This piece first appeared on The Huffington Post
From Boise to Naples. In recent days my daughters have traded sledding, snowmen, parkas, and hot cocoa for sunset cruises, water slides, swimming pools, and lemonade. We’ve collected giant snails and minuscule clams at the beach at Lowdermilk Park, which I secretly think of as Powdermilk Lark, because it makes more sense in my mind. This is the beginning of our latest vagabonding adventure; from Naples we’ll travel to Brazil for two months of remote working.
Naples is hot and humid; our hotel room is unpredictable, possibly a good primer for Brazil. Yesterday, mid-shower, the shower head rudely halts its flow of water.
“Mike,” I call, feeling helpless, feeling the unreasonable quantity of shampoo in my hair. “The water turned off.”
He goes to the front desk and returns with a key to another room. An unaffected room. I hastily dress, gather my towel and soap, and head for the shower which will save me. A fellow hotel guest passes me in the hall and laughs. He speaks, but in a language with which I’m not familiar, so I can’t be sure if he laughs with me or at me. (I’m not laughing).
In the other room I shed my clothing, ready my towel and soap. I turn the handle. Not a drop.
I dress, gather my things, and head for the front desk.
“I’m so sorry; I had no idea the water shut off in the entire building. Do you want a key to a room in the second building?”
“What if I just rinse off at the outdoor shower by the pool?”
“Of course, you’re welcome to do that.”
I return to the room, undress, put on a bikini which is embarrassingly too small for my body, dress again, and head for the pool. The hot tub beckons. I could just get in, rinse off, and be done. But a woman lounges in the hot tub, and the suds that would flow from my hair when it hits the water would be such a giveaway. I approach the outdoor shower and stare at the faucet. Just get it over with, I think. A twenty-something, cocky and unabashed, sits on a nearby lounge chair, loudly smacking his gum. He stares at me, brazen and belligerent.
Back at the front desk: “Can I have the key to the room in the other building? I lost my nerve at the outdoor shower.”
“Of course! We’re so sorry for the inconvenience.”
“That’s okay.” And it is. Things happen. I’m not getting married, giving birth, or bound for a loved one’s funeral. I have soap in my eyes, but truly, there are worse things.
A different building, a different room. The hallway is cluttered with furniture, cleared to make way for the laying of new carpet. I flatten myself against a wall, the shampoo squishing against faded wallpaper, while a woman passes with an impossibly slow and impossibly small dog. Just pick him up and put him in your purse, I think. Slowing down is a good thing, unless you have soap in your eyes.
First floor. I enter the room and lock the door. It is odd being in a room not your own. I feel like an intruder or that I might be walking into a violent death. I lock the bathroom door, too. Naked again. I turn on the shower. And it is glorious. I set the temperature and the pressure and soak in all that I take for granted. Water, heated, on demand, to rinse cleansing product from my hair.
After the shower, I begin to sweat. Steam, adrenaline, age. I open the bathroom door for fresh air and stand naked for a moment, willing my body to calm and cool. I close my eyes and breathe, minutes pass. I open my eyes.
I’d forgotten this is a first floor room. Opening the bathroom door exposed me to the window where the blinds are wide open. I’ve been standing nude, on display for the lobby parking lot and the busy Tamiami Trail. I close the door. I sweat more.
We don’t travel because it is comfortable or convenient, but because location independence is addictive. The ability to work and parent abroad enriches our experiences, cultivates our children into mindful global citizens, and reminds us of our own potential for gratitude. For water and sun, earth and kindness.
I’m back in our hotel room. The water works again. We’re here for one more night. Tomorrow we fly to Brazil. We’ll live and work and travel and bathe (or not) in various cities, great and small. Right now, laundry is strewn about because I wasn’t willing to feed another eight quarters into the hotel clothes dryer. My family is damp from sweat, humidity, and my stubborn frugality.
But again, I sense this is an appropriate primer for what is to come. We’ll spend Christmas in the Amazon, sleeping in hammocks. There will be no need for parkas. What we will need is not yet known.
We’ve run away from home. Again. And all is right with the world.