupid-coronavirus” (one word … from the mouth of my 5-year-old granddaughter).

When my Mum was dying, I went back and forth across the pond about five or six times in a year; so many times, in fact, that my body no longer even bothered to feel any jet lag. It was just like, “Oh this again? No problem …” Same with my baby sister. I traveled back and forth on that wretched journey (the worst I have yet to experience) from San Fran to Istanbul and then south to Antalya and then south still to her home. The year she died I think I had done the trip four to five painful times. “I’m off,” I would say to my husband, leaving behind — in writing — some very vital and, I’m sure, annoying instructions on how to properly take care of my fur babies, as if he didn’t already know how, along with a couple gallons of milk and maybe a bar or two of his beloved chocolate.

It’s a habit, a lifestyle even, that I enjoy. I have many special friends, not to mention family members who still live overseas, and I need to get over there and see them regularly. Not to say I don’t love my family and friends here, but I had come to enjoy and expect the diversity of my life as a dual national and I had no plans to change a thing. Except corona came along and reminded me that freedom should never be taken for granted.

May was my father’s 91st birthday. I have traveled to see him every year for his birthday for many years. My old friends had booked a seaside house in our favorite place where I grew up. I had air tickets, even seat reservations on said aircraft. I was ready. “Your flight has been canceled.” There came the email; right after all hell broke loose with the virus in March. “Contact your airline for blah-de-blah.” I was mortified. No, my flight cannot get canceled — I have plans. Places to go, people to see! But it was. It was not happening.

August came along and we thought we’d give it another go. Try and get over to the old country and see the people, help my sister with the clearing out of Dad’s house — 40-plus years of stuff in that old three-story relic. She needed my help. Booked it and held my breath. “Your flight has been canceled,” it tells me right before I was really starting to imagine that I would be flying this time. “You won’t be able to get over, sis,” my sister tells me. I hate it when she is right, which she is most of the time.

Then, my girlfriend and I had plans to go and visit my brother in the south of France, where he made his life a few years back. I had yet to get over there. We had a whole itinerary. Fly to London, night in a hotel. Then fly to Toulouse in the South of France. Visit with Dominic for a few days, then fly onto Venice … how exciting was all of that! My friend contacted me to say that, first, the Italian flight was canceled and next the French. Nooooo! Stop messing with me. It is very important that I get home to see my people! I have not been outside of this country in over nine months now. I was very upset.

“We could get the train?” I broached. Yes, we decided. If my flight over to London did not get canceled, we would get the high-speed train through France and then rent a car. How fun would that be. We even had a backup plan to go to our place on the coast in England, if it seemed as if France might be going back into lock-down. Yes, this would work out. Not. “My flight has been canceled!” I practically yowled at her down the phone, like a cat stuck in a storm drain. I was so disappointed. America is a big country to feel as if you are trapped; but I did start to feel a little bit as if I would never get to leave.

Fortunately, my friend has just moved from Salinas and asked me to visit her in Vegas. Well, yes, I could do that without plane tickets that would get canceled. Easy-peasy. I would just drive across the state line. Then I pondered a little more. Maybe I could make a little solo road trip of it, stay by the coast for a few nights, celebrate the turning of another year and, maybe even, start proper work on my sister-cancer-grief book that I’ve been kicking rocks over. So here I began to plan my own personal bratty stay-cation. My own attempt to escape my life for a few days and be a bit of an independent traveler again.

My English friend, who is married to an American, tells me they are coming over to the U.S. in November to vote. They will be staying in New York for a few days. “Oh, New York!” (My mind is already scattering around the place thinking how fun that would be!) And, here I go again, looking at the flights, pondering the possibilities. I am a brat; also a bit of a nomad if the truth be told. I love to travel freely; I live to go places and see my people. I cannot wait until this “stupid-coronavirus” (one word) has left our world and we can resume somewhat of a regular existence. For my part, I already have plane tickets to England for late October and also Christmas. I daren’t even think how upset I will be if the Christmas ones, especially, get canceled.

But we learn new things every day, don’t we; even us old dogs. This stupid-CV has taught me a lesson. Free travel is a privilege that not everyone enjoys. Right now, you do not have free passage to all the places you want to go; but you can go to Vegas, and, maybe, you can also go to New York. This year, I have been informed by the universe, more than once, that just because you want to do something does not necessarily mean you can. Bratty girl has been put back in her box.

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