When Mary Polly and I boarded our airplane for home at the end of our trip, we had no idea that less than a year later, we’d be living in Scotland.
And though this move has been difficult in many ways, there is no doubt that it is the fulfillment of a dream. (Or an obsession, as Taido says.) On the days the dream threatens to undue me (yesterday was one of those days), I have to remind myself that this is what I wanted.
I even have proof in writing.
A week before Mary Polly and I left on our trip, I ran into a young gal who had just returned home from a season out of the country. We had been swapping study abroad stories at church and I went home that afternoon and penned this letter to her. I thought it would be fun to share it with you.
Letter About Traveling Abroad
I so enjoyed visiting with you at church today. Our conversation about spending time abroad and coming home again has been heavy on my mind all day. I think perhaps it is the timing–one week before Mary Polly and I leave for our cruise in Europe–that has me thinking so much about what travel does inside of us.
Travel, Adventure, Exploring.
They call to me.
Just like they do for you.
When I was your age, I wanted to see the world beyond here so badly, so I jumped at the first chance I got to hop a plane in the name of studying.
To Prague I went with a suitcase full of dreams and a heart full of wonder. I was amazed by truly everything.
My eyes hurt from trying to see so much at once, and even now, I remember being in awe every time I turned a corner.
My heart hurt from trying to squeeze in every person I met, wanting to be dear friends for life with everyone and still hold tightly to all the precious souls back home.
I grew to adore roommates and hallmates. I met people on the streets of Prague, in university classrooms and in cafes.
I walked the halls of museums, scribbling down names of artists I’d never before heard of but wanted to remember forever.
I learned to drink coffee from tiny cups in street cafes. I warmed my fingers on hot spiced wine. I devoured Eastern European novels. I wanted to crawl inside of a tragic Tolstoy character and board a train for Siberia. I wanted the night sky to stay forever over the Charles Bridge. I wore crushed red velvet boho dresses and black lipstick. I ate cheeses that you could smell from another room and rum soaked fruit.
I can’t begin to measure how much LIFE I managed to cram into my months abroad, but I can tell you that I went for it with all my heart, jumping in with both of my Doc Marten boots.
At the end of my time, I longed to go home and to never leave all at once. I cried at going and coming and being.
Back home, I wanted everyone to experience this treasure of discovering somewhere new. I was certain that other people could not possibly be fulfilled without traveling in Europe. Everyone should learn languages and spend half their days overseas, I preached with great conviction.
For weeks, I was that annoying person who says, Well, let me tell you how they do that in Europe…
Soon enough, you learn who cares and who does not. I tried to limit my constant retelling to my family, who would both listen to my stories and openly mock me.
Years later, my parents went to Europe (on the way home from Israel), and they found it no where near as special as I had, which was bitterly disappointing for me.
I can still hear my dad saying, Man, that Vienna is one fancy schmancy place.
(I had shed tears at the beauty of Vienna, falling in love with Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.)
Their experience with Europe caused me to doubt my own, to wonder if I had only dreamed it was enthralling because of my youth. I wanted to go back again and see, but it would be six more years before I did.
Taido and I went to Italy for our 10th anniversary. Like stepping back in time, I remembered the sound of a romantic language, the smells of the train station and the anticipation of exploring a new city full of museums I’d never been to before.
It was a magical week in Italy and we loved every minute.
How relieved I was to discover again how much I loved being overseas and traveling. It was then that Taido and I dreamed up the idea of taking our kids on trips for their thirteenth birthdays, even if we had to do it at the expense of other things (college savings? new cars?) and these days we talk lots about taking our kids abroad for a season.
Friend, it will always be with us, this desire to GO and SEE, so even if you settle near home, make space in your life (and your budget) for travel (and be certain to marry someone who shares your love for it!)
And for now, when you have a choice between doing whatever everyone else is doing and going somewhere new, I would almost always say: Choose travel!
Love you dearly,