My stomach is in knots. I’ve done this before, traveling abroad. And I’ve traveled for an extended period before. But, this time feels a bit different.
You see three years ago I took off for what ended up being 14 weeks. I wasn’t sure how long it would be, but three to four months seemed about right. I had quit my job in Colorado and moved back to my hometown of Cincinnati, settling in with my aging parents. At the time they were just entering their 80’s and doing reasonably well. So, off I went to Turkey, Greece, Italy – letting wind blow me wherever. I was free! And, it taught me that I could travel long term – that I was meant for it.
But, now, a little over three years later it’s different. Mom has had some significant health issues and Dad has had some minor ones. Things have changed. I have changed. There is other family around to help out – my sister is very close by and a saint. My brother and his wife are moving back to the area after being away for a few years. I have grown nieces and nephews with kids of their own who are all (but one) living nearby. But, I’m the one who lives in the house with them and sees the day to day and can help with the day to day.
So, as I sit here with my bags all packed, ready to go, my heart feels heavy. Three years ago I felt far more carefree about my travels. Heck, I don’t think I bought travel insurance. Now, as excited as I am to take off and travel around one of my favorite countries, Italy, and spend a little time in a new country, Switzerland, I also feel a tug at my heart. Leaving was not easy last time, but it wasn’t that difficult. Leaving this time is hard. Really hard. You realize how precious the time is with them. And you realize that by leaving for a couple of months that you are giving up that time with them. You feel a bit selfish.
However, you also know that parents, being parents, want their children to be happy. And, I am certainly happiest when I am traveling, exploring, photographing, learning. So, off I’ll go. But, I think this time there will be a big piece of my heart right here in the house I grew up in, with the two most important people in the world.