Leaving Hope

by Britta on 22 July 2009

in General,Travel

hopeIt’s funny how my hometown sits so close to my heart, but when I’m here I can hardly wait to leave. The things that I love most about it are also the things that I can’t stand, especially when I’ve been here for longer than I’d hoped. The fact that everyone knows me is simultaneously comforting and confining: It gives me both a happy sense of belonging and an overwhelming desire to break free of the borders and the expectations that define the town.

Take last Sunday, for instance. I wasn’t even in town on that day, I was in Hope, where I did the 5K Wagon Trail Run. I stayed with a friend and several of her friends I didn’t already know, but I still I felt like I was home as I walked around town: every other person I ran into was someone I knew from Seward. The awkwardness of meeting new people and not knowing what to expect was offset by the fact that I knew everyone else and already felt comfortable with them. I felt like the social butterfly (an odd feeling for an introvert like me), greeting and chatting with people all over town, but I also felt this overwhelming urge to get out, to leave everything familiar behind and experience something new.

Hope is a beautiful little town. It sits at the foot of the Kenai Mountains, on the shore of Turnagain Arm, framed by views of the Chugach Mountains across the Arm, spectacular both in summer and winter. It was cloudy and rainy this weekend, but the weather did nothing to diminish the natural beauty of the place. I stayed in a cabin my new friends had built—no running water or electricity, but small and cozy, with enough floor space to fit all of us runners in our sleeping bags. The refrigerator was the creek down the hill, the light was the midnight sun that came through the windows. We did what you do when you have no other distractions—we sat around and talked, mostly about running and skiing, as they were all high-caliber mountain runners and cross-country skiers, but about other, Alaska things, too. Like fishing, and camping, and life in Girdwood/Seward. All of which made me simultaneously nostalgic and antsy to leave.

I returned to Seward last night after a couple of weeks in Girdwood with my sister. Without realizing it, I began to treat my time in Girdwood as a trial run for my travels, and it turned out to be a good way for me to decide what was absolutely essential to bring with me. I stuffed in a few extra books on Europe and travel writing, since I really wasn’t limited on space, or weight, but the books will be left at home when I head out. It pains me a little to do so, as I love books, and though I am the technophile of the family, I still consider books to be the ultimate mobile device—they can be read, written on, and shared, and it doesn’t matter how good the service is. However, too many are heavy and difficult to pack, so they won’t be sneaking their way in. In fact, a lot of things won’t be able to sneak their way in. Though I’m bringing a laptop, I’ve been living without the accessories for a while now, and find that they weren’t nearly as essential as I thought. There are things I brought to Girdwood that I realize now I don’t really need, and other things that I’ll replace with smaller or thinner versions. I’ve always been proud of my packing skills, and I’m planning on making it to the plane with only one backpack to carry on.

I’ve bought my ticket to Paris. One-way. I carried that knowledge with me throughout much of the week and the weekend, and it gave me a secret thrill to think of it, in the midst of talk about Alaska and hometowns. My adventure is approaching, although some days I feel it won’t arrive soon enough. And yet, with less than a week to go, I feel I don’t have enough time to finish everything, or do things I missed. I have friends to visit, restaurants to eat at, adventures to go on, and not enough time to do any of them. This isn’t the first time I’ve left, however, and it also isn’t the first time I will have left things unfinished, although whether they need to be finished is questionable. With technology like Skype, I can still see and talk to my friends without being there with them, I can certainly live without eating at certain restaurants, even if they are new and exciting and I built their website, and I’ll be starting new adventures in other places, so going on them here seems a bit superfluous at this point.

Sigh. I suppose I can chalk it up to pre-trip jitters. I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself, but in my heightened state, I can’t believe that I’ll possible be ready on time. Thankfully I have a loving and dutiful family that will finish the necessary things for me if need be (as long as they’re minor!). Plus, they know I’ll return. Eventually.

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: