In addition to taking groups, I have been blessed as a Harlan County coal miner’s daughter to have been out of this country 30 plus times.
And this week I’m in Harlan County while the study abroad group is at Stonehenge or Windsor Castle or taking a boat ride on the Thames River.
I choose to be in Harlan County; I choose to visit my son Quentin who has left Colorado and relocated his business outside of Lexington.
I choose to hug Kaylee and Hunter and play the endless games that they devise; choose to spend hours talking with my sister Frances and her daughter. I choose to be home.
My first trip to Western Europe was to England in the early nineties, and I made a second trip there a dozen years ago and was there again and in Scotland in 2012. So, to a degree, I have that “been there, done that” feeling.
But it’s more than that. At times our minds and bodies tell us it’s time to let someone else step up to the plate. And leading a group is not a piece of cake. Those of us who’ve done it, or do it, take it on because we want others to have the pleasure and knowledge we have experienced while watching a play in the West End (Yes, I saw O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night” in June of 2012 starring David Suchet -Inspector Poirot) or standing awe struck on the Salisbury Plains and asking ourselves, again, how Stonehenge was constructed.
Only the tour leaders know about the little matters that regularly need to be addressed: anxiety attacks, the terrorist attack at the Madrid train station 13 hours after we left the station, the loss of prescription drugs, the impending death of the Pope, the pockets picked, and the trips to medical facilities.
Was it important to me to be a part of history? To walk in the rain in Madrid in March of 2004 with hundreds of thousands who were grieving the loss of life at the train station, to be at St. Peter’s Square and join hundred in March of 2005 who were praying for Pope John Paul II’s recovery, and to walk through Tiananmen Square in Beijing in March of 2011 and recall the massacre of students and their professors and be told by the tour guide that he is forbidden by the government to mention it.
Will I miss the camaraderie as members of this group see the Tower Bridge or Big Ben (to be renamed Elizabeth Tower) for the first time? Yes, yes, yes.
Ten years, however, is enough, and although I enjoyed marketing this tour to get the 44 travelers signed up and I attended two of the three seminars, I’m happy to be in Harlan County this week. But still there’s that little itch…there always will be.