Author: Jenny Douglas

Jenny in the Sarconic Islands

Get Lost: The Awesome, Scary, Wonder of My Midlife Travel

One early afternoon about 12 years ago I took three left turns and two right turns along the dense streets of Hanoi, Vietnam — and promptly found myself unutterably lost. I’d arrived for my first-ever visit to the city after a 24-hour journey from my home in Brooklyn late the night before — and as elegant women wearing conical straw hats pedaled past me on bicycles weighted down by flowers and produce, I stood on a street corner there possessed of no phone, no shared language, no context, no map, no prior understanding, no deep wisdom of the culture I’d found myself in, nothing to fall back on. Who knew what might happen next? I was at once a little scared and a whole lot delighted. Now, at 56, “a little scared and a whole lot delighted” is a disposition I’ve developed an unexpected propensity for in these ripe middle years of my life. This propensity is pretty much the dead opposite of what I imagined wanting for my grownup self when I was young …

Life Blindsided Me And Then I Learned to See.

One Sunday afternoon about fifteen years ago, I wandered into a panel discussion at The Brooklyn Public Library just as Carmen Boullousa, the Mexican poet and novelist, was being asked a question. “How do you write?” the questioner asked. Carmen Boullousa threw her hands up in the air and slammed them down the table in front of her. “You don’t know what you’re doing!” she burst forth, with a shout and a laugh. “You start off blinded, and you work until you begin to see.” I was 37 or 38 at the time, with a husband and two young daughters doing whatever they were doing in our Prospect Heights brownstone a few blocks away. And for as long as I could remember, I’d been trying to connect life’s dots with a modicum of elegance and a minimum of fuss. Determined to press on, to be a trooper, to feign competence, to not give passport, ever, to a willingness to be blinded. Carmen Boullousa was talking about writing but I sensed her advice might help me …