On re-reading the story, I realised that if I made a few notes (which I don't do) I could probably work out how old our writer is. Roughly in my head it was "a few years into her 30's" when she said:-
"I wanted a dining room table, I realized. I wanted a dining room."
Two simple sentences. After getting caught up for a couple of paragraphs with her travels and career it made me think and feel quite sad to say that I don't really know a life without "a dining room table". Most of us did things differently in the early 80's - we finished our schooling in the late 70's - travelled a bit (not enough). For me it was a then affordable 6-stop-around-the-world ticket and for others a Contiki tour through Europe. Not many of my friends spent more than a couple of months travelling and if they did work overseas it was working on kibbutz's or picking potatoes in Ireland.
I did not travel well, I missed my mother, my sister and my baby brother even when John joined me for the last 6 weeks in Europe, I eventually just had to get home. Forget the visa and the ferry ticket from Greece to Italy, I had been away for nearly 3 months and now needed to get home.
After that it was marriage and babies and a life filled with dining room tables. Different houses, different tables, different people, different food and drinks - but through it all, the same family and core of friends. Lunches and dinners spent around the table - doing homework, playing games, eating and drinking (tea, coffee or wine) or just talking.
So now that I analyse the next sentence (when she was 34) "Living in Paris at 34, I had awakened and realized that I wanted to go home, only to discover that I had no home to go to". This is pretty sad and then this sentence " I saw that my faraway friends had made daily lives that didn’t include me." Even sadder.
It is all about choices and as exciting and wonderful as all the opportunities that our children and their friends have opening up for them, I think that it comes at a price and in some ways complicates their lives. Gap years, teaching English in the exotic places, playing rugby or cricket in foreign countries, living and working in the UK for 5 years to get your ancestral visa, working on boats in the Mediterranean or au pairing in France. It is great and offers more life lessons and education than could ever have been offered to them at home but at the same time by putting their careers and relationships on hold, are they going to be happy when they get to 32? Are they going to yearn for the dining room table that we have taken for granted for all these years? Are they going to be looking to come home to roost at 34 and not be sure where their home is? Are they going to come home to old friends who have now made lives that don't include them?
"I had been to Jerusalem, Peru, London, Mexico, Italy, Croatia, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, Paris, Syria, Poland and New Zealand. I became a travel writer, which gave the peregrinations (hectic word - to journey or travel from place to place, especially on foot). Every romantic entanglement was a long-distance one." Of these 13 countries and cities, I have been to 5 (and all of them, except for London and Ireland were whistle-stop tours).
Getting close to the end of the story a few more thoughts that the more cynical me has popping into my head. Firstly, Joe arriving for his first visit with "a suitcase and a bouquet" had my romantic heart soaring but then 13 months later he arrived with his "beloved Peugeot bicycle, a collection of top-notch kitchen knives and not much else." Alarm bells? OK, he is fit and he can cook but I certainly hope that he was not only looking for a comfortable home and taking one of those "wherever I lay my head, that's my home" stances and that she would have to work hard for the rest of her life, not afford to be able to stop work to have children (or to retire) and just sponsor his travelling, food and drinking writing and general wanderlust.
On the other hand, it is so romantic and exciting and they have wonderful stories to share of their travels. I am also sure there will be much more travelling in their lives (however, I would never let him return to Barcelona on his own). Children are perhaps not that important to them and that is their choice. I love the fact that they were now getting married and serving (and drinking) tequila at the wedding. I know that he will cook her wonderful meals. I am sure he can make sushi as there must be a sushi knife in his "top-notch" knife set. She will come home after a long day at the office and dinner would be ready and the wine perfectly chilled.
And of course dinner would be served in the dining room at the dining room table.
Perhaps you can have the best of both worlds. I sure hope that the writer does.
I hope that our children are going to be happy with the decisions they make. There could be nothing worse than to wake up in your 40's, without children (or a dining room) thinking about that beautiful girl in Barcelona who you should have travelled back to marry or that handsome guy in Seattle whose heart you were brutal with when you broke off your engagement, having lost contact with your friends who were so important to you when you were in your 20's and only having your passport, a bicycle and some "top knotch knives" as possessions.
Having it over again? I'd still go with the dining room table.