Travels with Mohammed, a postscript

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If you followed Travels with Mohammed, you saw firsthand the beautiful sights and delicious meals, the skylines of Paris and Barcelona, the pristine blue of the Mediterranean Sea in Mallorca. Many of you wrote me that it was as if you were traveling with us.

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Five weeks in Europe was a grand adventure. We sat for hours in cafes, savored the red sandstone cathedral in Basel, the winding streets of the Marais in Paris, the canals of Girona in Spain. We drove from hill town to hill town in Provence, chasing one magnificent vista after the next. We even swam in that salty, blue Mediterranean and hitchhiked from the beach back to the town of Deia. We went without package deals or tour guides, totally on our own, free to wander to our hearts’ content.

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But this “trip of a lifetime” came at a cost. Five weeks of togetherness in three countries proved challenging. All the normal travel mishaps befell us, testing our patience and our resolve to be our best selves together.

The GPS in our car didn’t work, leading to fierce arguments and hours of driving around Provence in circles. We didn’t know that Perpignan had two train stations, one for the high speed TGV, another for regional trains. We couldn’t find the rental car return, which was buried on the second level of a parking garage attached to the station. We came within moments of missing our train, shouting at each other in the elevator, saved only because the train was late. I came down with a dreadful cold, and Mohammed spent our first day in Girona sightseeing alone. Suddenly, we couldn’t seem to agree on which restaurant to choose for dinner, let alone the next logistical challenge of our itinerary.

I could go on, but if you’ve done any independent travel, these things have happened to you too. By the time we got home, our relationship was hanging by a thread. When I describe this to friends, they just laugh, and tell me their own travel horror stories. Some couples seem to take travel stress in stride, and find ways to repair the cracks. We tried. But it didn’t work. And so, with great sadness, Mohammed and I have parted company after 18 months, some of the happiest of my life.

I had no idea that being together 24/7 for 38 days would lead to the dissolution of our relationship. I wish it hadn’t. But I can’t bring myself to regret one moment of our trip, even our fiercest arguments. We were in the moment, living life with passionate engagement, which is what makes travel so intoxicating.

A tour or a cruise would have been less stressful, it’s true. But nothing can erase the vivid memory of speaking garbled French with a woman on a park bench, or waking up to the sounds of Paris coming alive in the morning, or getting lost in the the Jewish quarter of Girona, or getting picked up by a young Spanish couple in a dinged up Honda, our skin salty from the sea, and being driven back to town. May I please do it again very soon!

Jump  on over to http://www.eleanorvincent.com for more posts on life and writing.

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