“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous
Today is the big day! Our adventure of traveling the world for 6 months begins. Glenn actually left a couple of days ago to visit the town he grew up in – Bishop, California. Today I’m headed to Napa Valley to reunite with some amazing women I used to work with in college. Glenn and I will reconnect in a few days for a brief visit to New York, then on to Ecuador!
It turns out that preparing to step away from the day-to-day for an extended period of time is an awful lot of work! So many details to take care of. How will the car insurance get paid while I’m gone? Is the credit card on file at the vet? Does the furnace need serviced? Who will water my office desk plants? Do I need a vaccine for Yellow Fever? We’d get two things marked off our “to do” list, and three new ones would appear.
But, what’s done is done. And what’s not done is…
I can’t worry about it now. Now, I need to keep my eyes looking forward. But, not so far forward that I miss the amazing things that are about to unfold right before me.
I have no doubt that this trip is going to be like nothing I have ever experienced before. This isn’t going to be one of our typical vacations. No doubt Glenn and I will come back with grand stories to tell and pictures to share; but we will also come back changed. Changed in the way we see ourselves, changed in the way we see each other and our relationship, and changed the way we see the world.
Every time Glenn and I take a trip I come back with a new perspective or a new appreciation for how others live, think and feel. I tuck these little epiphanies away in the treasure chest of my soul and find that they shape how I move through the world going forward.
For example, many years ago we did a hiking tour of the islands of Greece. I was shocked to learn about how much of their heritage had been stolen, plundered and destroyed not just by invaders, but also scholarly archeologists and private collectors. Their stolen artifacts are scattered across the globe, many on display in prestigious museums, never to be returned (despite repeated requests by the Greeks). Never again will I view cultural artifacts in a museum (especially Native American artifacts) without questioning the right of that institution to have those items in their possession.
Our trip to Ireland gave me an appreciation for hard it is, especially in this day and age, to keep a culture alive. We toured through a Gaeltacht region – an area where the Irish language (i.e. Gaelic) is still spoken. Many Irish families send their children to schools in these regions where they learn Gaelic through full emersion. The niece of our tour guide regaled us with hysterical stories of her escapades while being forced to attend these schools during her summers as a teenager. After a fair bit of hard cider and Guinness we attempted some traditional Irish dancing (it was similar to square dancing) at a local pub. Many of the locals had never seen or done this type of dancing; including the nice gentleman I was paired with who had just stopped in to the pub “for a pint” while waiting on his car to be repaired the next town over. In talking with many of the older folks in the area it was clear they could feel their culture – their language, their music, their dancing – slipping through their fingers.
In Vietnam I was struck by the deepness of their familial bonds. They worked so hard – doing truly backbreaking work – to make a better life for their families, especially their children. And the children in Vietnam were the happiest, most cherished children I have ever encountered. As we rode our bikes through rural villages the children would run out to the road to give us high-fives. Their joy absolutely bubbled to the surface and came out in huge face-splitting grins and giggles that traveled for miles. Even though most of these families were living in great poverty, they were clearly wrapped in love and a deep and abiding commitment to one another unlike anything I have ever seen.
My friend Kim recently posted a journal entry about traveling and it really spoke to me, especially this last bit: “Yes, yes, it is a blessing to travel. But it is more of a blessing to step out of your skin, away from yourself, into a fresh place or an ancient, dusty one. To be you, whoever that is, to become more you over time and miles.”
So, our bags are packed and this time next week we will be stepping off a plane in Ecuador. I can’t wait to “become more me over time and miles.”
I’d tell you the details of what we’ll be doing in Ecuador and where we’ll be headed after that…but that would spoil the surprise! Be sure to subscribe for email alerts for new posts and/or “like” this blog’s Facebook page to make sure you don’t miss what’s next!
For those that are particularly curious about what I have packed in my bags, I’ve included the list in the comments section below. It’ll be interesting to see what I decide to ditch along the way…and what I wish I had thought to pack.