Hello everyone and welcome to the blog tour for Abroad!
We’re so thrilled to have Liz here today to talk about going outside your comfort zone and travelling to Amsterdam. She has also brought an excerpt with her so don’t miss that!
Going Outside Your Comfort Zone
ABROAD is very much centered on the idea of going outside of your comfort zone, both literally and figuratively. Nick embarks on a journey of self-discovery in a place he has never been, diving headfirst into the unknown.
So allow me to tell you about the time I made my wife trudge through Amsterdam on a four-hour layover.
The thing you should know about T is that, prior to meeting me, she had only been to one other country—Canada. Not terribly different. She is a nervous traveler to begin with, so when I suggested we go to England for our honeymoon, her first reaction was slight panic. But because she loves me and is constantly evolving as a human being, she agreed. Reluctantly, and kind of clammily.
We booked our tickets and realized that we had a four or five hour layover in Amsterdam. T was prepared to spend it at Schiphol clutching our earthly possessions as nature intended, but it hit me that, well, we were gonna be in Amsterdam.
I had always wanted to go to Amsterdam. Amsterdam was where one of my favorite childhood books Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates was set. More than that, Amsterdam was where Anne Frank had lived. This was, unexpectedly, possibly my only chance to see her house.
I seized it. I researched and read that the Schiphol airport site itself recommends that if your layover is more than three hours long that you go to the city. Well, if the airport is telling me this, it must be a sign. Bravely, I presented the idea to my wife. (At work, where she couldn’t cry from horror.) She blinked at me, absorbed this proposal, and brightly asked, “Can I think about it?”
“Sure!” I said and, completely innocently, left a map of Amsterdam with Anne Frank’s house starred on it on her desk.
As I said—T is an ever-evolving human. After sitting with this proposal for a few days and doing her own thorough research, she agreed. We were DOING it. We were gonna go to AMSTERDAM and I would see CANALS and ANNE FRANK’S HOUSE.
The day of the trip arrived. It was a red-eye, and it was T’s first cross-Atlantic flight. Our screens had maps on them to show where we were in the world, and I would gleefully point at the vast ocean and say, “look where we are!” T would just look at me with bewilderment. We dozed, then an hour prior to descending, the flight attendant bellowed, “Ladies! Breakfast!” as he threw two bananas our way. (This isn’t important to the story. It was just one of the more startling ways I’d ever been served a meal.)
Anyway, we arrived at Schiphol Airport and attempted to figure out how to get anywhere. This was in 2010, so our pickle was thus: our phones did not have non-exorbitant internet on it, we had to make do with printed out maps, and also, our cards didn’t have pin & chip and we only had British money. After some stalling and back and forth with a very angry ticket teller, we managed to get train tickets and actually get on a train. My memory of this whole ordeal involves T’s ashen gray face and very clammy hands.
I should also note that we had our carry-on luggage with us, which was a backpack bigger than my torso for me, a rolling suitcase for T, and two purses between us. It was also raining. It was eight am in Amsterdam, two am our time, and we were bedraggled.
But then, we were in Amsterdam itself. It was very early, and the city was just waking up. It was miserably raw and drizzling. We ducked into a coffee shop where T made me go up and order us coffee and pastries and where we then proceeded to spread out a full-ass map of Amsterdam with no shame and figure out the way to Anne Frank’s house.
It wasn’t too far, and the whole time I led us, I kept marveling at being in actual Amsterdam. Amsterdam! People biking everywhere! Canals! Tiny streets! CANALS! Everything was just so very…Amsterdam.
Finally, we took the last turn, walked up a block, and there it was. Anne Frank’s house. I’d seen a million different pictures over the years, and it still had me rooted to the spot, seeing it in person. It was just another house. It really was just another house, on a street with houses that looked just like it, and it was extraordinary in its ordinariness.
This really had been her hiding place. This was where she’d written most of her diary from, where she would look out into the world and dream.
We stood there quietly for a while. I still had my backpack on, T was holding onto her rolling suitcase. We just looked. It was too early for a tour, and we had a plane to catch. But truthfully, even if we’d had an extra hour or two, I don’t know that I could have made myself go inside. Not with a tour, not while others could see me. Anne Frank had been a part of me from the age of ten, and as I stood there—Jewish, grown up, married, safe—I couldn’t really talk.
Then we took a breath, walked around the block, saw her statue. We messed around by the canal, walking up to the edge, retreating, laughing, because there was nobody else on the street and we were giddy with exhaustion.
Then we trudged back to the train station, boarded a train, and made it back to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Whenever we would tell this story to people afterwards, they would nudge me and go, “Amsterdam, eh? Did you get her stoned?” Which just shows you how little they know my T. Because the last thing I wanted to do was take my already paranoid of travel wife who had never left the continent before, get her high for the very first time, and stick her in a flying tin can.
So no. No, I did not get T stoned. And I think I can safely say that everybody involved is forever grateful.
And I am forever grateful to her for going along with my crazy plan and giving me this incredible memory.
Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?
Nick didn’t feel better in the morning. At three am, his anxiety had been a shapeless thing, with weight and texture but part of dreams, too. A sort of terrifying unreality he had to breathe through.
At eight am, as his alarm shrieked at him to wake the fuck up, the shapeless, textured thing coalesced into something more terrifying than the nightly ghosts. If, at ten years old, he’d been aware that being unable to answer the kids on the bus who asked him why his teeth looked the way they did would someday end, at twenty, he knew better.
He wanted men. He hadn’t really wanted Lena, in all the years they’d been together. He hadn’t really wanted Ashley during sophomore year when they’d kissed in the art classroom, her hair tickling his palms where his hands had trembled on her shoulders, and later humped fruitlessly in her sunroom, sweaty and shaky and half-hard.
He wanted Dex. Of all people, of all the people he had met, he wanted him so much, his hands ached with it. Nick was past denying anything. All he knew now was the whine in his chest that told him truth frightened more than denial.
About the Author:
Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee. All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.