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I finally got my own domain all set up, so please zip on over to jessicatravels.com and follow me there from now on.

I’m in the basement of a Seattle friend’s house. I should be in bed. I mean, technically, I am in bed, clicking away on my laptop before I finally shut down for the night. But I had to jot down this quick thought, while it was still a thought.

I’m up in Seattle for a couple days of travel-related meetups – I went to two of them tonight, and the third is tomorrow night. Every single person at each meetup is someone I’ve met online, and they’re all travelers. One is here in Seattle after two days in Portland, which was the first stop on what’s going to be a long-term trip. She departs for Asia in a little over a week and isn’t planning to come back for at least six months. Another pair from tonight’s meetup are 18 days away from their own departure date, and they’re off on a multi-year adventure.

The rest of the crew is made up of a bunch of travel lovers with whom, it turns out, I have a fabulous time with. Yes, we share an interest in travel, and that’s definitely good for a conversation starter, but it’s more than that. These are excellent human beings with whom I’m proud to be associated and humbled to spend time with.

And now my thought.
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I love to travel. I also love coming home.

I’m fond of saying how lucky I am that I live in a beautiful part of the world, and I still love being reminded just how lucky I am. Thankfully, the Pacific Northwest – especially in the summer – has a brilliant way of doing that regularly. On a recent trip to Central Oregon, I had more than one occasion where I was unable to stop gasping at how gorgeous my surroundings were.

On one of those occasions, I had just come around a corner on the trail by Sparks Lake with the South Sister in the background. This is what I saw:

South Sister & Sparks Lake


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my alma mater colors outside the reunion

I’ve been flipping through my high school yearbooks lately.

I dug them off their shelf the day I got back from my 20-year reunion, and paging through the pictures and messages – for the first time in perhaps 15 years – is helping my brain put the faces I saw at the reunion together with the names I remember from graduation.

Why didn’t I do this – let’s call it research – before my reunion? Why only after? Probably for the same reason I wasn’t entirely certain going to the reunion was a good idea: I wasn’t eager to relive those years.

If you’d asked me any time in the past two decades what high school was like for me, I’d have had a pretty definitive answer for you. I’d have said I hated high school, that I had a very small circle of close friends, that I was a social misfit who didn’t really have a place in the school I attended. I wasn’t one of the popular crowd, I wasn’t top of the class, I wasn’t stand-out in anything enough to be memorable.

I skipped my 10-year reunion (even though I live a 1.5-hour drive away) using the logic I’ve heard countless people use before and since – I was in touch with everyone I wanted to be in touch with from high school already (a grand total of two people). I had similar qualms as I made the 1.5-hour drive to my 20th reunion. I had even convinced myself that most of my classmates wouldn’t even remember me.

What was I doing?, I kept thinking. Why, if I didn’t fit in back then, did I think I’d fit in now? Why, if I hated high school so much, would I want to revisit it?

I walked into the bar on the first night of the reunion, relieved to notice they had a registration table set up with nametags, and was immediately enveloped in a bear hug by a guy I hadn’t had time to even look at before he hugged me. “Jessica Spiegel, ladies and gentlemen,” I heard him say. When he pulled back, I saw that it was someone I’d known since third grade, when I first moved to Oregon. He had been a loveable punk kid, a trouble-maker with a sweet side, and someone I hadn’t been close to. In the bar at our 20th reunion, he not only recognized me, he was happy to see me. I was dumbfounded.

At that moment, I realized I’d been approaching the whole reunion thing all wrong. It wasn’t about reliving the past, it was about living in the present with people who shared history with you. And that was it.
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Are You Obsessed?

I’m going to try an experiment here.

I’ve been mulling over something in my head for a few weeks – has it been months? – now, and it’s something I’d like to have a conversation about. Something, at least, that I’d like to hear from others about before I go spouting off on the subject.

I know, right? Kooky.

Anyway, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to ask a question here, and if you’ve got something to contribute to the conversation, let me know. You can leave a comment below, or, if you’d like to send something longer you can send me an email – jessica (at) bootsnall (dot) com with the subject line “I’m Obsessed.” Why? You’ll see in a minute. And you should also know that any response you leave in the comments or send me via email may well end up in whatever I write. There you are, fair warning.

And now, for my question.

Question:

Have you ever been obsessed with a place for a really long time without actually setting foot in that place? I’m talking ten, 20 years or more? If so, have you finally visited that place after your long obsession? What was it like? Did it live up to expectations or was it disappointing? And if you haven’t visited the place, are you afraid to, just in case it might be disappointing?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Before I’d even emerged from the metro station, I knew I was going the wrong way. That old idea of having a 50-50 shot of getting it right had again, like it often seems to, backfired on me.

This was my second trip to Paris in the space of a month, only this time I didn’t have the comforting bubble of friends around me, fellow study abroad students who’d been to Paris before. This time I was in the enviable position of staying with my father’s French cousins – cousins who had an enormous parquet-floored apartment just down the street from the Arc de Triomphe. I was being very well taken care of, but was fighting a fear of the unknown that was keeping me in their gorgeous apartment and away from the city outside.

When I’d visited Paris earlier in my trip, I had happily followed my friends around, only vaguely paying attention as they surveyed the metro map to plan a travel route. I sort of understood how to read the map, but I hadn’t put that to the test. When I returned to Paris to stay with my cousins, I was by myself. My friends had set off, armed with Eurail passes, to spend the two-week break between our semesters in Nottingham seeing Europe. I had chosen to spend that two-week break with relatives in Zurich and Paris – and even as I sat in my cousins’ apartment, nervous about going out alone, I didn’t regret that choice. It was just going to take a polite bit of mothering from my cousin Françoise to get me out of my shell.

One morning before she left to work at one of her new quiche shops that had just opened across town, Françoise said to me, “Why don’t you come by the shop for lunch? I can feed you there.” It was settled. I couldn’t disappoint Françoise, so I told her I’d meet her at the shop. She drew a speck on my Paris map that I was to aim for, and then she was gone.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me all morning to work up the gumption to walk out the door of that apartment.
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