I left home when I was 15 years old. I refuse to call it "running away" because I wasn't running from something as much I was just moving on. Oh, I was corralled eventually, but I just left again, and then again. Even when I married at 18 and started having babies; three in three years, I scoured the corners and the neighborhoods of the many states we landed in, tucking the babies in their car seats with a bag of cheerios every weekend or whenever the waitressing or secretarial jobs or college schedule gave me an opening. Into the hazy hills and rivers of Tennessee, bug-laden and heartworn. The cornfields and little towns of Nebraska, heavy with rattlesnake lullabies in summer and bone-quiet snow drifts in winter. And the Pacific Northwest, where I would discover Ocean in its primordial form, jurassic forests, mountains with secrets. Then there were what were in retrospect, foolish and epic forays with little money to Bali and Costa Rica where Ocean opened its doors and, when I ran through, taught me respect. Where I swept dirt streets with old women, swam with hammerheads, and ran my hands over carvings in temples telling stories of virgin births thousands of years before a man named Jesus was born, across the globe. I left my babies, or took them with me, and returned again, each time altered, and each time larger so that I felt, each time, as if I didn't fit where "home" was.
I have never believed that I am broken. When I'm not travelling, I'm planning travel, but don't call me a malcontent. Quite the opposite, even when I was poor, in a loveless marriage, in a dead end job, I'm pretty sure that I was happier than most people because I knew something they didn't. About how big the world was. This is a secret that only a few people know:
You will never see it all.
You will never grow tired, you can never be bored, above water and below it, there is more than any of us, no matter how interepid, how much money, will ever experience in our lifetimes.
Our lives are much too short.
When I realized this, it made me a free woman. It freed me from religion (more on that another time), it freed me from fear.
After my marriage crashed and burned, and a disastrous rebound left me nine months later with the only good thing to come out of the whole pathetic mess, I papoosed baby girl on my back and headed for Central America. I'm not sure what I intended by this, but what I certainly didn't intend was the car wreck, another wreck of a relationship, a wreck of a financial situation, the start of a custody battle and the four-year divorce. But baby girl spent her first birthday dancing on a Honduran beach surrounded by Italian and Spanish and love. Always love.
William Least Heat Moon, travel writer, once said:
“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.”
This is what my dining room table looks like on any given day. You weren't sure I was serious, were you? And you haven't even caught a glimpse of my bookshelves, not to mention my Kindle Ipad app.
Then there's Z. My person. I don't want to travel without my person. The only thing better than travel is getting to experience it all with the man I love. But Z wouldn't know wanderlust if it sashayed up to him in its birthday suit and gave him a lap dance. While he did the whole hippie, world tour thing with a baby on his back in the 70s, since then, travel for Z has revolved around what couch he could stay on at a family member's house, or who had a timeshare to crash at, or where the next rotary meeting or criminal defense attorneys shindig was. It wasn't a money thing, it was a *comfort* thing.
Then there's me. My general prerequisite for a travel destination is not knowing anyone there.
We have for the most part mastered this sticky situation with aplomb. I learned to golf, he became certified to scuba dive, I go to his family functions, and in return, he sucks it up and keeps his passport up to date and his wardrobe diverse. We have skiied Whistler, dogsledded Wyoming, dove the Great Barrier Reef, hiked our way through New Zealand, watched the Packers win at Lambeau, and saw New Year's Eve fireworks in the snow in London. We've strolled the quiet streets of Paris in winter, ferried to Robben Island in 100 degrees off Cape Town, dodged a black mamba snake in Sabi Sand, pushed a zodiac into the waves off the coast of the Kwazulu Natal where we saw rays the size of cars. We've seen a pride of lions after a war, walking wearily through wild sage in Botswana, wounds deep, and a wild dog, abandoned by her pack, adopt jackals. We have stood speechless at the mighty Victoria Falls, straddling Zimbabwe and Zambia, drenched in that thundering, terrifying place. We have been awakened in a tent by hippos in Botswana, and drank tea with the roar of lions at sunrise.We've been charged by a rhino and elephants, and seen giraffe and impalas taken apart. We've swam with sharks in Tahiti, sat out storms in an overwater bungalow in Fiji, drank champagne in a field of kangaroos, and walked at night with koalas in trees overhead.
Then we go home to Hawaii.
And we haven't even scratched the surface yet.
I will never see it all.
But though Z is much older than me, it is I who feels the press of time, the desire to avoid regrets, the uneasy churning of sand through an imaginary, freakishly fast hourglass, the one that sits like a pacemaker in my soul.