When last I posted, I was writing from Toronto, Canada about our adventures in Italy. That was a little over two weeks ago, and although I didn’t intend for it to happen, writing blog posts swiftly plummeted to the very bottom of my list of things to do. Perhaps I should have known better: There is a breathless anticipation in the air at this time of year, no doubt compounded by the fact that the days are so short right now, as night falls around 4:30pm, and so it feels like there is never enough time to get anything done and that the day is ending before it ever truly begins. I love Christmas, but up until the day itself when we all collectively slam on the brakes and screech to a stop and finally chill out, it tends to feel a little more manic than merry.
As we hurtle towards the holidays, life seems to get increasingly hectic, regardless of whether we’re juggling writing this blog with the graphic design & marketing work we do that actually pays our bills and allows us to travel, or not. So, I guess that’s why we decided to swap out holiday parties for farewell get-togethers and throw all the planning and packing of an international road trip with our dogs into the mix as well. We’re never one to do things by half measures, and it seems we’ve yet to master the art of mitigating, rather than maximizing, stress.
Although we never intended for our time in Toronto to be anything but temporary and our time hasn’t always been easy, after nearly six months at home, picking up and leaving required significantly more effort and was a little more trying than we had gotten accustomed to during our two years out in the world. Despite our best efforts, we had accumulated more stuff than we had realized and had also rekindled relationships with friends and family, which were certainly the highlight of our time back home and definitely made it difficult to detach and move on; at times it was hard adjusting to “regular life” back in North America, but with our friends it was so easy to slip back into weekly dinners and happy hours and reality tv dates and feel like we were exactly where we should be, surrounded by people we adore and who love us just as much.
There were moments when our stay in Toronto felt glacial and interminable, but as is always the case with transient things, by the end it felt it had gone in the blink of an eye, the beat of a heart. I still can’t believe that our time back in Canada has come to its close and it’s time to move on. It’s a difficult time for me to wrap my mind around, to talk about in a coherent—never mind eloquent—way because it was a time of such paradoxes. I struggled to assimilate in some ways, but I also slipped back into old patterns and routines and relationships without any hesitation or difficulty. I felt eternally changed by our travels, but I also felt during our time in Toronto that I was effortlessly morphing back into the person I was before we left to see the world too. It didn’t always feel right to be back in Toronto, but it didn’t necessarily feel wrong either, and while I sometimes felt frustrated and stifled by a life I didn’t always feel I was meant to be living, there were moments of satisfaction and much needed idleness after two years of constant movement. The city felt familiar yet foreign, and I treasured our time there, but loathed it as well.
I got good at goodbyes on the road because we said a lot of them, but six months at home undid me a little bit, unknotting some of the changes I experienced while traveling that felt like they would stick around for good. Our final two weeks in Toronto were filled with so many lasts that broke my heart, and I’m not sure I made it through a single day, or a single goodbye, without crying. That in and of itself is not a bad thing, but I was unsettled at how much getting ready for our next adventure has felt like exactly like it did the first time around, 2.5 years ago. It unnerved me how much life—how much I—six months after traveling looked like the same as six months before it. I respect that there is something poetic in the notion of coming full circle, of traveling the world only to find yourself right back where you started, but I HATED feeling like I was going backwards, like I had failed to evolve and grow, like the default status of my life was one I found untenable. Shouldn’t I know the deal by now? Shouldn’t saying goodbye to the familiar and hello to the unknown be old hat? The more I found our life in Toronto mirroring the life we had been living in Nashville 2.5 years ago, the hazier my recollections of our time on the road became and the more I felt I was losing my grasp on who I was too. Sometimes I would look through old blog posts and our still-to-be-shared photos and the enormity of what we had accomplished would hit me like I was discovering it all for the first time, almost as though I were living the adventures of a stranger rather than reliving my own exploits. “Where did the time go and how is this our life now?” I found myself wondering. “How did we travel so far only to wind up back here?”
Despite repeated practice, it was—as it always is— hard to say goodbye to Toronto, a place I somehow both love and hate. Following our final night hanging out with friends, as we made our way home along a now familiar route, I was overcome with sadness as I realized I had no idea when we would next drive this way and see these sites and next spend an evening laughing with these friends. After two years of embracing unpredictability and the unknown, I found myself prematurely pining for the loss of a cherished routine. Tears tracked down my cheeks and I choked back sobs as I said to Tony, “I never want to be here, but I’m always so sad to leave.”
I think I finally understand, it’s not the going that makes traveling so difficult so much as it is the leaving.
I’ve often found that the most important choices we make tend to be the hardest ones. And so while in some ways it would have been easier if we could say our two years of traveling were enough, that they had sated our wanderlust and quieted our curiosity, that now we were ready to settle down and live a conventional life…that would be a lie. We came home before we were really ready, still on fire to see the world, and that never changed, even if we got comfortable and attached to the good parts of life at home. The truth is, for all the benefits of home—the stability, the ease, the relationships—the longer we were in Toronto, the more I kind of fell apart. My depression crept back, but even worse has been my ever-escalating anxiety. For the past three months, palpable fear has been my alarm clock: I would wake up in a blind panic with pulse racing and stomach churning. Throughout the day, I’d find my anxiety would lessen, but I’d often spend the first few hours of each morning consciously having to coax myself to breathe and trying to sooth my somersaulting brain. Some of this was surely due to pre-trip jitters—the amount of loose ends we had to tie up before leaving often felt insurmountable—but I felt like I was barely holding on and it was taking all of my effort to take care of the basics that would simply allow me to survive the day.
So even though staying put is often easier than moving, it was also impossible for us, and what can be harder than that? I’ve lived in a prison of helpless fear before, and that is the one thing from my old life that I refuse to circle back to. As we crept towards the middle of December, it felt unfathomable that it was time to leave, but I made it through each day and slowly we packed up our bags and our dogs, and through a curtain of tears I said goodbye once again. Just like last time, I didn’t feel ready to leave and I felt scared to once more turn toward a horizon filled with uncertainty and risks and gambles. But just like before, we couldn’t let fear of the unknown stop us and I accepted that for some things, you could spend a lifetime and never really feel ready. Sometimes, you just have to get in your car and drive away.
So we did.
For what it’s worth, ever since we’ve been on the road, my anxiety has all but disappeared. I’ve been sleeping through the night and waking feeling easy and peaceful. Now that my body is moving, it seems my mind is finally quiet and calm.
I write this to you from Rochester, Minnesota, Tony’s hometown and our base for the next four weeks or so. It’s my first time back in the States—a country I lived in for seven years—since we first left out on our travels. It feels like a betrayal when I, a Canadian, reveal that I actually kind of love it here, that I missed it, and I’m happy to be back. We’ll spend the holidays here and continue to work and prepare for our travels, and then eventually we will lather, rinse, repeat and be back on the road. I’ve mentioned it before, in a round about way, dancing around our next destination because I guess I was afraid something would happen to derail us and I didn’t 100% believe we’d be able to make it happen or that I’d state my intentions and then not be brave enough to follow through on them. Secretly I worried that those other two years we spent traveling were a fluke, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. After all, that’s all they were meant to be.
But now that we’re no longer “stuck” in Toronto, it feels like we’re actually moving forward and that we’re really going to make our next big travel dreams come true. We’re one step closer to turning a once-in-a-lifetime adventure into a lifetime of adventure. We’ve got a car, we’ve got our dogs, we’ve got work that we can do anywhere with internet, and we’ve still got so much of the world to explore. I don’t have hard dates or specific route planned just yet, but here’s what I know: In early 2015, we’re driving to Mexico!
(We have done some haphazard planning, largely leafing through guidebooks and putting virtual pins on virtual maps. To be perfectly honest, though, we’ve mostly just been consumed with getting to where we are now, figuring we could sort out the how of getting to Mexico and where we’d like to visit/base ourselves as we wend our way through it once we got here. And now we are here, so once we start putting together something that sounds like a plan, I will post it so, at the very least, we can look back in a couple of months and laugh at how ambitious/naive/unrealistic we were.)
In the interim, we’ll continue sharing stories, both old and new. Things might get jumbled but that’s all part of the adventure. As always, thanks for being a part of it, and wherever you may be spending it or what you might be celebrating, we wish all of you the very best this holiday season!