Will Travel For Words: Going Nowhere by Karen A. Chase
Last month our traveling writer Karen A. Chase wrote about how to enjoy long flight delays/layovers. She’s back to share her thoughts on an equally perplexing travel conundrum, how to make the most of a destination that is best described as “in the middle of nowhere.”
As my agent began shopping my manuscript to publishers–my writing life is also in the middle of nowhere–I traveled north to visit my parents. They retired to Medicine Hat, a town of about 60,000 people several hours south of Calgary, in the plains of Alberta, Canada.
Driving south on Highway One, away from the energizing city of Calgary toward quiet Medicine Hat, I dodge only tumbleweeds spinning across the road. The highway is so straight; I’m convinced I could lock the steering wheel and take a nap between towns. The occasional barn and long line of electrical towers, and one Tim Horton’s donut shop, are the only changes in view until I see my parent’s smiling faces.
I cherish my parents, and seeing them is why I go. But the trip is filled with “buts.” The hugs and time face-to-face are lovely, but it’s so remote. It takes a 6-hour flight, plus 3-hour drive to get to The Hat, but I could fly to Paris in that time. I’ll likely write about the trip for this column, but it’s, well… nothing to write home about.
BUT… I’m an extroverted explorer, and I know every situation is improved if I go into it with an open mind, and a promise to make the best of things. And just as I was there for my folks, their support would help me face publishing rejections already beginning to trickle in.
And so during my visit, we talked. We cooked. We walked. We visited the World’s Tallest Teepee, a monument to the Indian nations who first inhabited the area long before my family. That space in that big sky country, certainly gives this gal perspective about her place in it.
A 4-minute walk from my parent’s condo, I also found YogaYou4ia: a yoga studio filled with warmth (both from the instructors and the hot-yoga sessions). Nine days in a row, often while my parents napped, I practiced warrior poses. Never is yoga daily in my busy life, and it helped me find the inner strength to read a few more emailed rejections.
Something else this small Canadian town offered was the opportunity to exchange smiles with darn near everyone. When was the last time you went to the drugstore and the cashier actually looked you in the eye? When I visited The Hat’s charming downtown coffee shop and it occurred to me I had only American dollars left in my wallet, the barista actually offered to pay for my snack! These kind people, like my agent, seemed to say to me, “Fear not. We are very happy about where we are.”
In the end, in addition to combing through family memorabilia, and chatting it up with my parents, I was able to appreciate my time away from it all. While I still hope my parents will one day be easier to reach, the visit assured me of one thing. Even though my publishing life currently feels like I’m in the middle of nowhere, while in Medicine Hat, I had clearly traveled somewhere. For family. For a change in perspective. And once again for words.
PS: Every city could take a cue from this small town’s care for its citizens. Medicine Hat is the first city in Canada to eliminate homelessness.
Karen A. Chase is a regular contributor to Shelf Pleasure, sharing journeys near and far in the pursuit of stories and novels in her monthly feature, Will Travel for Words. She is the author of Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log, winner of seven Independent Book Publishing Awards for travel and design. She is currently working on an historical novel set during the American Revolution. Find Karen on Facebook, or Instagram.
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