I’ve been reading this book by Pam Houston called “Contents May Have Shifted“. At first I found it off-putting, how every page is a new story with reoccurring characters.

Then I fell into the rhythm of it. The writing is beautiful. The descriptions actually leave you feeling like you’ve visited the places and seen what the author has seen.

The book also does a good job of reminding me of little moments I’d stored away in my memory from my own travels. Things that, at the time, drove me crazy and now are stories I fondly share with a laugh.

It makes me think back on the time in Madrid when I finally got a hotel room with air-conditioning only to come back to the room one night to find it had broken and was leaking nasty water onto the bed. How I had to move the bed across the room myself and use my last towel to soak up the puddle on the floor.

Discovering that Paris would never actually live up to my dreams. My first sight of the city being of a man peeing on the station wall as rain clouds rolled in overhead. Being harassed nonstop by men selling little Eiffel Tower trinkets and mocking us when we politely declined.

Finally getting into the one bathroom that I shared with 14 people, finding that there was no more running water and going 2 more days without a shower. Being unable to sleep as my roommates sung ABBA songs at the top of their lungs into the night.

Getting stranded at the Madrid airport for 9 hours after running to catch my flight to Athens. Getting rained on as I climbed the slippery steps to the Acropolis.

Having my unzipped luggage puked on by a drunken boy who passed on our hotel room floor.

Getting lost on the streets of Amsterdam in the darkness.

These are the things we don’t plan or want to happen when dreaming of exploring a new place. These are the things that we hate at the time they are occurring. These are the things that we remember with a smile later.

Sometimes I don’t recall the little details about my travels. It’s good to be reminded. It makes me ache to go on a new adventure. There are so many great and terrible moments that come and go when you travel.

Like falling in love with people so quickly it feels like a free-fall, then the tearful good-byes and promises to stay in touch. It truly is a an emotional rollercoaster.

I’m not done reading the book yet, but I am enjoying it and the way it leads me to look back on my own experiences.

I think it would be a good read even for someone who doesn’t like travel. We have all had experiences that would relate. The author also makes some profound statements on life in general that are worth thinking about.

I have spent my life trying to understand the way this rock and this ache go together, why a granite peak is more dramatic half dressed in clouds (like a woman), why sunlight under fog is better than the sum of its parts, why my best days and my worst days are always the same days, why (often) leaving seems like the only solution to the predicament of loving (each other) the world.

-Pam Houston “Contents May Have Shifted