That’s what my friend KS calls it. I’ve discovered over the years that whatever home I live in tends to exert a tremendous amount of gravity. I generally have trouble leaving my sofa, let alone leaving town.
When I’m with someone else, I’m a great traveller. Went to the Dead Sea right before Yom Kippur with my friend R.–lowest point on Earth, baby, at 1373 feet below sea level. We had a grand old time hiking these beyooootiful wadis with waterfalls
and taking dips in warm springs of clear, swimmable water, smearing the magical mineral-rich, toxin-absorbing Dead Sea mud all over our bodies (it was really more fun than useful, I think, but who doesn’t like to play with mud?) and bobbing around on top of the weird, oily, salty, salty (no-no-no-don’t-get-it-in-your-eyes-owwwww) water, which was about the consistiency of Jell-O after it’s logged about 30% of the time needed to chill in the fridge. I could have spent hours and hours just floating on the surface, staring at the psalms-old mountains
and letting my mind go blank. My current theory is that Dead Sea water is a lot like amniotic fluid.
Anyway, all this to say, when I’m with someone else, I’m rather capable of getting places on time and doing quite a bit in a new place. With the right travel partner I can cover a lot of rather quality ground in a relatively short amount of time. But when I’m on my own, my rather homey tendencies tend to slow me down a lot. Deep down, I’m not very adventurous. Even when I took off for my big SIX MONTHS OF TRAVEL DURING MY MID-TWENTIES (ooh, ahh) I didn’t go that many places. I’d spend a week hanging around a town I liked, just sort of bumming around, wandering around gardens, sitting in cafes. A week in Seville, a week in Marakkech, a week in Barcelona, a heck of a lot longer than that in Stockholm. Sure, I saw some art and other notable sites, but mostly I just made a few friends among the locals, created a little world for myself, and inhabited it. (It’s worth observing that all these cities–as well as many of the other ones I tend to get stuck in–have a hard-to-name character trait in common with San Francisco.) If I came to a place I didn’t like, I’d leave after a day or two and go try to find one that I did, and then I’d settle there comfortably for as long as the spirit kept me unmoved. Maybe my somewhat unambitious approach to seeing the world is a response to my dad’s style of travel, which happens at a breakneck speed as every worthy site in the guidebook gets checked off, one by one. It always made me crazy.
When I was in Israel last time (as part of my SIX MONTHS etc.) I found that my home gravity kept me pretty firmly entrenched in Jerusalem. I tried to leave! I did! But after a few days in Tiberias or Netanya or wherever, I’d find myself somehow, inexplicably, not on a bus to Egypt or the Golan as planned, but headed back to Jerusalem, again. Yeah, thanks, God. I don’t know how, but somehow it wound up that I’d be in Jerusalem for a week and then I’d leave for a few days, and then…. Home gravity. Bigtime.
I don’t know why I thought things would be different this time, here somewhere exciting and far away for a whole year. I always picture myself as some sort of swashbuckler, but: No. So when I blocked Friday-Tuesday of this week off for travel, I really did imagine that I’d manage to get from Sfat for Shabbat to hiking in the Golan and then several days at the discos of Tel Aviv before I came home, energized and ready to rumble.
Hah. Packed my bag for the above-described jetsetting, got to the bus station, and several things became clear that had only been fuzzy before, due to it being Sukkot and people being hard to reach that week: 1) The place I had arranged to stay in Sfat was adamant that they had no food there. And the woman at the inn was not very helpful on the question of whether anything would be open by the time I got there (in Israel, stores tend to close mid-afternoon for Shabbat). 2) the egalitarian synagogue was in fact NOT meeting that Shabbos, and no, nobody there did have a house I could go to for Shabbos dinner
3) Spending my Shabbos in Sfat, where the religion is, if anything, fiercer than Jerusalem’s, with possibly no food and davvening in a closet-sized space behind a brick wall (they really do love the ladies up thar in the Galilee) or just hiding in my hotel room the whole time sounded, you know, not like how I’d enjoy a break from the fundamentalist pressures of the town where I’d pay rent.
Keep in mind also that it’s about 10:30 as this is all happening. And that by the time I go back and forth to inquire about buses to Tiberias or Akko and the like, it’s already 11:15. ANd going someplace Adventurous that requires a 3-hour busride and having me checked in and settled in time for a 4:45ish Shabbos beginning (we changed the clocks, remember?) was seeming more and more ambitious. The kind of ambitious that I am, fundamentally, not.
So I called a friendly aquaintence in Tel Aviv. Got on the bus. Was at her apt. by 1:30 or so. Her roommates and she were going to have Shabbos dinner at their house anyway. Friend and I walked to Shenkin/Allenby–yes, more of what I already know, not so much with the new experiences–and she went to buy food while I walked around the super-fabulous twice-weekly street fair in which local artists set up tables with their super-cute mezzuzot, earrings, and whatnot. Then we walked home, made dinner. Shabbos day I walked to the beach, and then to a park. Would have gone dancing last night but the horrible hacking cough (yep, sick again–thank you Middle Eastern bacteria) kept me grounded. Spent this morning sitting at a cafe, reading the paper–a rare decadence. And then I was done. It was time to go back to Jerusalem. My five days of wild adventure turned into a couple of days hanging out in Tel Aviv. Classic Danya. By the book.
And now I’m back, comfortably on my couch, where they keep my Mac, among other things. I find that I have a renewed excitement/interest in spending the next couple of days seeing friends and more to the point, working on writing stuff. So I’m back to the place where I’m my most wild and crazy, if you can even call it that: inside an open Word doc.
I like your theory that the Dead Sea is like amniotic fluid. That’s pretty cool.
I also like your description of how you spent your big six months travelling Europe. I’d much rather spend a week in a place and get to know it (meet some locals, inhabit the place a little) than zip around like a madwoman. (Though sometimes when I’m settling in a place, I spend a few days zipping around anyway. Especially if it’s a walkable place with museums in it…)
Y’know, it’s true that you shouldn’t get it in your eyes, but for women, there’s a much more useful piece of advice: Don’t let it get in your…
No *really*. Don’t.
But I’m sort of the same way about travelling. I like to see the sights, but I’d rather see more sights in fewer places. And I’d rather hang out in coffe (well, OK, tea) shops, and see what the merchants at the open markets are selling in the early mornings…