My grandmother did two things shortly before she died.
She gave me a cheque for $5,000.
She told me a story about how my grandfather took the train across the country on his way back to her from WW2. He always wanted to do it again, with her, but they never had the chance. And then he died.
This was all the rationalization I needed to take that money and buy a plane ticket to Europe.
The thing is, that story is nonsense.
My grandparents were retired by the time I was a child. They enjoyed decades of health between when their youngest child moved out of the house and when my grandfather died. My grandfather was one of those lucky few who only faced a few short months of illness before dying.
They had plenty of time to travel. You know how long it takes to go cross-country on the train? Three days there, three days back. However long you want to spend on the West Coast.
They had decades of life as empty nesters, but they never managed to find two weeks of free time?
My grandmother wasn’t a fun woman. She wasn’t a fan of kids. She didn’t tell a lot of stories. So it says a lot that this is one of the few (only?) times she ever offered up a story. A sweet story, even, about her and my grandfather being in love.
Okay, she didn’t use the word love or say anything particularly sweet. The way she phrased it was more like she was so saddled down with kids, raising them and paying for them, that it kept her from following her dreams. Whatever. It’s my story now, I can read into it if I want.
The thing is, this gap between what we say we want to do and what we actually want to do isn’t something unique to my grandmother.
I’ve been saying I want to learn Spanish for…a decade? I did once take a Spanish class at Hunter College. It wasn’t even a real course, it was a continuing ed class. I only did one term. I don’t remember a thing.
You know why? Because it’s not really a priority.
It would be nice to know, but only really matters when I finally explore South America. And I’ve made it through plenty of countries as a dumb American. In fact, my once conversational German got pushed out of my brain because I hardly needed it, even when I spent months living in Germany. The work necessary to learn Spanish greatly outweighs the future potential convenience. It makes more sense to do other things with my time now and deal with the language barrier the next time I’m in a Spanish speaking place.
I like the idea of being the type of person who speaks multiple languages.
I don’t care enough to put in the time and effort required to learn.
There are plenty of other examples I can come up with. The friend who talks about moving to California and is obviously never going to do it. The friend who wants a boyfriend, but rejects every prospect and makes no effort to meet anyone. We all do it.
So, do you really want to travel? Is it actually important to you? What are you looking to get out of traveling?
It’s okay if the answer is no.