Take Me to the Baltics! And Other Exciting Places!

While it’s still a bit surprising that there is a flight leaving Helena at 6:00 p.m., tonight marks the beginning of my long set of flights and layovers to my first real destination during my summer trip, Helsinki. A couple of quick overnights in Seattle and Paris down, I’ll spend four days in Finland before moving to the Baltics for two weeks. After that a week in Poland before ending the trip with visits to see Bono and the Edge in Paris and expansive gardens and fancy digs in Versailles.

I’m hoping to do as little work as possible on the trip, though I am dragging my trusty, potentially dying Macbook Pro along so I can cut some debate cards. I’ll certainly be posting some photos and thoughts from the road here if any of you are interested in following along, and, as always, I will almost certainly abuse your Instagram feed.

Given the amount of travel I’ve managed to squeeze in during the past year, it’s hard to argue that I need this vacation, but I’m feeling like it’s going to be an important opportunity to get away from the pervasiveness online connectedness that seems like it disconnects me from the world around me. Limited phone connection means limited time on Facebook and Twitter, less time to read about the perverse state of American politics, and no time at all to think about those the intractable problems of life that never seem to go away until I sink into a plane seat.

Instead, it’s time to connect to a series of cities I’ve never seen the best possible way: on foot, at random, and without agenda. I’ve marked a few must-see spots in my Lonely Planet guides, but what I am most looking forward to are days when I leave the place I’m staying for twelve hours at a time simply to wander the streets and enjoy slow, deliberate meals and drinks outside.

And let’s not forget the profound power of travel to inspire reading novels, just for pleasure, without a highlighter or pen in hand. Last year in Portugal, I discovered Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels and hope to find something even half as excellent this year.

Every time I travel and become a walking, reading, smiling, relaxed person who finds the time to enjoy pleasures great and small, I hope to (and do, I think) take some of that home to my life in Helena. The challenge, of course, of the comforts of home, is that they don’t perhaps encourage us to take stock of just how we’re living our lives. As Alain de Botton notes in his The Art of Travel:

“It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, but who may not be who we essentially are.

I’ll try to remember that truth as I journey this time, and hope that those of you who have the opportunity to explore beautiful corners of Montana or anywhere in the world can do the same. We’re not tethered to person we are at all; we have the power to become the person we want even if it’s just a little bit easier to find him/her in a cafe in a European city square thousands of miles from home.

See you all soon. And best wishes for a summer of adventure to all of you.