The winter before last, Alisa and I escaped the rainy Pacific NW and traveled with my family in search of warmer climes. Our journey took us briefly to the Turks and Caicos Islands – a British territory in the Lucayan Archipelago. While most in our large group gathered around the beach and bars designated for tourists, Alisa and I set out quickly in a taxi into town. We spent the morning walking the streets of Cockburn Town and talking with the local vendors. On the main street, we wandered up to a two story colonial building with a wrap-around second story balcony ringed by a turquoise and white railing. Out front a nautical sign read: “Turks and Caicos National Museum” The small and well- curated museum is home to the oldest European shipwreck found in the Western Hemisphere, dating back to the 1500’s. What remains of the caravel serves as a reminder of the conflicts and destruction created by past world explorations as well as the risks assumed by those on board. It also served as a stern warning to visitors of the island: at sea, you are at the mercy of nature. She is in charge.
Less than two weeks out from our departure, this warning and several other thoughts have been whirling around in my mind.
When people have asked me whether I’m excited for our trip, I’ve responded that I’m somewhere in between panic and denial.
No one warned me that part of the preparations that one needs to make before traveling around the world for over three months includes coming to terms with some realities. Leaving the comforts of our home and our over-sized and overly attached cat is going to be tough. In your 20’s, before roots have taken hold, traveling comes more naturally. All you need is a backpack, directions to the nearest hostel, some cash, and a few months to burn. In your 40’s, the list of obligations is long, the concerns about the declining health of family members is ever-present, and the ability to extract oneself from one’s work life is near impossible. Add to the list that we’ve grown more risk-averse. Hence, panic and denial.
Mentally, Alisa and I haven’t prepared any more than we did for our three week honeymoon. We’ve been through all of the travel plans, confirmations, packing preparation, and checklists you can imagine.
But we’ve been so busy, we haven’t had time to visualize ourselves “on the road.”
So, in the week ahead, we have work to do. And not in the form of e-mails and text messages. And, not just reexamining the adequacy of our first-aid kit. We need to begin a process of being more mindful about what we’re getting into. It’s something we hope to do each day of our 100 days. Take some moments to be aware without distractions. Appreciate the significance of our surroundings and the history of the place we’re in. Stand in front of the shipwreck and hear what it’s telling us.