We are 6 weeks into this journey (though the blog is currently in week 3 somewhere), and our travels have been going really well. As we’ve traveled we have met so many wonderful people, and the trip always comes up in conversation. National Park enthusiasts always wonder what park we will head to next and which we have already passed through. Hikers and adventurers pass off wonderful tips for trails and sights. Restaurant recommendations have come in as quickly as “be sure not to miss…” advice. Many people want to know if we will hit every state on the journey (the answer being a resounding no, we are traveling way too slowly to even come close). Still others are simply amazed that we are traveling in such a small car.
But with so many of the people we encounter, one of the questions we are most frequently asked is, “What motivated you to do the trip now?”
There are many answers, of course. The timing was right – I wasn’t working, and Sriram is in a job flexible enough to let him take the time off. We could afford it. And it was something we’d already talked about doing sometime in the future – likely when we’d paid off our home.
So, why now? For us, the question was more, why wait?
Sixteen years ago today, at the age of 55, my father passed away. Complications of brain cancer proved too much and he was gone far too soon. We were extremely close and it was a devastating blow. I was 25.
He and my mother had always talked about traveling in retirement. There was talk of RV trips and maybe even a cross country trip (and I recall my dad having this sort of half-baked notion of retiring to a houseboat in the Florida Keys). To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to their retirement plans. I only know that they never got the chance to see them through.
So, in answer to the question, well, this trip is a little bit of a “carpe diem” moment for us. We don’t know what the future holds. We only know that we can do this thing now, and hold the memories of it with us for a lifetime, however long that may be.
I know this trip is a luxury that not many can afford. But I also know that life, too, is a luxury. We get no guarantees. Too often we put off living for another day, another time. The reasons are usually good, and for my parents, raising five children left little time (or money) for travel. It was always something they’d do later. Later just didn’t come.
My advice to all would be, be careful what you put off to tomorrow – we only get so many. Live life now, in whatever way is most meaningful to you.
I’ve seen a quote, always listed as “author unknown” that states, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” It’s a good lesson, one that I hope to hold onto as I age. But I’ve been reminded so many times in the last few years of how fragile our hold on life can be, and if I’m not one of the privileged ones I hope to go knowing that I truly lived.
I’ve thought of my father often on this trip – when in “Little Finland”, whenever I’ve seen interesting birds or long trains (if I had a nickel for every time he told that story about that time in the Air Force…), and so many other small moments. In those moments I know that this is the right time.
I love you dad.
I miss you.