published Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Shavin: Eve of travel sparks fear of the known

Dana Shavin

As I write this, it is the eve before I leave for a trip with my husband to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I am looking forward to it — my husband and I almost never go anywhere that we don’t stop 14 hours into the trip, assemble a 10-foot by 10-foot tent, and stand outside in weather ranging from the lovely to the absurd, selling art.

But this is not one of those trips. This time we are leaving the van and its art-show contents behind and flying — flying, not driving — to the middle of Mexico. There we hope to do many things for five days, none of which will involve portable potties, plates of greasy lo mein or answering the question, “How long did it take you to make that?”

But along with looking forward to it, I am terrified. While I don’t want to, in life-coaching terms, “set a negative intention,” the fact is I suck at traveling. I recently read a story about a happily married couple who fought so bitterly on a trip through Nebraska they decided it was Nebraska’s fault, and although it means long detours, they henceforth go to great measures to avoid the state altogether.

Were I to avoid every place I’ve blamed for my personal bouts of misery, I’d have to ban, along with 42 states, a number of well-meaning countries. I’d have to charter plane trips that would not so much as clip European airspace, so as to avoid Paris and the resulting major depressive episode she sparked.

Granted while in France I should have been reading something less sensational and more highbrow than Jaycee Dugard’s memoir of her 18-year captivity in a California backyard, but I was curious, and then I was too disturbed to sleep, and then I accidentally made my husband eat shrimp, which almost killed him, theoretically because I was so tired I couldn’t tell my crevettes from my carotas but really because I did not know any French, which further depressed me.

I would have to say a permanent adios to Puerto Rico for almost ruining my first relationship with a boy named David, and 30 years later almost ruining my marriage to a man whose name also starts with D-a. (Coincidence? I don’t think so.) And I’d have to avoid Canada for exposing the truth of bed-and-breakfasts, which is that sometimes they’re just a bed in someone’s home and that someone doesn’t want to make you breakfast.

And I’d have to jettison any notion of returning to the Dominican Republic, because while I had the horseback ride of a lifetime across a desert plain when I was 12, I remember the country mainly for the multitude of naps it caused my parents to take inside a casita the size of an art-fair tent.

So my fingers are crossed that San Miguel de Allende does not make it onto my list of banned bookings. It’s true that I have been to Mexico before. I was a drummer and a flautist in my high school band, and we marched and played in Mexico City when I was 14. While there were lowlights of the trip — it was Passover, and in an effort to avoid not-kosher-for Passover foods, I constructed a diet consisting solely of pineapple and eggs until I passed out from fatigue and anemia — there were highlights as well. I bought a beautiful blanket that I still have today. I helped fill the air of Mexico with joyful music. And I fell in love with our Mexican tour guide, Pepe, with whom I corresponded for two years.

Here’s hoping for San Miguel de Allende not by way of Nebraska — or any other inciting place. Here’s hoping this Mexico trip is, like my original one, full of great warmth, beautiful music and a rekindling of my love for my tour guide — the one whose name starts with D-a.

Email Dana Shavin at Danashavin@juno.com.

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