On Travel

When I returned from London in December, I was unwell and sure I would not travel again. Yet here I am on a plane somewhere, perhaps over Florida, on my way to Costa Rica. Last year Roy and I had been planning this trip when it became suddenly apparent that I was too sick to go anywhere. We’d never taken a real vacation together before – nothing more than a weekend in Toronto or Ottawa. So I felt this was something we should do if I had the chance. And with him on reading week at the university and me on my week’s chemo break and relatively well, this was the chance, perhaps the last one.

I’m ambivalent, though, about traveling. I always have been. I’m a rooted sort of person, so something always feels wrong to me about flying around the globe. My parents and siblings are the opposite: there are often times when I’m the only one in the city where we all six still live, at least part time, them off on all continents for business or pleasure. Usually I couldn’t even say where each of them is. My older son Oliver is like me. However, he too is away now on a holiday with his father and family, probably somewhat ill at ease to be so far away from his daily life. While given a choice I usually prefer to be home, I do make sure I fully embrace and enjoy my travel experiences.

I don’t believe, for myself at least, that traveling is necessary to personal growth or to understanding the world we live in. (I think literature, movies, culture in all forms, and even now social media can do an adequate job of making us citizens of the world.) That said, much depends on how one travels. Embarking on an organized tour that trots one about like a herd of sheep isn’t going to give anyone much exposure to the way people really live anywhere. Nor will staying at an all-inclusive resort (relaxing as it might be) do anything to reveal a people’s culture. Traveling alone and actually meeting local people or staying and working in a place for an extended period of time can be worthwhile, I think. (I won’t say much about volunteer tourism, except that it is far better in many instances to simply donate the travel costs to the cause.)

The fortunate thing is that I now know how to be happy wherever I am, so I will be delighted with my new surroundings and thrilled with the water, the profuse vegetation, and hopefully some wildlife. I might even see monkeys! The biodiversity in this area is supposed to be among the most abundant on the globe, so witnessing that will be a special privilege. It will be green and beautiful, and I will be in bliss!

Much of my own ambivalence, now and in the past, comes from the fact that I don’t want to leave my happy life at home. This week I felt no need for escape or respite. I was content and comfortable, excited about my writing and knitting projects, enjoying my visits with Nathan and others. Usually Montrealers are desperate to get away from winter by mid-February, but because I have been on sick leave and able to just stay in when the weather is horrible, this winter, long as it has already been, hasn’t bothered me much. Besides, I love winter – though a few recent hard ones had me decided that a short break at my age might be a good idea: being cold all the time does get tiresome. But the medication I have been on recently keeps my metabolism so revved up that I’m never even chilled. Nevertheless, here I am on my way to the rainforest at the edge of a hot, sunny beach on the Pacific!

We’re staying at a sustainable eco-resort and will make sure to pay our carbon offset as well (Costa Rica has a program for this: http://www.fonafifo.go.cr/). One of my primary concerns with travel is its environmental toll. The strain of tourism development, while ardently sought by many local economies, is often terribly destructive to local ecologies. (This particular resort takes many measures to minimise harm and has been recognised by National Geographic for its sustainability efforts.) Flying is especially devastating to the planet, so I always feel guilty about it. In fact, until this past year, I did my best to avoid flying and other forms of travel. I have never flown so much as in the past six months! But I try to forgive myself, knowing I soon won’t be making any demands on the earth except to decompose my body.

But then travel still makes me feel guilty for the excess of privilege that even makes it possible. Every person on this plane is white. Every one is far enough away from poverty to indulge in this luxury of a warm week away. It is a stark illustration of global inequity.

So why am I here in this plane? The day before leaving is always the worst for me. I get anxious about packing and preparing. This time was especially bad as I worried about forgetting needed medications when we will be hours from any hospital. So my mood was not the best, and I started to feel that I was taking this trip not just with guilt but out of guilt. Guilt that Roy and I had never taken a vacation together, never been somewhere warm to relax and indulge in the simple pleasures of sunshine and water. I know he has been tired, that winter wears him down. That work wears him down. That he always needs more self-care. But guilt is a terrible reason to do anything. Probably one of the worst. And certainly not the way to enjoy a trip.

So I had to figure out a way to not feel guilty or this trip would be a failure. Instead of doing this despite my own ambivalence, I had to make this something I wanted to do. And what I want to do is give Roy this gift. A gift of time together. Time away from the harshness of winter. Time away from the concerns of his job, of my illness and treatment. Time away from the challenges of parenting two teenaged boys. Time away from figuring out what to do for supper. I want to offer him time instead with a warm breeze from the sea caressing his face, time floating in warm water so the weight of all troubles falls away. Time with all our needs taken care of by others. Time together to fill him with love and affection to recall in the time ahead when I won’t be by his side. Time before there is no time left.

Of course, that time doesn’t have to be in Costa Rica at a luxurious resort. But my mother also wanted to give us this gift. Allowing someone the gift of giving means being willing to receive. So now we have a chain of gifts, each bringing joy to the giver and to the receiver. This gift is beautiful, as is the giving, and I am enormously grateful for receiving it. So I thank my mother for her gift, and I thank Roy both for receiving it and for sharing it with me.

So now I am happy to be here on this plane. Though this trip is an extreme luxury, it is a gift that Roy will cherish and remember, that brings me great pleasure rather than guilt, and that will bring my mother joy in knowing she has made our joy possible. And I will delight in every moment in our lovely, secluded “casita” watching the sun sparkle on the sea, surrounded by the magnificent jungle and its marvels of nature. The further we fly, the further I leave all those guilts behind.

Susan Hammock Costa Rica

And here I am, ready to view our first Pacific sunset!



About susanbriscoe

English teacher, writer
This entry was posted in On Dying and Living and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to On Travel

  1. Smiling here in Montreal at the thought and sight of you. Enjoy it all, you’re free!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. You really do look happy in this photo, time to relax and take all the beauty in that you have never seen up close before. I am not much of a traveller either, as there are things more important to spend money on, if I was rich maybe I would be different but I don’t think so. Enjoy!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. curioussteph says:

    Have a wonderful holiday! Enjoy your visit to this beautiful bit of the planet. Your hammock is enticing!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Chantal Lavigne says:

    Breath in evey scent evey sights every sense and each other

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I love to travel, and Costa Rica is one of my favorite places on Earth. Enjoy the warmth of the sun, the deliciously warm ocean water, and the warmth of your loving companion. Your memories will last a lifetime. You look radiant on your hammock!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Hayven says:

    Susan and Roy … have a wonderful time enjoying your surroundings and each other!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for that bit about gifts. Accepting a gift is a gift back to the giver. Have a wonderful holiday.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. What a beautiful and moving piece of writing, this line ‘knowing I soon won’t be making any demands on the earth except to decompose my body.’ and this one especially ‘Time before there is no time left.’ I hope you and Roy build some fantastic memories together and many magical moments. Your journey deserves to be a made into a book. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  9. janfalls says:

    enjoy, give joy, you bring joy to so many Susan xoxox

    Liked by 2 people

  10. thealvarezchronicles says:

    You have an excellent blog with a wonderful message. You really should just rename this “The Life Project” because that is what this is.- Robert

    Liked by 3 people

  11. God, what GREAT WRITING!!

    Reblogging this to Success Inspirers World

    Liked by 1 person

  12. christi72013 says:

    Feeling your bliss 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Beautiful! Your story, this photo and your perspective. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Dan Bohn says:

    Dear Susan,
    You write so beautifully. Truth be told, you having to rationalize your trip did bum me out a little bit. Leaving a carbon footprint and all. I too am more of a homebody. Perfectly happy puttering around the Bohnarosa (home), and visiting with friends. Then again my activities director (spouse) has had, and continues to plan awesome adventures. I just roll with it.

    I like this part of your post the most. -Time together to fill him with love and affection to recall in the time ahead when I won’t be by his side. Time before there is no time left. – Question, would a comma fit between “and affection, to recall”?

    I’m truly happy for you and Roy being able to spend time together in a tropical paradise. You do make a hammock look brilliant.
    With Joy and Love,

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for sharing. Enjoy xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Selma says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, Susan. I agree with all your thoughts about travel. You expressed them so clearly. Enjoy your trip and your time with Roy.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Deborah Adams says:

    You look so lovely, You made the right decision.
    lots of love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  18. purawika says:

    Enjoy Costa Rica! It’s one of my favourite places in the world ! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  19. akbarramshah says:

    Love to you and Roy! Have a amazing getaway 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. anjana says:

    Have a beautiful time! Wishes from India 🙂


  21. Nancy Hovis says:

    Trying to get permission to enter a quilt made from Susan’s designs in Japanese Taupe Quilts. Sent e-mail eturned to me. Please let me know if I need permission to enter my quilt in a US quilt show. Nancy Hovis, 13 Schaeffer Lane, Lewes, DE 19958 USA my phone 1-302-644-4430. There is a time problem here so I need an immediate answer. Thank You. Reading her blog it sounds like she was a wonderful person. I love her work.


    • Nancy Hovis says:

      Please answer my request.


      • susanbriscoe says:

        I believe you are looking for another Susan Briscoe, the one who specializes in Japanese quilt-making. That is not me. Good luck!


        • Hello Susan,

          Yes, Nancy found me eventually. I’m the ‘other’ Susan Briscoe – the quilting one. If she’d added ‘quilter’ or ‘quilt’ to her Google search she would have found me straight away. Thanks for redirecting her.

          Someone asked me at a quilt show just over a week ago if I knew there was ‘another’ Susan Briscoe who was also a writer. I said yes, I’d heard of your book ‘The Crow’s Vow’, mainly because it was appearing in online searches for my quilt books (Amazon etc.) and I was interested to read it. She then said that you had cancer, and had a blog. So I had a look for it today and spotted Nancy’s post here. I must get your book, and will be reading your blog.

          Liked by 1 person

          • susanbriscoe says:

            Hello the other Susan Briscoe!
            Nice to hear from you! Yes, I always recommend adding “poet” or “Canada” if people are looking for me as opposed to you. You have lots more books than me, so you always come up first. 🙂 Nancy also emailed me, so I redirected her to your contact page in a personal reply. She was very concerned that it was you who was ill, but I reassured her that as far as I knew you were fine, which I do hope is the case! I love your work, by the way! It is gorgeous, and I applaud you for creating an art-centred life for yourself. I have dabbled in fibre arts myself, though these days mostly with creative knitting projects.
            All the very best to you!

            Liked by 1 person

  22. Your writing shines a light into the complexities of emotions, relationships and the realities of life. It is uplifting to hear someone who seems to have found such happiness in the regular life, and who will find a way to present new challenges as opportunities for further happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. roninjax says:

    Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts. You provide sunshine to others and I trust you enjoy every moment of the respite. You certainly don’t need to feel guilty. Life is for enjoying and living to the fullest – abundantly. May God provide you special peace, strength and encouragement through your journey.


  24. PJHAZE says:

    Beautiful picture of you, Love your blog, I’ll be going on a 4 month trip around Cuba, Jamaica, Costa Rica & Guatemala next Thursday if you want to look out for my adventures and me laying in hammocks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Viola Bleu says:

    What a wonderful post and photo 🌸


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