Eleanor Does Europe: Traveling Without Expectations

One of the best things about my trip to Europe was that it was rather spontaneous. Cecelia and I had around a month and a half between deciding to go and actually leaving. I only finished printing the itinerary moments before we left for the airport. I didn’t have time to fantasize about how awesome or scary the trip was going to be. It just happened, and I suddenly found myself eating an early lunch in the garden of Southwark Cathedral and fighting off jet lag. I spent the entire trip living in now, not comparing reality to my expectations, and that was fantastic.

Yes, of course, I didn’t leave home without a very detailed document with addresses, phone numbers, websites, hours, maps, etc. and a rough outline of the places we wanted to visit and the order we planned to do them in, but it was in no way a rigid schedule. I suddenly wanted to go shopping at Top Shop and Cecelia wanted to go exploring in Hyde Park? No problem. Let’s meet at the statue of Prince Albert at seven. The prep work was only there to make life easier and more relaxed. I didn’t have to get anxious about arriving at Le Musée D’Orsay at exactly 15:00 on the 24th because we knew the hours and could just fit it in on another day if we didn’t finish the exhibit.

Our small amount of pre-trip planning worked, we saw a lot, and the trip was unquestionably a success. I got to come home a very proud independent world traveler, antsy after eight hours on an airplane, quite tired, and full of exciting stories to tell my family. There wasn’t any part of me that was upset that something hadn’t happened as I had imagined–because there weren’t any expectations I was trying to fulfill.

Perhaps my recipe for future traveling success is to fantasize less and be more slap-dash and spontaneous. There is a certain magic in just rolling with life rather than trying to force order out something so inherently chaotic. Let’s hope I remember this lesson when I travel again at the end of the month.

Ella and The Red Suitcase

So you know how I often like to end a post by writing “in other news” and then throwing in some odd tidbit from my life? Well, tonight I decided to begin my blog post writing by putting it out there that I dislike gardening and then an hour later, I ended up with a full post bemoaning the injustice of having dirt under your fingernails and what a waste of water and energy it is to keep a proper lawn.

But now isn’t the time for griping. Now, is the time for vacation storytelling. And so we begin.

And we begin not at the real beginning but with Monday morning when one of my doctors was shocked by the number of bruises on my legs. This was the result of The Red Suitcase.

Now, I love The Red Suitcase. It has a garment bag built into it for dresses, shirts, blazers, etc, and its wheels are really unrivaled. However, when you are traveling like me, have week arms, and pack ten books (most of which were hardcovers) and a lot of electronics that take up more space than your clothes, you are going to struggle to lug it everywhere. I swear I didn’t overpack, either. I wore everything in my bag, read all of the books, and used all of the electronics, it was just way too heavy.

I take public transportation in the city a lot, and I know that there are a lot of stairs, but as someone who is young and reasonably fit, the prevalence of stairs has never appeared to be a potential problem. That is, until I had to lug The Red Suitcase with me all the way from home to the train station. And let me tell you, when you are carrying a very heavy bag, staircases seem to go on forever.

We went down into the subway, transfered lines three times, into the train station, down to the train track, down off of the station platform into the parking lot, then up the front steps, back down the front steps, up the steps at the station, down the steps from the track, up the steps into the station, down the front steps of the station, up the steps to Cecelia’s dorm room, etc. I’m sure you get the picture.

I didn’t want to hurt the handle or the contents by dragging the bag, so I kind of picked it up by the side-handle and tried to use one side of my body to support The Red Suitcase as I climbed the stairs. And you can see exactly where it was resting each time I carried it. My right side is like an over-ripe banana.

But other than that, the transportation section of my vacation was nice. I like riding on trains. On the long ride out to my grandmother’s, I wrote in my notebook about how odd it must be a conductor, to get to travel to all of these cities everyday, but never get out and explore. And even though you’re traveling in and out of so many stations, there’s a good chance that the only part you’ve seen of them is their underbelly, the dark, damp tunnels running underneath the grand, stone concourses so often the sets of movies and old photographs. Coming back from visiting Cecelia at Yale, I finished up Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Top of the Stairs and caught glimpses of the Sound out of the window. Two women in saris ate curry and the whole car smelled wonderful.

And then, of course, there was the wonderful feeling of relaxation every time I put my suitcase down in the room I was staying in and then finally home. I’m here. I am the proverbial snail, now able to shed its shell and stop lugging my home around with me. Is there anything more wonderful than that feeling of relief?

In other news, while writing this post, my laptop overbalanced on my knees and the top edge of the screen whacked me very hard against the bridge of my nose, giving me a very cute and swollen red bump. Never say that blogging isn’t dangerous.

In other, other news, for the past half hour, Maxwell has been (literally) unconsciously pushing me out of bed. He keeps inching closer in his sleep, so that I have to move over to have space to write, only to have him move even closer. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to get up and walk around the other side of the bed or wake him up and deal with the guilt of disrupting his sleep. Eleanor Called Ella really is your one stop for Eleanor and Maxwell sleeping drama.