One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things. Henry Miller
“Will I be on a plane for a long time?” I had asked, and his reply was a definitive, “Nope.” And my husband, Cam, he doesn’t lie when it comes to Mystery Trip clues, so I believed him. And there were other hints that had narrowed my focus of guessing; there was the “who-told-you?!?” look of devastation on his face when I had blurted, out-of-the-blue and half-joking, that I thought it might be Vancouver, and there was the tip that we might see whales, that I needed a winter coat and a wool hat. So, in the early evening hours of a Wednesday, as the sun was sinking low in the sky two weeks ago, when we embarked on our journey out of Marquette on Plane Number One, I was pretty sure I’d figured it out, that Plane Number Two would take us west to Salt Lake City or Seattle, and, then, Plane Number Three, it would be a hop-skip-and-a-smooth-sailing-ride north over the border to our nearby neighbors. It had already been a long day of preparation and I was ready for a comfy bed and a supine position and a whale-watching side-trip in a northwest province of Canada.
My hunch was confirmed when Cam slipped into the bathroom at the Detroit Airport and I snuck a quick peek at the Departure Board. There it was, the plane to Salt Lake, already at the gate and boarding in ten minutes. I was on to him! He had said our connection was tight, and now I knew, final-destination Vancouver it would be. As we walked down the length of Terminal A in the direction of the gate that I was positive was ours, I wondered what my reaction would be. Would I feign surprise or would I tell him that it was remarkable how psychic I was, how I had guessed Vancouver in a moment of intuitive know-how and I had been right. I felt a little smug, and I must admit that I felt a little let-down, too, that the surprise was over. Or was it?!?
We walked right past it, the gate to Salt Lake, right past it as the passengers, my fellow passengers, began to line up! We just zoomed on by, and we kept on flying down that Terminal A walkway, all the way to the very end, and, what was this?!? Los Angeles! Cam was handing our boarding passes over to the woman behind the counter. And, there we were, Cam and I, traipsing down that tunnel-thing and right through the door of a very large plane that was going to take us, not to a comfy bed and a supine sleeping position, not to the northwest of our very own continent, but I suspected instead to another plane and to a long long trip somewhere far away. And I was pretty sure I knew where that somewhere was.
It had been one of my early guesses in March when Cam was in the planning process. Back then, he had said that he couldn’t get connections to his Number One choice, so he was going for Number Two. And I knew that New Zealand was at the top of his list. And I suspected that Australia, along with sites south, like Chile and Argentina, weren’t far behind, so when we touched down in Los Angeles, in what was the middle of the night back home, I wasn’t that surprised when the two of us Mystery Trippers joined a line of people at the gate marked Sydney. However, I was surprised when I heard from a fellow passenger, as we climbed into our seats on an even bigger plane than the last, that this was going to be a fifteen-hour flight. Fifteen hours! And then Cam, bursting with delight because he had thrown me off his Mystery Trip scent with his lies, chimed in, “ . . . and we’re going to cross the International Date Line; we’re going to land on Friday morning.” He seemed excited by the whole prospect, the date line, the whole ocean we needed to cross, our destination. And that’s when I made a decision; if Thursday, one whole day of this Mystery Trip Vacation, was going to be swallowed up somewhere over the south seas of the Pacific by an invisible date line, and fifteen hours of this venture was going to be spent on another plane, I was going to be excited too. I was going to have fun.
And that’s what we did. We had fun. Our seatmate was a scientist from San Francisco, traveling to Australia for the first time, and he, too, was excited. “Do you know how many things can kill you in Australia?!?” he exclaimed, and he started listing all the living creatures that can suck the life right out of a person. There was a sense of awe in his voice, and I must admit that it was frighteningly thrilling to consider. We chatted about other more mundane topics, too; we watched movies on the tiny screens stuck inches from our faces on the seats in front of us; we poured the chia seeds that Cam had so cleverly brought with him to bring us energy into glass after glass of water; we dozed, our heads flopping forward; we woke, our heads jerking backward; in between movies and naps, we watched the tiny plane on the screens in front of us as it traced our route past Hawaii and Fiji and islands I’d never even heard of. And, we stood up, quite often, we stood up, stretched our legs and walked down the aisle.
And this became a highlight, these bathroom breaks on the plane to Sydney, not only because it felt good to stretch our legs, but because there was a party forming back in the alleyway between bathrooms. Cam was the most taken by it. He’d squish his way back into his seat and give me the report. “There’s a guy with dreads in a fancy suit back there now, and he’s entertaining the flight attendants.” An hour later, he’d report in again, “The guy is still back there and he says his mission is to spread some joy.” And later still, he whispered in my ear, “I think they might be famous. There are three guys standing there with something written on their sweatshirts. I think it says, Public Enemy” And, it was well into the flight, somewhere over one of those islands showing up on our screen, that Cam brought back to me his most animated update. He was laughing. “Some guy called me homey! He was wearing a huge clock around his neck, and I said, ‘I love your clock!’ and he said, ‘And my clock loves you back, homey!’” Cam was thrilled; he’d never been called homey before.
So there you have it, we hadn’t even landed yet. We didn’t know that Sydney was a gem, that the harbor sparkled with a million diamonds, that the week would unfold in ways that delighted and expanded and inspired us. We were still buckled into our seats, flying high over the South Pacific, upright – no supine position for us – with a dawn that hadn’t quite broken through this very long night. But, Cam had been called homey and we were feeling it, a good homey feeling. We were feeling it; the Mystery Trip was already in full swing.