Adventures in Backyard Tourism

In my pursuit of knowing the world, I forget to poke around in my own backyard. Sunday’s Death Cab for Cutie concert in my old haunt of Milwaukee, Wisconsin reminded me I should step out into the backyard a lot more.

Granted, I don’t drive, and in the heartland of the country where the gas-powered vehicle is practically worshipped and entire neighborhoods designed to funnel cars at the expense of the pedestrian, exploring my backyard is difficult. Every day I reluctantly play a life-threatening game of chicken with monsters of steel barreling down on me in their mad rush to work. My walking commute often involves a dash across the intersection as these frenzied beasts, their humans safely ensconced inside the metal and glass bubble, honk at me for daring to cross on my walk signal.

Yes, this is not a corner of the country designed for easy exploration by the un-vehicled. Bus and train connections are few and inconveniently timed. Bike trails are growing, but slowly. In some communities sidewalks are nonexistent, a troubling conundrum for the pedestrian in the Wisconsin winter when huge plowed snowbanks obliterate any semblance of a shoulder to dive into when a car rushes past.

The ubiquitious fuzzy I'm-too-far-away-but-still-want-to-prove-I-was-there concert photo.

I was in luck Sunday. I recruited a willing participant to act as driver. We drove down highway 41 towards Milwaukee, a two-hour journey that involved dodging severe thunderstorms swiftly approaching in a huge mass of angry, dark clouds from the West, strong car-tossing wind gusts, and a bottleneck from an accident that developed so suddenly on the storm-slicked roads that we thanked our lucky stars we were not thirty seconds sooner. Amazing how thirty seconds can possibly change your life.

Eventually we reached our reward as we walked along Milwaukee’s Riverwalk, the building lights frolicking in the river’s wind-tortured surface. The hot, breathy wind of impending storms chased us into the intimate Riverside Theatre. Death Cab for Cutie did not disappoint, their intoxicating mix of indie, psychedelic, acoustic, and alternative rock transporting us away from the stress of the drive.

We emerged satisfied and soothed, the city damp with the expired storm, and vowing to make the trek again. Our only regret – we did not leave early enough to duck into one of Milwaukee’s many micro-breweries lining the river.

There’s always next time.

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About chronictraveler

Chronic Traveler starts as a dream, one that I thought I had lost, but that has slowly changed into a mission to realize and live that dream every day. In December 2007 I became seriously ill and the doctors did not know what was causing my illness. I had to stop teaching as my life tumbled into a never-ending nightmare of doctors, hospitals and tests. Finally, in May 2008 I was diagnosed with a chronic condition - fibromyalgia. I was only 26 years old at the time. I have had to give up teaching, and now work part-time at a performing arts center as I learn how to manage my condition and improve my quality of life. What helped me through the months of uncertainty and sickness, and continues to inspire me, was a new focus on what truly mattered to me: family, friends, gardening, the arts, and especially travel. I have always fed my soul by traveling, ever since I first stepped off the plane at age 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal to help with an orphanage's building project. Meeting new people and experiencing how they live and how they view the world infuses my life with a richness I was so afraid I would lose when the doctor first said, "You have fibromyalgia". This blog is my story, as I begin to forge a new path. I am embracing my life as it is, with the fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, and learning to do what I love regardless. It may mean I have to go slower and take more naps or breaks! But I am determined to learn how to travel and experience the world, and hopefully what I learn will help others like me who believe their medical condition stands in the way of their travel dreams.
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