As the old saying goes, “life is short, do what you can while you can.” There are a dozen more aphorisms that would be appropriate to this post, but I’ll spare you.
My uncle Taylor was a career wanderer. In his younger days as a merchant marine he hit locations in Europe, the Americas, Africa and the Middle East. He would disappear for months and years at a time and then show up at my parent’s house long enough to wear our his welcome. The longest I remember him at home was about three months. I’d seen him only a handful of times over the years but he always made an impression. When a rowdy life style, age and ill health caught up with him I moved him from Seattle to a nursing home in Ohio. I was filling him in on about 20 years worth of deaths, births and family events when he teared up and said “Pammy, I guess I sure missed out on a lot of stuff, but I’m glad I saw the world.” That’s enough about Taylor for now because he deserves his own blog post, but I learned an important lesson from him—don’t forget to keep the home fire burning. The last couple years we’ve been gone more than we are home. Like my uncle, I love traveling, though not quite on his scale. In a small way I realize that like him I am in danger of ‘missing out on a lot of stuff.’ The impact I feel is probably a side effect of being older. When you’re young, not much is likely to happen in 4 or six months. In one’s golden years a lot can change overnight. I’m learning what it means to be routinely absent from your regular life.
The first year we were out on the road a close friend died unexpectedly. By the time we got home, his funeral and burial were long past. We sent flowers and a card, but when we returned home everyone was talking about the wake and how special it was, and “too bad you weren’t there.” Like Uncle Taylor we’ve missed weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and many other events in the short three years we’ve been on the road. Social media and email help to keep us in touch and give us the illusion of real time interaction. We are one up on Taylor in that aspect, who sent letters home once in a blue moon with no return address. Still, when we get home, it takes time to reconnect. After a month or two, you drop off people’s social radar, even on social media.
If you are condsidering extensive travel, know that when you finally do land at home that after you unpack, do laundry and catch up on the bills you are going to need to put extra effort into relationships with friends and family. In these hectic times, we all get caught up in busyness and that chunk of time you used to occupy in the lives of others becomes swallowed up by something else and they have to figure out a new space for you. If you’re not attentive, that space will be lesser than before.
The enjoyment of travel has also brought new friends and experiences into our life. I wrote about that in an earlier post about connections. Nothing gives us more pleasure than when we get an email that says “we’re coming through town, let’s get together!” Our world of friends expands every time we land in a new place. That’s comforting especially in a time when we question the general goodwill of humanity. I have learned it still exists in abundance. It’s also good to remember the people who’ve known you longest and still want to hang with you. As I was writing this post, I decided I wanted to use a picture of the front of our house. I couldn’t find any among the hundreds (thousands?) of photos I’ve taken in the last three years, so I had to take one to use just for this post. That tells me I need to step up my home game.
So go, see all you can of the world while you can. Just don’t neglect the stuff at home. Oh, and maybe you should start a blog. People might be interested in what the heck you are doing.