New Jersey to Spain: The Scenic Route
For the first time in 43 days, I'm cradling a bundle of clean, warm, soft-as-a-cloudless-sky laundry in my arms, and I'm in love.
Before you make assumptions about my personal hygiene, know that I have washed my clothes over the past six weeks. In an apartment on Crete, I set my alarm an hour earlier than my companions, crept into the bathroom with a very suspect plastic bag of clothes I'd "retired," folded up a towel on which to kneel, and got to work hand scrubbing it all on the floor of the shower. My attempts to keep dry throughout this process were very much as futile as the numerous preliminary attempts to kill the Minotaur at the Palace of Knossos a couple of miles (kilometers?) away, and so I disrobed and prayed Julianne wouldn't happen to wake up just a few minutes before her alarm and stumble in to an extra special wake-up call. Anyway, most of the clothes didn't dry in time, despite the fact that I so thoughtfully strew them across every available flat space in the apartment, and so I popped them back into what would become a rotating armada of plastic baggies from local shops and grocery stores, and jammed them into a corner of my suitcase, and zipped it all up for the second leg of my journey after Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, and Crete: Singapore, Bali, and Kuala Lumpur.
In Bali, one of our lodgings offered a laundry service. Out came the bag, which I could now locate in my suitcase via odor alone. I submitted it with a small morsel of shame to the laundry service, but discovered that my "clean" clothes, the "un-retired" ones, either by virtue of being cooped up in a suitcase for close to three weeks now, or by proximity to the Bag of Doom, were not as fragrant as I might've liked them to be. I don't think the necessary morning lathering of sunscreen and Deet was too helpful, either. Oh well, I thought, gazing out upon waves of Bali blue ocean, cares sliding off like water over a turtle's shell - I'll be done with these shorts and dresses and bathing suits soon enough, when I fly into London in a week. [And here I must offer up both a thanks and an apology to my mother, the eventual recipient of the rancid suitcase. I swear, if I'd been able to get to a laundromat in time, I would've washed it all!]
And westward I went, anticipating a swappage of suitcases which would grant me - gasp - clean jeans! Thick socks that didn't scatter volcanic ash on the floor when I yanked them off! Shirts that weren't as wrinkled as a Shar Pei, that I could wear without drenching in Downy wrinkle spray and smoothing with my hands for a minimum of five minutes! Honestly, though, I did relish the weather in the U.K. (am I the first person to have ever said that?), the coolness and the wind after a month of drenching heat. Obviously, though, even cool-weather clothes get dirty. This meant I spent another evening kneeling by another bathtub, scrubbing at the essentials, and cursing myself for dunking in a pair of pants whose pockets I'd forgotten to empty. Indonesian rupiah floated to the surface of the soapy water like curious dolphins. Bus and train tickets disintegrated to a mess of white pulp which diffused through the water and decorated the now dubiously clean clothes with white, got-to-remove-bit-by-bit (you know what I'm talking about) speckles.
What a far cry from Cork, Ireland, where I sit now awash with the fragrance of freshly laundered clothes splayed about me like flower petals. I don't know if foresight or sheer luck landed me an Air BnB with both a washer and a dryer - that's the rare unicorn of amenities, not one to be expected. What I do know is:
1) My laundry adventure tells, I think, an abbreviated form of the roundabout way in which I'm coming to Spain. I knew, when I learned of my start date, that I'd be foolhardy not to find some sort of way to travel beforehand. And so, I began the most glorious adventure first in Greece, with my fabulous co-workers, and then in Southeast Asia, with two childhood friends, and then in England and Scotland, with family and family friends, and now in Ireland, left up to my own devices! Let me tell you, there's been a lot of reading, eating of figs and cheese, and, obviously, clothes-washing going on here in Cork. It's getting pretty wild.
2) It's a vital reminder of my blessings, and privilege. Despite the fact that I've just rambled on for roughly 800 characters about my laundry, I know it's not a big deal. And frankly, for people blessed enough to be able to travel, we need to recognize that basic amenities, like dependable laundry, both aren't a big deal (I never suffered any personal trauma for a lack of clean socks), and are (we assume that everyone's got access, but many don't.)
This brings me to the bigger picture, the bottom line. One of my biggest goals for this process is to become a better person, in the hopes that I can collect more good from the world and put more good into it. I've already begun roaming, eating, learning, and meeting the most enlightening new people, and I'm eager to land in Spain in two days and keep the journey flowing.
And who knows whether or not my hand-washing days are over? I'm willing to bet there's another bathtub in Spain with my name on it.