The World, Opened Up
The fear of traveling in my body made the world seem small, until I did it anyway
I’m a workaholic. Until recently, I had never taken a vacation as an adult. During graduate school and the first few years of teaching, I couldn’t afford a vacation. I had no one to go on a vacation with. And then it seemed like an unnecessary extravagance when there was so much work to do. Those were mostly excuses though, because when I could afford a vacation, I still did nothing. I was fat, I told myself, I couldn’t possibly travel abroad and see the world in any meaningful way.
At my heaviest weight, my loneliest truth was that as my body expanded, my world contracted. I longed to travel but knew I would be painfully limited in where I could go and what I might do when I got there. But then, I had weight loss surgery and as my body has contracted, my world has expanded.
During the summer of 2019, my then girlfriend and now wife Debbie and I decided to take a European vacation. While she had been several times, I had only been to Stockholm and London for work. The great continent remained largely unexplored. We are both incredibly busy in that modern way where we overschedule ourselves and say yes to everything asked of us until we reach a breaking point, recalibrate, and repeat the madness all over again. Because we weren’t going to have (read: make) the time to plan the vacation, we decided to work with a travel agent. I consulted Google and found Abercrombie & Kent, a travel agency specializing in all manner of trips and expeditions. They had a handsome website. The name felt official and reliable. I sent an inquiry and when a representative responded, I outlined an ideal itinerary involving several Italian cities and Paris. I’m a writer, after all, and not immune to cliché so of course I needed to visit Paris and sit in a café with a notebook and a fresh baguette, looking writerly. When I finally got to Paris I never managed to sit in a café with a notebook, but oh did I enjoy a baguette, hot from a bakery oven.
Mary, our representative, was wonderfully eager to help plan our trip and after only a little back and forth, she had assembled an itinerary that would take us from Milan to Verona to Venice to Florence to Tuscany to Rome and finally, Paris. In each city, we…