I spent much of the last month in bed, which for me, is a record-level amount of downtime. I slept a lot. I pondered my life. I wrote. It’s funny that so many people set out to travel the world so they can be changed by the world, but for me, it never really works like that. It’s not the travel so much as the misery, the struggle, the moments where you’re way out of your comfort zone. I don’t feel much changed by weeks of puttering around idyllic rice paddies in Bali on a motorbike, but the first time I saw a dead person on the street in Delhi, that changed me. I didn’t feel changed, really, except for my new haircut, by shaving my head and releasing my hair into Mother Ganga just a few weeks later. But living in China did. The brutal cold, the pollution, the realization that there is a line of how far I’ll go for that travel experience, which starts and ends at my son hating Beijing, so we left. But other things change you too, you don’t even have to leave your house — falling in love, having a baby, or getting really, really sick.
This time I did the latter, and I came out of it questioning everything.
It was better than a 12 day meditation retreat with Buddhist monks — which my husband did and the effects wore off after a few days of normal life — there’s really nothing better than losing your health, even for a short period of time, to suck the wind out of you. Breathless, there, in that moment, it hits you. I have to get my shit together.
It’s not easy to explain the sudden shift in my thinking but here it is: Cole needs to be in a bilingual school, we need to find somewhere that’s not a seasonal tourist town to live as a home base, I need less work on my plate, and we desperately need some stability.
You see, when you’re sick with two kids, in a foreign country, you become aware of how fragile the relationships you have really are. There isn’t anyone to bring me chicken soup or to help Drew watch the kids, or to just stop by and see how we are. Sometimes I hear about solo travelers getting sick abroad and it’s so scary, my friend Jenny was in the hospital for weeks and months alone in Thailand. It’s easy to feel like your life is full of friends and family when you have a vast online life, like I do. But when you duck offline for a few weeks, you realize how quiet your life really is, how that feeling of fullness was an illusion, that you’re actually homesick but didn’t know it.
I guess what I’m getting to is that I work too much, I have been traveling for so long that all my friends are other travelers, who are often bouncing around from country to country like me, and I’m scared to raise my kids like that, to rob them of friendships out of my desire to keep traveling.
Still, I can’t leave Mexico until I get a clean bill of health, but this week we’re taking the first small step: enrolling Cole in a bilingual pre-school.
Other big, big changes are afoot, that I’ll reveal in the next few months. Everything is up for grabs.
Image: Trey Ratclif