Thursday, June 29, 2006

Far From My Birthplace


My sister-out-law's blog led me to Michi's Poem Title Generator and although I was not looking for a poem title, one of the questions sent me on a little quest. The question was "What's the furthest you've been away from the place you were born?"

I was born in the midwest so I did a web search and found a site that calculates the distance from my birth city to places I have traveled. Unless I mis-remember something, the place farthest away from my birthplace (as the crow flies, so to speak) is Innsbruck, Austria (at a distance of 4806 miles).

I was 17 and was on a trip to Europe playing music with ninety-some other teens from all over the U.S.A. I knew a bit about Innsbruck because my parents had been there on a ski trip when I was little (they left me at home). My trip was in the summer and the weather was gorgeous. I remember a clear day with a breeze. We played a concert in a park (in a gazebo, some sections of the band desperately trying to avoid the droppings from the pigeons nesting in the cupola atop the shelter). I remember being in the old city and seeing the sunlight glint off the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof which you can see at but note that it is not in English, though there is a link to a live webcam).

I shopped for souveniers, watched my fellow travellers pick out souveniers (including clocks and crystal) and enjoyed Austrian pastries (yum). I recall having delicious wurst for some meal. A short stay on a long trip. That was just one stop on a European tour including 10 concerts in 7 countries within 2 weeks.

By the time I got to Austria, however, I was sort of used to being so far from home. The "distance thing" did get to me earlier in the trip. After a few-days stay in New York City, we packed our bags, played a concert, changed from concert clothes to travel clothes at the airport, flew to London (overnight), boarded buses, stopped for lunch somewhere in the countryside, arrived in Dover (as in "White Cliffs of" and they were) where we boarded a ferry to cross the English Channel. At Calais we again boarded buses (ones that were to be our regular transport for most of the trip) and were driven to Paris, arriving late in the evening (after dark) eating dinner at something like 10pm or later and completely collapsing in a blur of travel-induced stupor.

The next day, after we had eaten and rested, and after we had been in the same city for more than a 3 hours, we got a chance to see Paris. By bus and by foot (and by taste, with a stop in my first honest-to-goodness Parisian Pâtisserie) we received a brief introduction to the city. As evening approached, we went up into the Eiffel Tower and had a short time to take a deep breath and look around. It was then, looking out over the city of Paris, when the distance hit me. I was a long, long way from where I had started. I not only in a city new to me, but I was in a country I'd never visited, and moreover, I was on a whole OTHER CONTINENT with an ocean in between.

I wasn't homesick, so much as just feeling a bit adrift. I think I found it more exiting than scary.

Through the years, though, the distance from my birthplace has varied by more than just miles. Yes there are miles. I grew up about 66 miles from the city where I was born. I now live 959 miles from where I grew up. I work about 13 miles from my house.

But I have also travelled through years. I'm now in my forties and if I still don't completely feel like a grownup, at least I no longer feel like a kid anymore either.

And I have traveled in my experiences and exposure to new ideas. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

And I have traveled through books. Through books I have been to every continent, beneath nearly every sea, and beyond the Earth, and beyond our solar system itself. I through books I have time-travelled to the past and to the future and to the never-will-be. And I wouldn't trade that kind of travel for anything either.