I've been lucky enough to do a fair amount of traveling. So when casual conversation among friends this spring circled around summer plans, I thought I'd handle it just fine. But when the list of "Where are you working this summer?" started to resemble "50 Places Everyone Should Visit at Least Once", I admit, I started to get a little jealous. Peru. Ghana. Nepal. India. The Bahamas. The Maldives. The Maldives? I have three friends working in the Maldives this summer. I don't even know three people who have been to Russia. But South Africa was the kicker. How could I have neglected to find a job in Johannesburg for Africa's first World Cup? What a glaring omission of common sense. Tragic, really.
Then the blogs started popping up. Exotic photographs, quirky interactions with locals, promises of new adventures and discovery. I was instantly reminded of what I love about travel--you open yourself up to the world again, "everyday life" is anything but ordinary, and the place you came from looks different even if nothing has changed.
Few authors relay this experience more insightfully, or more humorously, than Mark Twain. I remember the first Twain book I read--one of the first non-sports books I ever read. I judged the book completely by its cover, a rough red hardcover with gold-rimmed pages. It was the fanciest book on the shelf, and I felt like a genius for carrying around something so ornate it ought to have been stored in a glass case on a pulpit. Twain would have hated it.
But I loved it. And I started paying a lot more attention to Mark Twain's other works, particularly the travelogues, which have as much fun describing those embarking on the voyage as the places they visit. Twain was a constant observer, living by his own words, "Apparently, nothing cannot happen."
So here I am in Chicago for the summer. It's the Midwest. Flat. Less than exotic, unless you count the hockey sticks hanging off people's porches in support of the Blackhawks right now. Yeah, there will be plenty to talk about--because nothing cannot happen.