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2018 August 53 min read

Last summer, I traveled for the first time in a decade, to visit my (now ex)-girlfriend in upstate New York. It was a surreal experience that gave me a new appreciation for adventure, and left me genuinely hungry for more. Now, over a year later, after spending a week in Boston on my first solo vacation trip, I'm beginning to think it wasn't actually the traveling part that I enjoyed.

I've said before that traveling to new places, and experiencing new surroundings, often gives me new musical ideas. That was certainly the case in the summer of 2017, when my girlfriend and I toured basically every piano within a hundred-mile radius in search of inspiration. The quaint atmosphere of Saranac Lake, in the Adirondack mountains, conjured up ideas in my head that would later be fleshed out in songs such as Solar Coaster, Memory Lane, and most notably Wanderlust - which I originally titled "Saranac Serenade" in reference to this.

But I feel like, more than just capturing the setting in which they originated, on a personal level these songs are distilments of a time in which, more than any other time in my life, I was happy, ambitious, and ready to take on the world. If I hadn't been completely invested in our relationship, as my primary source of fulfilment, then the trip would not have happened - but if it had happened under those circumstances, it would have been a fundamentally different experience for me, and it would not have inspired me musically in the way that it did.

I say this because my trip to Boston probably was that fundamentally different experience. I had high hopes for the trip, particularly as an opportunity to "disentangle", in my mind, the positive experience of traveling and the negative feelings associated with our relationship. I arrived at my hotel in Boston in good spirits, ready to take the next step in my independence.

When I opened the door to my room, it was like opening the floodgates to a tidal wave of vast, inescapable emptiness that hit me hard as I stood in the doorway. The sight of the empty two-person bed, the deck chairs on the balcony that would never be used, and the complimentary snacks that would never be eaten, caused me to break down crying, and set a dark tone for the rest of the visit.

If you happened to click the link at the top of the second paragraph and read through that post, you might be getting some deja vu here. It does strike me as funny that the very same type of experience - revisiting, by myself, a year-old memory of our relationship - resulted in two startlingly different outcomes on two separate occasions. In Woodside, my initial anxiety was unexpectedly relieved; in Boston, my initial excitement was unexpectedly swept away by overwhelming dread. And at this point, I guess the grand theoretical framework that I've been loftily expounding in these posts to explain my feelings breaks down, and we're back to all this just being a bunch of random chemical imbalances in my brain or something. But that doesn't exactly make for an inspiring coming-of-age narrative that I can use for self-motivation, so... screw it.

Is traveling really for me? Hard to say right now. At this point, though, I've decided that the next time I do it, it'll be with someone else.

One more thing. If you're looking for piano stores in Boston, don't spend an hour walking in 30 degree heat to a place you find on Google Maps called "Brownfield Piano", at 1756 Massachusetts Avenue. It doesn't exist, apparently.

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