The place we used to stay in Myrtle Beach had no phones in the rooms. This was back in the 70s, when phones that fit in your pockets weren’t even a twinkle in a computer chip’s eye. Phones had dials and cords.
In those first few years in Myrtle Beach, if someone needed to reach my father at The Teakwood, they had to call the motel office. Someone from the office would find my father and he would have to go to the office to take the call or return the call. Things really advanced when they got a phone with a portable handset.
I asked my mother about the lack of phones. Somehow it made The Teakwood seem inferior to its phoned competitors.
“It helps Dad relax to get away from the telephone,” she said. I hadn’t thought about the tyranny of the telephone until that conversation.
I recently heard on a podcast that the presence of a phone at a meal — even if it’s facedown on the table — causes the conversation to be more shallow.
But this isn’t about phones.
It’s about why I went to Norway.
Last year I traveled to Europe for the first time since I was 5 years old. Twice.
The first trip was to take my father to Normandy, something he had longed to do for many years. I was excited for my father, but ambivalent for myself. I knew that I should be excited. I just couldn’t muster up the excitement on my own.
Then we went to Normandy and I loved it. I think I could live in Bayeux and be quite content there. The cathedral, the farmers’ market, the patisseries, the narrow streets, the old buildings — all of it lovely. I didn’t think anything could top Normandy.
Until Bosnia two months later. The land, the people, the hospitality. I came home from that trip quite full.
So when I was feeling depleted this year, and so many people kept reminding me that caregivers need to be sure to take care of themselves, I thought about what had pressed a reset button in my soul and given me rest and strength for the days ahead. Travel. Like the phoneless Teakwood did for my dad.
I applied and was accepted to a writer’s workshop with Ann Voskamp — but it was in the wilds of Alaska. When I realized how remote the workshop was, and how, if something happened at home, I would have a hard time making an emergency trip back, I asked to postpone my attendance for another year.
Then I considered a trip back to Bosnia, but nothing seem to fall into place with that.
Finally, I asked Karl — who had been saying that he wanted to travel — where he wanted to go.
“Norway,” he said.
So Karl, Mary, and I traveled to Norway. And Denmark. And Sweden.
If an emergency had come up, I was always near an airport.
Except for the day we kayaked in the fjords. But truthfully, that was the most renewing day of all.