Rediscovering My Travel Groove
What sometimes happens when you haven’t traveled for a while? You lose your travel groove.
When I set out on my recent West Coast road trip, it was the first solo travel experience I’d had in a long time. And, not having traveled for nine months, I’d gotten rusty. Really rusty. In fact, I’d forgotten everything I knew about who I am as a traveler.
I spent my first full day in L.A. trying to find my groove with little idea about what I wanted to “do” first. Go to Hollywood in search of Grauman’s Chinese Theater? Tour Paramount Studios? Stalk some celebrities? I wandered aimlessly for the whole day, never really finding my footing and feeling like I was wasting time.
Thank goodness for my chocolate craving.
The following morning, to slake my growing appetite for some cocoa goodness, I headed to the nearest Trader Joe’s grocery in the Silver Lake neighborhood which looks nothing like Beverly Hills, its neighbor to the west. Instead of tony, trendy shops and posh, slickly built houses, I found myself driving down Hyperion Avenue, a street flanked by modest homes and dotted with small mom-and-pop shops, walls and utility poles plastered with faded fliers and half-torn posters. It was an overcast Saturday morning, early yet, and a handful of people were milling about their weekend errands on foot. In other words, the neighborhood felt lived-in.
Inside the Trader Joe’s, a bower of just-cut flowers for sale were displayed near the entry, greeting then ushering me past them to rows of fresh fruit and vegetables piled high on wooden stands. Beyond the cash registers, aisles and aisles of groceries receded into the far end of the small building.
Hooking a shopping basket into the crook of my elbow, I walked up and down the aisles, filling it with favorite things. Those caramel wafers I love. Some vegetable crisps. A few pieces of fruit. Organic cereal with dried strawberries. And, of course, some chocolate. Score.
At the register, the cashier chatted lightly with me in a charming English accent as she rung up and bagged my purchases. When the last item was secured, and I paid for my order, she grinned at me. “See you soon.”
I smiled to myself. She may have said “see you soon” but what my heart heard was “welcome”. Instead of feeling like a visitor to L.A., those three short words made me feel like a local. Like I belonged. It was as though the simple act of grocery shopping had drawn me into the community while simultaneously hitting an internal reset button.
I wasn’t in L.A. to “do”. I was there to be.
From that moment on, I remembered who I was as a traveler.
Rushing from attraction to attraction isn’t my style. My modus operandi is to travel slowly and deliberately, embracing each happy accident, and remembering that sometimes the best travel stories aren’t the ones I tell. They’re often the ones I hear from the people I meet.
You can really only hear those stories when you stop long enough to listen.
As I strolled out of the store, purchases in hand, I felt something had changed and that moment was a fresh start.
I got my travel groove back. Sweet.
Ever lose your travel groove? How did you get it back? I want to hear your story.