Let’s all agree up front, style is not my friend. I don’t travel with style or do anything else with style for that matter.
I think from an evolutionary point of view, I am placed somewhere between late preppy and mid-schlump having switched from polo shirts to tank tops due to SoCal weather and menopause. Topsiders are my fashion forward footwear of choice. Truth be told more schlump than not. Keep this in mind as my travel with style adventure begins to unfold.
It is time to plan my journey to visit my father and take care of a few other matters. Now here is the thing, it is a pain the butt to get from Southern California to Charlevoix, Michigan, no matter how you look at it. And in mid-July, I was going to have to pay with bars of gold. I knew this as I started my ever-obsessive computer research. No, I don’t want to fly through Utah and Florida in order to save $200 dollars. But, hey that flight thru Botswana with a layover in the South Pole looks pretty good. I may as well go to Maine because “you can’t get theya from heya.”
I tried this adventure with my daughter when she had just turned one (sans husband).
It took 20 hours. One long flight to Chicago, two aborted takeoffs in a mail tube with wings, which included the associated change of equipment only to end up in the original plane (I know because I found her zebra, which I thought was lost forever, wedged between the seat and window.) The trip finally culminated in an hour drive to get to the cottage. My daughter didn’t have a care in the world, however those 20 hours are now painfully etched second by second into my cerebral cortex. I ran out of diapers somewhere around hour 14. Food, ha. Truth be told she was happy and charming most of the time, I was the stressed-out, schlumpy, exhausted new mother lugging a lot of stuff on and off planes by myself. She got a ton of compliments on how great she was but I did not travel with style myself; I got looks of pity.
Is it any wonder after days of not being able to make a decision regarding travel, I announced to the family at dinner I was traveling by train because it was ONLY three days – two and a half by train and then a three hour drive from Grand Rapids? <insert a pregnant pause long enough to give birth to twin elephants>
“Jen, this is the craziest idea you have ever had, why don’t you just fly?” My husband of 32 years sputtered after the laughter subsided. The kids looked at me with a bit of concern. Ok, the last time I took a train was a disaster, so they may have had a small point.
“Not even close,” I said in a huff, referring to the crazy idea factoring. And then, in one of those moments where my mouth opens and words pop out while my brain is on a union mandated coffee break, I said, “I’m taking the train and I’m going to dress the part. I’m wearing a hat, dress, and gloves.” Why are they all laughing? I think I see the dog chuckling out of the corner of my eye. Is it that hard to believe that I’m planning to travel with style?
It’s All About The Hat
Schlump shoppers may not find their way around the mall, but give me a wifi connection and a laptop and I can get anything done. Oh Amazon, my own favorite personal shopper, what have you got in the way of hats for me? The white gloves were easy, and they worked with a schlumpy dress I already owned. For the hat, I wanted something with feathers and tulle, something ladies would wear on a train or a plane early last century when people always travelled with style. Something they still wear in England for a multitude of occasions. Did you know they are called ‘Fascinators’? Fascinating.
My Facebook page is abuzz; I’m not traveling alone, 1850 and counting are coming along for the ride. I really hope they are not expecting some gruesome disaster of epic proportions. Those get old after awhile. My now twelve-year-old daughter is insisting she will ‘do’ my make-up while I say a small prayer. This is her excitement rather than recognition of my schlump style. The temps are soaring to over 100 degrees and my practical nature ditches the dress and gloves in a flash but the hat was in place.
As I walked into Los Angeles Union Station, I felt great.
I was treated to the most respectful and biggest smile, delivered from the heart of an octogenarian in the information booth. He appreciated the flashback moment. I felt a bit like Miss Daisy when he called a porter over to make sure I was properly seen too… a lady such as myself. AMTRAK rules prevent sharing photos and names, however I was swept off my feet. “Was I somebody?” (umm no, just a kooky writer who wanted to travel with style). No matter, the afternoon was enjoyable and I was placed comfortably in my train with my dining assignment in hand.
May I say, my dinner companion, an elderly gentleman named Bernard from Australia, was equally fascinated with my facinator.
Our three-plus hour dinner conversation was one of the more enjoyable evenings I have had in a very long time. When we looked up from our tête-à-tête, the dining car was empty, and the crew was waiting patiently for us to end our evening.
While I love exploring and a good friend of mine says I could have an interesting conversation with a lamp post, I’m not really an ‘alone’ sort of person. I prefer to do things with people. But I can honestly say, if you want an adventure, take a train on your own and find your ‘Bernard’. Just don’t forget to travel with style.