Embarking for Italy, just after a down-to-the-wire deadline to finish my new novel, I found myself between worlds – the exhilarating world of my characters and their troubles and joys, and the grim world of a sold-out flight to Rome on an airline that had just reduced legroom again. (I happen to be a tall woman, and much of my height is in my legs.) The flight was delayed by two hours at take-off and would add another two hours of delay en route. Low cloud ceiling and rain in Chicago meets ash cloud from Icelandic volcano and I had a situation that cried out for Deep Travel.

I'd already been thinking about it, though. Having read an early copy of In Motion, I was aching to test drive the ideas that so excited me; and I held myself in readiness, a sort of licking my finger and raising it into the wind. This experiment kept the unexpected length of the departure in check, while I waited to see what might occur.

Despite a sense of collective cheer at departure (finally!)—the flight wasn't—couldn't be—a happy experience. Strapped into my seat with its shorter-than-ever legroom, I submitted to the familiar diminishment of travel: reduced to a unit of a crowd, ruled by brute need for food, drink, access to the toilet, and to mindless distractions offered on the tiny screen on the seatback in front of me.

Even so, an excitement seized me. I recalled my younger self, when, at the age of twenty-four, I embarked on my first overseas trip. I remembered my eagerness, a pinch-me sense of gratitude, and a willingness to undergo all rigors – overcrowding, uncertain meals, interrupted sleep – to prove myself worthy to travel. Remembering that, I felt myself break free from the endless, practical, list-making mode that, of necessity, immediately precedes travel; and a series of thought explosions came that started small and seemed to grow.

I followed my thoughts willingly, made aware, by reading In Motion, that entering the state of Deep Travel requires dislocation. Flight, even strapped in a narrow airplane seat, brought a sense of coming unstuck, unnerving, but free. A clicking along sense of solving conundrums—stuff that had bugged me before leaving home, began to occur. I took out my travel journal, and scribbled down as much as I could of this, scrawling happily for hours. I also revisited the novel I'd just written, not so much as a narrative, but as a continuous time-ribbon of bodies in motion. I scribbled a map of where my two protagonists went. They walked, flew in planes, encamped together in a hospital room where a grand old man was dying, ran around in a taxi, went out on a river in a canoe and returned on an airplane.

This mapping amused and cheered me as I eased toward the jetlagged arrival. Rumpled, hollow-eyed adults, fussing kids, and the trials of baggage claim, customs and immigration immediately ahead, shook my focus on getting to and staying in Deep Travel. Yet, all of this seemed like a sort of hazing, in order to pass "Go!"

And then, I was in Rome, free of the airport, and taking the short train trip to the central station. Adopting a practice described in In Motion, I continued scribbling as fast as I could, knowing that the awestruck, critical-for-learning, early phase of travel, when the senses seem blown open by a new place, passes within 48 hours. I noted on the scruffy banks beside the tracks, among trash and cinders, poppies in bloom, and elderflowers, chestnuts fruiting, and also a scraggy yellow thing that looked like a common weed of the American Midwest, goatsbeard.

Rome wasn't my ideal destination. In previous trips, I'd hurried through on my way to my beloved Florence, glad to leave behind a city that seemed so noisy, dirty and mobbed. Roman art and architecture struck me as gargantuan and unnecessarily fancy. I didn't know how to relate. But, this time I wasn't so concerned with relating. Generously invited to join a two-week house party in Rome, I decided to seek unfamiliarity as a way of waking myself up more fully to what was around me, and also, inside me. As Tony Hiss writes, "the willingness to have been mistaken, the wish to absorb further, the sense that there is something still to be learned only steals over us when we consider what is in front of us worthy of respect."

Starting with the goatsbeard by the tracks, I began learning Rome. A few minutes later, in a cab, I passed below the enormous marble monument to Victor Emmanuel. Acres wide, surrounding the bronze statue of the king on a bronze horse, 30 feet high, a huge typewriter shape of blindingly white marble steps and columns stands, adorned with oversized winged lions, bronze angels, and flags. Laughable? Maybe. I'd read about the monument and had had it explained to me. But travel offers something better than explanation: direct, sensory experience.

Because the monument is a sculptural shape, a body, as I am a body, I tried a little of what Hiss calls "first person science." What if I abandoned my personal sense of aesthetic taste, and instead, encountered the monument as a big amazing something that other people a century ago had somehow found worthwhile to build? What if I let my body explain it to me? In the long afternoon light, all that white marble could as well be ice or great slabs of undyed butter. I began to surrender to delight.

A few days later, on Pentecost Sunday, which for Christians marks the day the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus's apostles, I sat inside the Pantheon, nearby to the tomb of the painter, Raphael, on one of the many folding chairs set up by St. Maria of the Martyrs Catholic Church. At a signal at the end of Mass, a troupe of firefighters atop the dome, began dropping bushels of rose petals down through the wide oculus, to shower the crowd far below. This symbolic but boisterous enactment of the descent of the Holy Spirit thrills believers and nonbelievers alike. People on the floor, especially children, gathered up handfuls of petals and threw them aloft again, to increase the intensity of the shower. The feel of the petals and their odor crushed underfoot, the soaring light within the Pantheon. Ah, travel! Ah, Rome!