Nostalgia

By J.T.

We've been traveling long enough that I've begun to get nostalgic for past parts of our trip. When we were faced with an unbearable volunteering experience in Israel (more on that later), I was nostalgic for our time in Norway, volunteering with Silje and Øyvind. They were so kind to us, and such good company. They really cared about us and we cared about them. Our time there was still one of the best experiences to date, and sometimes I regret that it came so early in our trip that perhaps we didn't appreciate it enough.When we were tired and cold in the Middle East, we started thinking about Seattle, and the nice things about our life back home. Our budget is doing great, but did we really want to keep going until the money runs out or do we want to come back at the end of summer, and chuck the rest into saving for the next big trip? I miss going to the gym, to the farmer's market, and seeing our friends.

Now here we are, renting a flat in Dahab, Egypt, where we will be for another week, getting the rest we needed. After this, we plan to head back to Jordan for a short time and then onto SE Asia. After Asia, back to the U.S. Granted, that's months from now, but faced with the final leg of our trip, I'm nostalgic for the beginning.

 Sunrise over Dahab.

Sunrise over Dahab.

I'm so very nostalgic for the beginning, that, as embarrassed as I am to admit it, I start crying just thinking about it.

Jason had lobbied hard for a long road trip through the U.S. and I'm so glad I relented. We spent three-and-a-half weeks (see our other posts on specifics) meandering our way through the country. I miss that. I miss spending hours driving in the car with Jason, holding his hand, laughing for no reason other than we were finally going. Finally leaving our lives behind for a year of adventure.

I miss how easy the U.S. is. Our couchsurfing hosts in Tel Aviv had said on their last long-term travel adventure, they were getting overwhelmed in India and decided to change their plans and went to the U.S. where they rented a car and drove one end to the other. They chose the U.S. because it's easy. And it is! Compared to the rest of the world, the U.S. is an easy place to travel.

I miss being somewhere where all the prices are clearly labeled on things, and where roads and maps line up. I miss knowing whether or not the person standing behind me is talking about me or the weather.

But it's so much more than that. I miss the farmers' market Ian and Lindsey took us to in Davis, CA. I miss John's backyard in Denver. I miss the time we swam in the Colorado river in Utah, and the cool little coffee shop we discovered in Lexington, KY. I have this very vivid memory of stopping at a grocery store, I think outside of Salt Lake City, and buying carrots for half price ("manager's special") and guacamole for road snacks.

And yet, that doesn't even cover it. I miss the open road before us, both literally and metaphorically. I miss the beginning, because now I am contemplating the end.

 The open road before us, somewhere in the American southwest.

The open road before us, somewhere in the American southwest.

Long-term traveling is hard. There are plenty of ups and downs, and we've learned the importance of going slowly, taking our time in places, and building in periods of rest. But overall, it's so enjoyable, there's so much world to see, that I don't want it to end.

We've already decided that this is not our last around-the-world voyage. We are skipping India, subsaharan Africa, China, Australia, and Latin America. Months ago I started planning our next several long-term trips. So I know that the world will still be there, that we are going to structure our lives around art and travel and adventure from now on.

There are several reasons we are leaning towards heading back to Michigan to spend some time there and pick up our car at the end of the summer.

Our friends have an annual weekend getaway on Lake Michigan every summer, and they are willing to hold it over Labor Day weekend this year so we can go. Last summer was the first time we were able to make it, and one of the highlights of our month in the Mitten. Each year they pick a book and the weekend is spent in a mix of literature discussion, drinking games, and lounging on the beach.

 Photo courtesy of Sarah Peterson (i.e., stolen from her facebook page).

Photo courtesy of Sarah Peterson (i.e., stolen from her facebook page).

We also don't want to push ourselves until we burn ourselves out. Traveling until the money just runs out is really appealing, because we love traveling so much, and at least right now, we just can't imagine settling down. But we have to go back at some point. We can't do it forever, and we don't want to cram everything in until all our experiences just blend together and we can't take anything in anymore. There have been times on this trip where that has already started to happen, though we've learned to manage that with going slower and resting more often.

But the most compelling reason to go back is to spend more time in Michigan. When we ended our month-long stay in Michigan last summer, we couldn't imagine that this would draw us back again. Oh, sure, we knew that we'd stop back again because our car is there and because it will have been at least a year since seeing our families. But spending significant time there (like another month), was the furthest thing from our minds.

I had wanted a summer vacation in Michigan. But we felt so pulled in every possible direction by our families, trying to spend time with everyone, trying to be helpful children and grandchildren, that it wasn't restful at all. We saw people every day and felt like we hardly saw anyone. Really, the summer vacation, the feeling of relaxation, of freedom, came during our road trip, not hanging around Michigan.

In fact, the only thing in Michigan that reminded me of being a kid again was the time I got in a big fight with my sister and she made me cry. We hardly saw our friends. I thought that Michigan, though always my true home, didn't really fit me any more.

But Jason's dad, as most of our friends know, is sick. He has dementia and it's important to us to spend more time with him. I lost my dad a few years ago, and it was devastating. I'd give just about anything to spend one last day with my dad. To even sit next to him if had been in a coma and hold his hand and say goodbye. But my dad died suddenly and I didn't get that chance. So we realize that budgeting in (time, money, and energy) another stay in Michigan is going to be important, and there's really no better time to do it than August/September.

Besides that weekend trip on Lake Michigan, some of our favorite times in Michigan were visiting Jason's dad (he lives in a memory-care facility). It's a bit of a drive from his mom's house (around 30 minutes or so), but we got there a few times a week. It was one of our favorite things to do. We would go over there, and Jason's dad would tell him he was happy to see him, and that he loved him. He would tell him what a good-looking guy he his. It was emotionally hard, too. We had to sneak out, rather than say goodbye. Jason's dad was always looking for Jason's mom.

More compelling than seeing the world, is to spend more time there. Between Jason's dad's dementia, and my dad's sudden passing seven years ago, we understood that if we put off seeing the world, we might never do it. We had to do it before we had kids. Now we are leaning towards not having kids and living a life of adventure. But the world will still be there. Time with Jason's dad is precious, and how much longer he'll be happy to see Jason and tell him he loves him is unclear.

I'm still nostalgic for the beginning of our trip, as we contemplate the end.

But the world will still be there.