Mom, Me, Dad, Lucas, Shakira (niece), Andrea (sister), Ava (niece)
Preparing for long-term travel can be incredibly exhilerating as the days, months and years leading up to your departure come to fruition. The realization of your perfectly hatched plans inch toward your personal deadlines as the details become solidified. All of the countless research hours, the detailed spreadsheets and careful planning creates a level of comfort on this nonconventional journey as a nomad. But nothing can prepare you for saying goodbye to family, friends and a community who are active in day to day interactions. Venturing abroad means leaving behind social and professional connections but none more important than the relationships of loved ones. Fortunately, we had a community of people that supported our decision to travel long-term so we spent little time validating our life transition. Due to the overwhelming support, we had four going away parties including one from each of our departments at work and two more hosted by both sides of the family. The goodbyes were met with laughter, questions, traveling advice, experiences and itinerary details followed by the exchange of email information and social media usernames.
When leaving loved ones, the actual day of departure can be filled with mixed emotions: the feeling of excitement for the new adventures that lay ahead combined with feelings of anxiety like am I really doing this?
The day before our departure I met my Dad at Marketplace mall as a meeting spot since we were both running errands. We saw each other less than a week ago at the last of the goodbye parties and prepared for the final farewell. To my surprise (because of running joke in my head that my Dad doesn’t eat American food) we shared a bucket of KFC, a few laughs and the final details of my first destination. We took one last selfie and then drove away waving non-stop as we dissolved into traffic in the opposite direction. That wasn’t so bad I thought. Cool.
I stepped into the nearby Target store to make one final stop and a wave of emotion flooded my senses. I began crying. Uncontrollably. I mean sobbing non-stop for 20 minutes. Here I was in the middle of the women’s section, balling my eyes out in the underwear section with a 6-pack of Hanes in my hand. I kept praying that no one would come into the aisle. The truth is, over the years I have mastered the art of bottling my emotions but the last few months of planning and preparing proved to take its course. Suppressing intense feelings can carry a heavy emotional toll. If a customer laid eyes on me, they may have thought I was some unfortunate soul that hadn’t witnessed packaged underwear before. I considered collecting myself in the dressing room that was mere steps away however I didn’t think I could justify entering a changing room with just underwear in hand without getting a few odd stares. So I found what little tissue I had in my winter coat to wipe the tears, pulled my hat down over my eyes and paid for the items on the way out of the store. On the way home, my Dad called to give me a few traveling tips about our passports which was reassuring as I thought I would not hear his voice again until I left the country. But during mid-sentence I just lost it. Again. A jumble of how much I love you Dad and my inner conflict between wanting to see the world and missing my family tumbled out. I’m surprised he could even make out what I was trying to say in between sobs. He responded with “I know the feeling.” And then I cried again. I cried as I assessed the use of my time over my adult years. Did I spent enough time with my family? How many countless hours did I waste working when I should have been visiting my parents? Did my parents know that I thought about them beyond the quick phone calls and texts? All of these questions haunted me as I prepared to be separated from my family for an indefinite amount of time. In the past, I’ve always tried to make family a priority however my constant habit of self-assessment swept over me of what could I have done better. Imaginary guilt sets in and suddenly you realize the advantage of a having a close knit family.
Regardless of the difficult goodbyes, I was certain that this life change was overdue as I was not completely passionate about the direction of my life. Over time, I witnessed my keen sense for perfectionism, which is closely tied to workaholism, morph into a compulsive obligation to be available to everyone and everything except for myself, Lucas and most of all God. The fallout led to late nights glued to the computer, constant communication updates from communities I was involved in and an incredible amount of time wasted as loved ones awaited the completion of the “last” personal or professional project. We rarely had consecutive evenings at home as we continued to pay mortgage for a residence that remained unoccupied. However well intended our goal was as model citizens, the truth is my career and community obligations left me exhausted. Specifically speaking, feeling burnt out. At one point, the community involvement section on my curriculum vitae seemed to be scaling to new heights compared to my relevant experience. An overly scheduled routine and an attendance of the year complex allowed my obligations to manage me rather than the reverse. It took a Twelve Step program and a conscious decision to evaluate whether my behaviors accurately aligned with my definition of living life to the fullest. Like many people, I was living the illusion of a life well balanced but constantly trying to catch my breath in the years that were considered my prime. On top of that, I was constantly living my wanderlust dreams through others while advising others to take risks. It was time to take my own advice.
But I digress, as usual ^_^.
Since our flight departed from Toronto, the time was well spent with my mom during the three-hour drive to Pearson airport. My family from Canada met us at the airport for the final send off which was comforting to know that my mom would not be by herself after the farewell. I tried desperately to hold it together as I hugged the laughs, the crazy jokes and shared moments within her as I planned to leave my best friend. My body trembled and the tears flowed. She was so much stronger than I could have been. I waved until I couldn’t see her anymore past security. And then I cried again and again. Ignoring the data roaming charges, I turned my phone on and texted her and my uncle that I loved them and that I was going to be ok.
By the time I got onto the plane, I knew that I made the right decision considering the price of leaving your family. Our decision allowed us to cherish the sacrifices that made this journey a reality. In saying goodbye to co-workers, family and friends, I sought solace in knowing that we would create a platform to inspire others and the hope of seeing my closest family members at some point in our travels (mom and dad..hint, hint). Since genetics run deep, it’s only a matter of time before the travel bug begins to resurface in our DNA and start biting again.
Special thanks to all of my wonderful family and friends for supporting us! We truly appreciate your guidance and prayers ^_^