Pack Your Bags and Go!

I love traveling.

Most of my childhood vacations in the 70s and 80s were the then-typical three week summer holidays where we piled our family into a tightly packed car and drove off into the sunset. The sun set in Austria for the first ten years of my life, and along the North Sea coast thereafter. I guess my parents liked the predictability of going to the same places year after year.

As a teenager, I caught on to the concept of travel as an escape. New horizons, new adventures and the fringe benefit of getting away from all the same old stuff. School exchange programs and class trips were obvious first ‘safe’ choices, although I couldn’t wait to start traveling on my own!

One of these school trips was to the United States, and I often mused that I might spent a year or so there after graduating from High School, maybe as part of a university exchange. I couldn’t wait to get away and experience life in different places. Little did I know that once I left Germany, I was never to return. Well, not permanently, anyway.

I spent a year in Spain before moving to the US. Not just for a measly year at uni, but for six years in Nashville, TN, followed by two more in Atlanta, GA. I worked in hotels in just about every capacity except catering and cleaning rooms. The job that mostly defined my hospitality career was Revenue Management, which is basically playing a huge game of Monopoly with real money. I ‘revenue managed’ in individual hotels and on corporate level for Starwood, Hilton and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). I moved to London, and then to Brussels. I got to travel for work all over Europe, and still found time to travel for fun. For five years, I had a house in France.

Despite the fact that by star sign I’m a cancer, I am not terribly good at staying in one place for too long. I’ve now been back in London since 2007. To me, that’s a VERY LONG time.

A friend in the States once called me peripatetic.

Traveling from place to place, esp. working or based in various places for relatively short periods.

Can’t argue with that. I love the word, even though  I think he used it as an excuse for not dating me. His loss… although quite possibly his life is a whole lot quieter for it.

So anyway, rather than a faint moan of ‘Are we nearly there yet?’ from the back seat, my favourite question tends to be a curious and excited:

‘So, where are we going next?’

Except when I travel these days, I am hauling a whole lot more stuff…

If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother

Every time I start writing my story, I get stuck on this childhood thing.

Part of me wants to launch into it full steam ahead while another part of me is just so bored with it all. I mean, really, who cares about that shit anyway?

After many false starts, it finally dawned on me why this part of my story is important. In storytelling terms, it’s the beginning that sets the scene for what is to come after. Every story has a beginning, middle and end. Maybe not necessarily in that order, but you kinda can’t get away with skipping the beginning altogether.

My childhood memories are dominated by my mother’s addiction to alcohol. There’s lots of other dynamics, of course, but in many ways my relationship with my mother has shaped my past, my present and I am sure will continue to shape my future in some way.

I can’t pretend to understand what it’s like to live with addiction. I only know what it’s like to live with someone who is addicted. To live in a family where addiction is an issue, but bafflingly enough is never mentioned. I mean, looking back now, how on Earth did neither my father, mother, brother nor grandparents (or me, for that matter!) ever think to sit down and TALK about this? I guess talking about things wasn’t our strong point. Neither was talking about how we felt, or daring to show too many of our emotions.

I decided very early on NOT to be like my mother. And when I wasn’t busy NOT being like my mother, I copied bits and pieces from my dad.

And one day in 2005, on an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner qualification training, I found myself sitting in the audience bawling my eyes out for hours listening to the facilitator talk about the dynamics of masculine and feminine energy. It was so bad that a crew member followed me to the bathroom to make sure I wasn’t gonna slit my wrists, or flush myself down the toilet or something. There was just so much I couldn’t relate to because in rejecting one part of my mother’s personality, I had wholesale rejected everything else too.

Only then did it occur to me that the way I chose to relate to her (or more accurately, not relate to her) had influenced the quality of my relationships, friendships and professional interactions up to that point. Choosing to think about her differently has changed a lot of that.  That’s not to say it’s all happy clappy, of course, but different – in a good way! Still, when I was pregnant, I was shocked at the amount of times I would dream about my mother and feel the most intense anger and rage.

The way I grew up makes it all the more important to me now to teach my daughter how to cope with her feelings, and to strive to provide an environment where dialogue is more prominent than sweeping stuff under the carpet.

I have no doubt that one day, when Lilly sits down to write her story, I will be found guilty of many maternal wrongdoings. But I also know that no matter what happens, I will have tried really really hard.

I am sure my mother did too.