Tag: Hard work

With or Without

With or Without

In the past, we have used travel agents, then gone without them, then added them back, and finally, we went with a tour company for our last two trips—until recently.

Just last month, we surrendered, tail between our legs, and went backward in travel time. The airline gods would not bless us with a passage from point A to point B, no matter how we tried and how many airlines, travel routes, multiple cities, and layover combinations we searched online. After two hours, we gave up.

“Honey, we have to see a travel agent.”

[Photo credit: Tom Barrett, Unsplash]

We sat across from our local travel agent—the flesh and blood kind—with another person from our foursome. They, too, had surrendered and agreed to pay a little extra for peace of mind. The travel agent cracked an indulgent smile, cracked her knuckles, and began the same search we had attempted. Her smile yielded to pursed lips, then a full-out frown. Then, the muttering started. Sweat all but gleamed on her forehead.

Two hours later, we (she) finally had an itinerary that worked. “It may be tight,” our stalwart travel agent announced. “You have a 45-minute connection between flights in the Madrid airport to achieve your final destination.” She hesitated. Then she looked at each of us individually to gauge our reactions as she said the five magic words: “It is a legal connection.”

I was game. I pulled out the airport’s map and airline gates for each of the flights we’d be taking. “It’s the same airline, for goodness sake, and the gates are in the same terminal,” I told my husband, who always fears the worst. (That would be his nickname, and I would, of course, be Tigger.) Besides, what are the best travel stories ever? They’re the ones when something goes wrong, and you have to sleep standing up in a doorway or something.

You’ve been there. You’re at a party. The conversation dims and slows, and the refrigerator hum becomes the loudest noise in the room. Finally, some brilliant soul begins talking about their latest trip. Then, before you know it, each person engages in travel one-upmanship, vying for the prize of the most outrageous (and memorable) story in the room.

What’s yours???

We travel to see the world, but we also want to find ourselves in the world. Traveling tests our resilience and resourcefulness. If we go to the gym and the library on Tuesdays and Thursdays at home every week, we don’t get to learn how fun it is to “nearly miss our train” (we did that in Pisa) or “take the wrong boat” (which we did in Venice more than once). Traveling is a battle. It’s a puzzle. It’s a joy. It’s sickness sometimes. But there are stories in those times, too!

Traveling is a test—a wonderful, expensive (usually but not always), exciting journey. And with or without travel agents, tour guides, travel companions, or itineraries, travel is always an adventure.

Besides, our travel agent was happy she had redeemed herself and protected her profession. But it was a close one. Whew!


Travel Writing — It Wasn’t the Truth

Perhaps I’ve traveled too far. Perhaps not enough.

Perhaps traveling is not about geography but traversing the soul.

What I believed was the truth bore me down the river

With rocks and rapids until

the falsity turned the river into a stream and then

a dry trickle.

I missed the truth because what I thought was important

–the white spiral-bound book I’d written–

still lay on the shelf

as 75,000 words of blood squeezed

dry of white lies.


“Blind Tom” Meets “Dog”

“Blind Tom” Meets “Dog”

“I’m tired of pulling this load every day.

I’m tired of being a horse.

I’m happy to meet you, I would say.

But my horsey voice is too coarse.”


“I gotcha, Mr. Horse. I’m so done being a dog.

I’m hungry all the time. Mealtime is a slog.

For just one day, I’d like to play.

“Fetch” sounds so good! I wait for that day.


“You’re a dog. I’m a horse.

We’ve both got four legs, of course.

But our fates are very different.

Our purposes, diverse.

Being a horse or a dog—

I wonder what is worse?”


“You’re Blind Tom, you fool. At least you have a name.

I don’t. I’m nameless. ‘Hey Dog,’ they exclaim.

My masters are many. My admirers are few.

The Railroad needs you but I’m as useless as a barren ewe.”


“Your man’s best friend! That’s never been my role.

You have a place at man’s side—that makes you whole.

I’m one step removed. A worker at best.

Sometimes I’m transportation. But the railroad is a test.

It’s over. I’m toast. I’m glue. The die is cast.

They won’t need horses. Those days are past.”


“Listen, Blind Tom. You’re a legend in your time.

You’re needed. You’re a fixture. And a worker on the line.

Your energy, your drive, your will to succeed

Are admirable, wonderful. You’re a great steed indeed.”


“Thanks, Dog. I hear you. I thank you for your trust.

I hope I live to see the end before I bite the dust.

This Railroad may be the death of me. One way or another.

But I will always think of you as a friend and as a brother.”


NOTE: Blind Tom was a real horse who pulled flatcars for construction crews on the Transcontinental Railroad