Escape to Anywhere

The winter is coming.

This is not an entirely bad thing. Big Wisconsin snowstorms are beautiful.

But already Midwest folks are planning their escapes.

We flee to Florida, the islands, the desert, Mexico or indoor water parks.

Our motivation for winter escape is obvious. When the cold air and short days arrive, the folks of Wisconsin long for warmth, sun and humidity; or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

But there is another kind of escape.

The kind of escape that takes us away from our lives to a place we have never been for reasons we barely know.

These escapes satisfy our urge to go somewhere and act on what we have always longed to do but haven’t accomplished due to the too familiar excuses of budget,  responsibility, time, sloth or simple cowardice.

I have used all these excuses to avoid the trips I have always wanted to take, with yet another excuse to add to the aforementioned list.

Travel anxiety.

Business travel of thirty-five years has made me travel averse. Packing a bag makes me anxious. Airport terminals depress me. Air travel has become inhumane. The night before a flight fills me with unease and makes for an always fitful sleep.

So I haven’t gone to where I might go, for the pure pleasure of doing it. But now, at this time in my life, I am working up the courage to go to the places that call to me.

One of these damn mornings I might just get up and board the Empire Builder in Columbus, Wisconsin, look out the window for twenty-four hours until we roll into the Izaak Walton Inn, hard by the Amtrak Line, in Glacier National Park.

Or perhaps I’ll board a flight in Madison and end up at Normandy Beach, to view for myself the grounds of history’s most important invasion. Or simply hop in the car and head to Gettysburg to loiter for a day or two and envision the drama of America’s greatest battle with itself.

Maybe I’ll finally spring for a week on one of those big ships that cruise the cold waters of Alaska to watch the glaciers calf their icebergs. Or promenade my way around the deck of the Queen Elizabeth 2, Kindle in hand, while looking up occasionally to see if I can be the first on board to spy the White Cliffs of Dover.

Or sit on the deck of a luxury barge as it drifts the rivers of Europe.

Maybe this winter I’ll finally do what I have longed to do for years: head to Key West for a week to do absolutely nothing but read and find out if it’s as interesting a town as it proclaims itself to be. Then from Key West, I’ll fly to Paris and sit at the same bistro every morning, sip strong coffee and watch the people pass, then head over to the Louvre and pretend not to be an American and fail miserably.

Then again, maybe I’ll just up and head to Santa Fe. Or Livingston, Montana, to hang with some of America’s most fascinating writers. Or maybe I’ll meander out to Yellowstone in January to marvel at this most beautiful of places at the time when it has the fewest humans. Or finally get my butt down to Tucson to let the desert talk to me for a week.

Perhaps finally I’ll go online and book a flight to Montreal and then on to Quebec City so I can work on the little French I know without having to leap the Atlantic.

Or maybe I’ll finally book that small villa in Jamaica. Or St. John’s. Or the Caymans.

Or maybe not.

Maybe I’ll stay home and make the same excuses that have been made before.

And watch it snow.

Madison-based television producer John Roach writes this column monthly. Reach him at

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