We’ve been out of the country for a few days now and already we are feeling “behind” because we had images of several blog posts being published by now. We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is a journey, and a long road lies ahead, and there are no true time constraints. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to let go of the rush of everyday life and accept the fact that it’s okay if we don’t self-impose deadlines on ourselves. A lot has happened in the past few months; a lot has happened in the past week. We chose to leave the chaos of the rat race for a time and yet we still find ourselves being bound to it. I can tell we have a lot to learn.
So my first “real” post is actually focused more on what we’ve left behind during this journey – many of our loved ones – than on what we’re going towards. So that we could appreciate and focus on the importance of our loved ones for a little while before starting this journey, we took a week and a half before leaving for Europe, and did some more local travel, spending time with and saying goodbye to many friends and family members.
First and foremost, we drove to Telford, PA, to say goodbye to my grandparents. Grandma Elsie hugged us both tight and reminded us to stay safe. We then drove east to NJ to visit my sister and our nieces Emily and Allie. What a whirlwind of fun – there were kittens to play with, You Tube videos, pool games, an ice cream outing, sparklers, board games and Rock Band! But the best moment by far was when little Allie suggested we move in with her when we come home from our travels. From there we drove north to Connecticut to spend a few nights with one of our best friends, Stacey, and her daughter Elizabeth, aka our niece “Pez”. We spent the day at the local amusement park, Lake Compounce, where Pez buried her eyes in Elliott’s shoulder as she allowed him to take her on the “scary ghost ride.” A long beautiful drive north and west took us to Toronto, where we spent time with Elliott’s cousins and uncle and aunt, and met our newest and youngest family member, Nathaniel. And then we were off to the Jersey Shore for a few days to spend time with Dad and his wife Ann and her family. It was the trip before the trip.
The last few days at home were spent trying to tie up loose ends and buy last minute pack-list items. But as we often find in life, things don’t go as planned. We found out our insurance plan had never been canceled as expected. Our tenant’s air conditioner broke. And then, the worst thing – the thing you never want to happen. My beloved Grandma Elsie, my mom’s mom, whom we had visited just a week before, passed away on Thursday, July 12th. It was a time of very mixed emotion for me, as I tried desperately to be with my loved ones and at the same time get ready to take on this monumental journey. The airline could not accommodate changes, meaning I’d miss the funeral. Thank God we took the time to go and visit with my grandparents one last time to say goodbye, I thought. But there is never a good time to lose a loved one. Elliott reminded me that now both my mother and my grandmother could come with us on our travels.
Through the chaos and sad emotion, we knew we would somehow get things in order enough to leave. On our last night at home, I had planned a birthday and farewell dinner for Elliott with all of our close friends. Although we weren’t at all in the mood to celebrate, and it was hard to put side our feelings of stress and sadness, we knew it was just what we needed. Sure enough, within a few hours of being surrounded with so many wonderful friends, we were feeling better. In attendance were the friends who are storing our belongings, the friends who are keeping our car and planning to drive it up and down their driveway so the tires don’t rot, the friend who has his fridge and freezer filled with our food. The friends who are handling any problems our tenants encounter. The friends who helped us move not once, but twice in the same year. The friends who were planning to drive us to the bus station the next day, and the friends who will pick us up when we get back in October.
Thinking about how many different friends and family have helped us get to where we are, suddenly made us feel very blessed, and it became easier to focus on what we have rather than what we have lost or even what we may gain in our travels over the next year. We often talk about how the next year may change us drastically, and about all of the knowledge and insight we hope to gain as we try surround ourselves with different lands and cultures. But I already know the very best things about this year of travel will be the people, love and support we have to return home to.