Before I am about to leave for any vacation, well-meaning people often ask me questions that go something like this: Isn’t it great to go away and not have any neck pain for a week? Don’t you enjoy going somewhere and not having a constant headache? Isn’t it nice to get away from your pain? No, no, and no. Because my head and neck are attached to the rest of me, they come with me. No matter where I go, there I am and there’s my pain. I can’t leave it behind with a note about how to care for it. I am unable to detach the nerves and muscles causing my distress for a week. So yes, it would be lovely to go away and be without this constant drain on my psyche, but it doesn’t happen.
My pain has seen quite a bit. It’s been throughout the Southwest, the Midwest, and the entire east coast. It’s enjoyed the sunsets in Key West (one of my favorite places) and the beauty of Savannah (my other favorite place). Why, my pain likes to travel so much that I even took it to Russia. And if I can’t leave this pain behind to enjoy Russia, the trip of a lifetime, then I really can’t leave it behind. But the pain has never, not once, robbed me of my love of travel.
Last week we were in Savannah, and yes, I was in constant pain. Armed with a variety of meds (I wonder if the TSA X-ray dude was about to call for back-up) and my heating pad, I was ready to go. And because we have been to Savannah so often, we are apparently beginning to blend in. Twice we were asked for directions, not something most tourists are faced with or could answer correctly. And the pressure to see everything was off because we’ve already seen everything. So we just enjoyed ourselves in the quirky beauty that is Savannah and, once again, I was reminded of why I love travel so much. It’s about the experiences. The moments that happen by chance that make you appreciate life just a little bit more. Walking into a store and having a 15-minute conversation with the proprietors about their emotional support pig. Chatting with the homeless woman who walks around with a cat on her shoulder. Watching the container ships pass by on their way to the port. Being driven to the airport and talking to the driver about our favorite places to eat in town while southern gospel plays on the radio. Having the woman at the hotel coffee bar call us “honey” and saying, “Y’all have a great day. God bless” every time we saw her.
These are the moments that make me want to travel—with or without my pain. Preferably without, but for now that doesn’t seem likely. I’ll keep traveling and collecting beautiful moments whenever I can, then lock them away in the drawer of memories I can open at any time. Now, though, it’s back to work, back to reality, back to real life. And with or without my pain, whether I’m here or somewhere else, it’s a beautiful life indeed.