So we turned one this month. That is our wandering version of life turned one year old earlier this month. Our last day of employment was October 3, 2008. The following week we headed east to Alexandria, VA and our nephew’s third birthday. And that is where we found ourselves again this October 8th as he turned four and our new lives turned one.
As is well documented here, we spent the next nine days caring for our niece and nephew. My sister-in-law supplied me with the adjectives rich and textured when I was searching for words to describe the week. It was something alright.
At times this week I tried to imagine myself as an actual parent. The real deal. Searching for a feel for what this life would be like full time. I’ve always struggled to determine if I want kids and if so, do I want them enough to actually have them. So this week I hoped to complete an assessment of sorts of any hidden parenting desires. I also spent the week reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Love, Pray. I know, I know, I’m three years behind the times with chic lit. Since most women have some idea of this book, I’ll give a brief dude summary: Crazy Liz Gilbert figures out she isn’t happy and doesn’t want to make babies. A really long divorce later she splits a year between Italy (eating and learning Italian) India (prayer) and Bali ( chilling with a medicine man and other interesting people). Love it or hate it, ELP created a fabulous contrast with the week I was having while also helping me reflect on my own year of travel.
So what great realizations did I get from all this? ELP reminded me that less is certainly more in the travel world. I’ve known this since I was a kid but sometimes it is hard to live it. That mind set certainly didn’t come along on our extended travels of the past year. I know I packed in the van but somewhere we left it behind. Ultimately, we tried to absorb much too much. After a year of going and going, I don’t want to go anywhere but at the same time my mind can’t find a quiet, settled moment. That said this scattered year brought us treasured stories, photos and memories. If practice makes perfect I’m game to keep working on my travel skills.
Another realization is of the emotional maturity sort. I patted myself on the back because it didn’t take divorce and depression for me to find my way to adventure in my 30’s, however ELP helped me uncover one trait that I’ve been slow to recognize; a trait that has both saved and damned me much this past year. I have control issues. I hide this well with a very mellow persona and charming, boundary affirming mantra: Not My Goat, Not My Problem. Really though, I’m a control freak. Not of other people, its even worse than that. I’m always working to control myself, my experiences, practically every second of my day. I dress this up by saying I intend to live deliberately. This is all lofty and smug and to some degree I stand by it. I see so many people who just let life happen to them with less than satisfying results. I don’t want to be that but this other ‘in charge of it all’ side of life doesn’t lead to much satisfaction either. If a year of unscripted travel and nine days of babysitting has taught me anything, it is that to be happy I need to be more accepting of each day, whatever that day may bring.
I liked how Gilbert laid out clear goals for her travel experiences. This might be a healthy outlet for my control urges. For the next year of adventure my goals are finding balance between knowing every option and accepting whatever options find me and somehow reducing the sense of pressure I put on myself to do so much with this time. Less is more.
So now what?
A new adventure awaits with countless opportunities for me to practice being. On November 12th we land in Auckland, NZ. We have work visas, a guidebook and old mates in Gisborne. Cheers to being self-confined on an island nation that is smaller than many of the states we’ve toured this year. This next stage was committed to and planned well before I had the energy to be excited about it. Many times I wanted to forget about it and make far simpler plans to work the winter away at a ski resort. Now though I get more excited each day. Recently it dawned on my that this year my birthday will be in the summer. For a January baby this is remarkable.
Oh and about measuring my desire to have kids? I already have a niece and nephew.