My ex-husband didn't share my itchy foot. To him, traveling was a waste...a waste of time, of money, of time he could spend making money. Although I managed to cajole him to take a few trips during our 25-year relationship, my itchy foot went largely unscratched. As did most of my other needs.
I was 40 when we divorced, childless, shell-shocked, completely unsure of myself. (My ex-husband told me I was no longer attractive. Apparently, he couldn't forgive me for not being the same thin babe he met at 16. I've never seen the woman he had the affair with, but evidently she was more his type.)
The end of my marriage meant the beginning of my travels. For my first solo trip, I chose Iceland, Sweden and Norway, countries that seemed unthreatening to a middle-aged woman traveling alone. I loved every delicious, frightening, exhilarating moment. If I wanted to stay a few days longer than planned, or spend a whole day in a museum, or jet off someplace else on the spur of the moment, I could. I didn't have to debate or consult with anyone.
I knew I loved traveling, but I didn't expect to enjoy my own company so much. And the last thing I expected was to get my mojo back.
I was in Olso, standing on the stairs outside the art museum, pondering where to go next. A young Brit asked me what I thought of the art. We chatted about the paintings--Munch's The Scream was more pastel than I expected--then moved on to literature as we strolled to an outdoor cafe. As the sun began to set, we decided to seek out a spot for dinner. Somewhere over dessert, it finally dawned on me that this young man (14 years my junior) was attracted to more than my sparkling wit and knowledge of Huckleberry Finn.
It would be a better story if I told you we ended up in the sack, but in truth, nothing happened. At least not on that trip. We corresponded and talked on the phone, and the following March I found myself in England, where we spent a lovely week in a romantic 17th-century cottage on a lake.
Although we're no longer intimate--one of the attractions was that we lived in different time zones -- I'm very grateful to my British friend. It makes me smile when he calls every so often and asks if I'm still with My True Love Frink. He sighs when I say yes and then fills me in on the young hotties he's dating.
So, you may be wondering, what does all this have to do with the polar bear necklace at the top of this page, the object that all this wisdom is supposed to be about?
Fast-forward to the next year. I was traveling in Iceland and decided to take a day-trip to Greenland. In a tiny store, I bought the polar bear carved from reindeer bone as a memento of my trip. On the small plane back to Iceland, I met a travel writer. He, too, found me more attractive than my ex-husband had. We spent a few invigorating weeks traveling around Greenland together. I have fond memories of this trip, even though I ultimately realized that I was more enthralled by the travel writer's job than the travel writer himself.
Today, when I look at my little polar bear necklace, I see more than a $5 trinket. I see adventure, freedom, and friendship. And most of all, I am reminded of my first solo trips abroad, when this middle-aged broad got her mojo back.