Being a Woman Traveler

While browsing used book stores in Seattle last April, I came across a book entitled Maiden Voyage: Writings of Women Travelers edited by Mary Morris*. I picked it up and within a few paragraphs of its Introduction I was hooked. Morris refers to John Gardner’s statement that there are only two plots in literature, “You go on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” She goes on to expand this statement to talk about the differences of travel for men and women. For so many years, women were denied the ability to go on a journey, so instead they spent much of their lives waiting for a stranger or love.

I have always loved travel; the planning, the newness, the long flights, the strangeness of it all. I remember with particular clarity my first big trip (one that involved an airplane) was when I was probably 7 or 8. My loving Mother took both my younger squirmy brother and myself out to Nebraska to visit her sister and my cousins. That trip was very important in that it marked the beginning of my friendship to my cousin Laura, but it also marked the beginning of my love of flying.

Now don’t get me wrong I hate standing in line waiting for airport security as much as the next person, but once you get me on the plane I love it all. From the way my head gets pulled back against the headrest and my stomach knots during take-off, to the strangely yummy meals in neatly segmented trays; from the plane moving through clouds to the knowledge that in a few hours I will be somewhere totally new.  As I talked about in a recent post on Mennogirl, I find the concept of getting somewhere in such a short time to be a rather incredible concept.  It seems so odd that we as oddly shaped bits of flesh have found a way to travel the whole way around this round planet.

But one may ask, what is it about travel that makes things exciting?  When it comes down to it, travel is a luxury, planes eat up fuel reserves, trekking around ancient pyramids only aids in their deterioration, buying little souvenirs only adds to the general accumulation of too much stuff.  Despite all that travel for me is about seeking.  Travel always opens eyes, it gives me new memories, new pictures and at its best, new relationships.  It is a way for me to push forward with intention in my life.  It allows me to say, I am not going to be a woman who waits, but one who goes out and finds the life she wants to lead.

*For more on Mary Morris, read this great column in the New York Times from 1987 in which she deals more extensively with the decision/freedom of women to travel.

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