Guest blog by Mary K. Jensen
The first time it happened I was not prepared. I was sitting atop a high stool, reading to a roomful of women who smiled and laughed as they enjoyed excerpts from “Rudy’s Rules for Travel,” the story of our marriage of opposites meeting the world. I had just begun to read my account of a treacherous, but bargain elephant ride selected by my risk-taking, frugal husband, when I spotted a young woman in the first row. She was not smiling. As I paused and glanced her way, her hand shot up: “Why didn’t you leave him? I mean, didn’t you think about it? He was always getting you into danger, and you seemed so afraid..…”
I answered with one of those responses that, while flippant, had a measure of truth. “Hey, let’s face it. I was always either packing or unpacking. I didn’t have time to leave him.” Fleshed out, that was code for “Of course I thought about that every day I traveled with impulsive Rudy, but then we’d get off the elephant—or the broken-down bus or the tiny bemo—and find a sweet garden of bougainvillea, and glasses of a local white wine. All my mentally rehearsed threats (sample: “One more hair-raising day with you and I fly back home”) would vanish.”
As you know, travel has each of these moments–the times it brings us lovingly closer to our journey mates, and the times it makes us wonder what the penalty for murder is in this particular country. At the very least, travel tells us who we are in relationship to this fellow journeyer, the one we thought we knew so well…but that was back home when we knew each other, home where the electricity and the hot water and the toilets usually worked.
Now, I think about that young woman and her question every time I do a presentation. Why did I stay in this nomadic marriage of opposites? Maybe it was the adventure of it: on the Italian autostrade the car could veer to an unplanned itinerary and land in France. Maybe it was the growth in it for me, so many years his junior, so naïve about the world and its cultures. Maybe I was simply caught up in the tornado that was Rudy. But if I had to bet, I would say it was the blue eyes that were responsible for my loyalty. After my chastising him yet again for his recklessness, his head would go down, but the deep blue eyes would look up, straight at me. “You have to admit I’m cute though, aren’t I? and—I loves you, girl.”
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This summer several books present relationships in the context of travel, a combination likely to both attract and intrigue the reader. I’ll try to avoid spoiler alert material here, because the books in part sometimes read like good mysteries. Travel and journey mates—anything can happen.
In Driving Miss Norma, Tim Bauerschmidt introduces us to his ninety-year-old mother who chooses the open road rather than cancer treatment, and embarks on her journey with him, his wife and a dog. Mother and child lines fade as three adults and their pet bond during the ultimate of adventures—finding each other and new life.
Tracey Carisch‘s Excess Baggage: One Family’s Around the World Search for Balance is about alluring places, but also about evolving relationships, both within the “run away” family itself and in those friendships the family makes in eighteen months spent around the world. A refreshing feature: Tracey has her most oh-so-vividly described meltdown(s) before leaving for the journey. From then on, she is free to tell us all about the others.
Dena Moes tackles interwoven questions of travel, marriage and family in The Buddha Sat Right Here: A Family Odyssey Through India and Nepal. Theirs is a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage rooted in the ties that bind them.
And, if you would rather concentrate cleanly on romantic Italian villages and delectable pasta dishes, check out Frances Mayes’ summer read, See You in the Piazza. It doesn’t breathe a word about tangled and conflicted relationships on the journey. What could be wrong with that?
Mary K. Jensen is author of the memoir, Rudy’s Rules for Travel: Life Lessons from Around the Globe. Named by Kirkus Reviews as one of the Best Books of 2018, this odyssey of a World War II veteran has to date earned seven national awards. Jensen is proud to be alive after two battles with aggressive cancer and decades of travel with her irrepressible spouse. She hopes you will visit her website, www.marykjensen.com