Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

The End

I donít usually read travel writers. But I did read a few of the better known tales over the past two years Ė John Steinbeckís Travels with Charley and William Least Heat Moonís Blue Highways. One of the things they have in common is that when they finally decided they were going home, they practically turned tail and ran, and suddenly seemed to lose interest in their travels and in writing about them.

And so did I. After I headed south from Gros Morne I did stop in Corner Brook to work out at the Y, and to have a lovely leisurely breakfast at the very gracious

dining room of a nearby hotel. And it was at a gallery in that hotel that I was sorely tempted by Anne Meredith Barryís prints of Gros Morne, though I eventually didnít buy one. I didnít see much of Port aux Basques, though, just found a spot to camp so I could catch the ferry the next morning.

And I didnít stare out to sea on the ferry, the way I had going to Newfoundland; I worked busily and hardly noticed the six hours that passed on the way to Sydney. I did go to a music festival south of Sydney, but it was nothing like the one in St. Johnís Ė so badly attended that I felt sorry for the musicians. And I did make a stop in Halifax to visit a vanagonaut whom Iíd been in email contact with for several years. That was nice Ė the Vanagon community is full of really good people.

I left Halifax early Tuesday morning, planning to stop at the Bay of Fundy to see the highest tides in the world. But once I hit the road, the lure of going on pulled me. I got to the park from which the tides are seen, and didnít like it. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but when Iím not in the mood to be there, I get annoyed at whatever, and find pretexts for getting away. That park charged $8 to walk down to the rocks from which the high tides are visible. Not even a washroom Ė the Canadian euphemism for whatever you might

prefer to call it Ė without having paid your entry fee. Your entry does let you come and go for twenty four hours, but the timing wasnít right for me. After all, whatís the point of seeing the high tide if you donít also see the low tide so you can be dutifully impressed by the comparison? High tide was at 4:22 in the afternoon, the next low tide at 10:30 at night when, of course, the park was closed. After that the next low tide was at 11:00 the next morning. And I didnít want to stay there till the middle of Wednesday. I wanted to go home.

So I let the lack of a washroom be the straw the broke the camelís back, and Matilda and I never were impressed by the tides on the Bay of Fundy. Instead we were impressed with how close the US border was, and we made for it like bandits on the run. We got there at around 7:00 in the evening, which suddenly became 6:00 as we crossed the small bridge over the river that separates home from Canada in that bit of the world. I grinned as I went through border control, bouncing with excitement. I couldnít wait to get in cellphone range so I could call Meg in Boston and Suzanne in New Jersey and make plans to see them on my way home.

Home, eh? Is a house in Arlington Virginia actually home? I donít think so. The US is, though. Even though Canada doesnít feel different from the US, every time I come back across that border I'm excited to be returning home.

I hit the phone the next morning in Freeport, Maine, where I stopped to go to L.L. Bean, even though I didnít need anything (and only ended up spending one dollar Ė not bad!). In the parking lot behind the Friendlyís where I had breakfast, I talked to

Meg and Suzanne, and made plans to meet Boston Bob while I was in the Boston area. (For those not in the Vanagon world, Bob Donalds rebuilds engines; he put the life back into the one that is now powering Matilda. Heís an institution in the Vanagon community, and also a really nice person.) And suddenly it felt like I was taking a trip, not living on the road.

When I got to Boston, I remembered that in this part of the world people donít talk to strangers. Six weeks in the Maritimes, and Iíd gotten used to greeting people on the street, chatting with sales people, getting into discussions with the other customers in shops. Visiting my friend Meg in Somerville, Massachusetts, I had to remember that here people donít make eye contact on the street or talk to whoever happens to be in front of them. Iím back in the big city, where your life is private and strangers stay strangers.

And yet, I still donít behave that way. Walking down the street in Washington DC one night, my path crossed with a woman about my age. She stopped and looked at me as if she knew me, and I thought she might have been a roommate of mine from many years ago. By the time we figured out that we werenít each otherís old friends, weíd stopped to chat. Which we did for half an hour, discovering that we have many things in common. We are both Jews from New York, we both work on foreign aid projects Ė she in the health sector, I in environment. We have traveled to some of the same countries, know the same lifestyle. It was a funny mix of being in travel mode Ė which means having long conversations with strangers on street corners Ė and being back in Washington Ė where everyone works on the same kind of issues I do, has had similar experiences, grown up in the same place, or gone to the same college or graduate school. I was on the verge of suggesting that we meet for lunch, but I didnít. And she was cold, so we said good night and went our separate ways.

This is not the woman in Washington - it's my friend Meg.

So now Iím back in a house, and this is the end of my travels, and of this tale. For now, at least. Living in a house is strange after two and a half years in a van and on the road, but I am adapting. Returning to my old haunts, lugging my laptop to the local coffeehouses, catching up on the changes in my neighborhood. Moving my things gradually out of Matilda and indoors, giving away the things my tenants left behind.

But as I told my neighbors, I am perching in my house, not nesting. Getting some writing done, doing some work on the house that itís needed for years. And then deciding what to do next, and where. The story isnít over yet.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all text and photos on this page © Joy E. Hecht.