Europe redux: a blog-free vacation

Distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.—Jonah Lehrer*

After my next post, on Dinty W. Moore’s new book The Mindful Writer, this blog is apt to fall totally silent for a few weeks. On Tuesday I’m flying with my wife and daughter to London, where we’ll meet up with our son who has been living in Copenhagen as a Fulbright scholar, studying the Christian philosopher Soren Kirkegaard. He’s the Family Intellectual, bound next for a master’s in intellectual history at Cambridge. My daughter, who is finishing a doctorate in higher education, and my wife, who leads a university, are Women of Action. Since I am the labeler here, I get to say that I’m the Family Artist.

But I’m also a stay-at-home fellow. And we’ll traveling through England, Scotland, and Ireland. So I hope the quote above is true. I think it is, based on the week I spent a couple summers ago in Florence with my son. My creativity surged during and after that trip. The discomfort that I fear and avoid is, apparently, exactly what I need. All the same—and as incorrect and ungrateful as this is—I dislike the hardship of travel and wouldn’t do it if not for work or family. I feel I missed my prime traveling years, when I tied myself down farming. No regrets, but that period made me earthbound in more ways than one. I hate air travel and airports, to be specific. Last winter, when I went to Florida for a month, I drove myself down, a three-day journey in our twelve-year-old soccer-Mom van.

I know I’ll be so glad I went—know that, but only intellectually, at this point. Aside from spending time with my family what I’m looking forward to is reading the novels and memoirs I’ve packed and taking photographs, lots of them. I love the city scenes and landscapes of Europe, and this time I’m going to try to get more people shots. There’s a neat post on Gizmodo, “100 Tips From a Professional Photographer,” the precepts oddly resonant for writers, and No. 84 observes that “landscape photography can get dull after a while.”

So: people. Those compact Scotch and Irish faces. We’ll see, with my camera’s puny lens. But I’ll be looking, and trying to get in close. (Surely dogs count. I still grieve the photo I missed of a Florentine swaggering through a plaza with his inappropriately large harlequin mastiff.)

When we return in early June, Ohio is going to feel like July, especially after the British isles. Already the month of May here in central Ohio is like mid-June—something about the upper airstream: hot and dry the result.

Anyway, and best of all, summer is here. My season, one of languor and promise. Good for remembering and writing.

 *Taken from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist, noted here earlier. I’ve since read it and highly recommend it.


Filed under blogging, film/photography, MY LIFE

11 responses to “Europe redux: a blog-free vacation

  1. Here’s hoping you have a wonderful trip. I’ve been reading your blog for about two months now, and I will miss your posts!

  2. This post refreshes me in more than one way. First, congratulations on raising an intellectual child — I love Kierkegaard but can’t philosophize with him. Second, your thoughts about traveling ring very familiar. In Germany and France with my husband and friends, I read a lot and got out alone to photograph landscapes. Was so glad to come home, but I was grateful to have gone, to have been changed.

    May your trip refresh and bless you.

  3. I’m already in the first phase of Narrative post withdrawal. Have a great trip!

  4. Marisha Chamberlain

    If you can pack one more book, let it be Tony Hiss’ remarkable IN MOTION about how travel affects human beings, and the inner game of making the most of that deep disorientation travel brings.

  5. I’m so glad you used the Jonah Lehrer quote. (He is right, by the way.) My creativity and mental rejuvenation have surged since our recent 3-week trip. I’ve been trying to remember where I read that quote, and had been thinking it was in one of the travel books I read recently. Didn’t peg it to Kleon’s nifty book.

    I’m a homebody, too, and I like my comfy routines, also hate the cattle car operation that airports and airplanes have become. Kind of like going into battle; a hero’s journey to afflict the comfortable and generate new brain cells.

    It’s going to be an amazing trip. Of that, I have zero doubt. I especially envy you Scotland. We spent several weeks on the Isle of Arran each year for seven years, and I miss that green miniature wonder. Love the people and the sheep!

    Soak it all in, breathe deep and then come home and share it with us.

    Safe journey.

  6. beasue

    Bon voyage and Godspeed! Perhaps this would be a good time to practice stealing like an artist (I loved the book, too).

  7. I’m following you to England and will be walking the Pilgrim Way from Salisbury to Canterbury with friends. Taking Walking to Canterbury by Jerry Ellis. Edward Rutherfurd’s Sarum has been recommended because it takes on the entire history of Britain. I am also interested in Celtic history and in DNA research that establishes the ancient migrations. Brian Sykes is the expert on this:

    I wish you not only the end result of creative refreshment but also joy in the journey.I know you will find both.

  8. Wow, thanks everyone for these good wishes! I have NO excuse now to have even a tiny degree of bad attitude going in.

  9. I do like that quote from Jonah Lehrer, and I think it is true. For me, traveling and writing have always been complementary. I like writing while immersed in a new place, when I’m not really sure what I’m sensing/feeling — those thoughts are more raw, honest, and perhaps naive. Ultimately, though, I write best about a place when I’m not there. Different modes, I guess.

    Reading this (and especially the Lehrer quote), I am reminded of one of my favorite lines, from Gertrude Stein: “When you get there, there isn’t any there there.” It makes me think a lot about “here” and “there,” literally and figuratively, in regard to a lot of things: writing, living, exploring, learning.

    Have a wonderful time in Europe!

  10. Marsha McGregor

    Have an excellent adventure, Richard. What a brain trust your family is! It was wonderful to meet you in person at the (also wonderful) River Teeth Nonfiction Conference in Ashland.