I sat down to write this afternoon before realizing I unintentionally chose to write on our five month travel anniversary. I’m not sure how we’ve gotten here, but it’s almost the holidays and we have landed in Colombia. We will be here for the rest of 2015.
Five months ago, we landed in Madrid, Spain, bright-eyed and eager for what the next year would hold. Now November, I struggle to grasp all that we have lived for and through in the last few months. I can hardly believe this adventure is nearing the halfway point.
I still have a hard time really putting into words how sacred and heavy this journey feels for me. Every day is like opening a tiny gift, a small box containing joy and life and adventure. I’ve become accustomed, but not bored, with spending almost all my time with Anthony. It’s difficult to remember a life where we rarely saw one another.
While this year is flying by, it’s not so fast that I can’t recognize the mark it is leaving on me. It’s also not going too slow; I surprise myself with how seldom I am homesick. The pace is perfect and, as cliché as it sounds, this year is changing my life, as well as my marriage.
It’s in the little things because, let’s be real, life on the road is tiresome. We are often wandering streets, searching for our next hostel or AirBnB in an unfamiliar place. This is usually after a long plane, train, or boat ride. We have also been following summer around the world so it’s always hot and we are always sweaty.
After settling in and trying to adjust our sleepy eyes to the new time zone, we put on our explorer hats in search for food and water (because it’s rarely free). We eventually develop a flow or routine and then do our best to learn about the place we’re in. And usually, just as it begins to feel comfortable, we hit the road again. Because while we would love to stay everywhere for months at a time, there are just too many places we want to see, people we want to meet, and foods we want to try (I am looking at you South America).
But I’ve learned that all the hassle is just a means to an end.
Adventure is not why I’m here and it’s not what I seek. Pretty pictures and funny stories are nice, but they are not why I quit my life and said ‘yes’ to the whisper in my heart.
The whisper first came last November, actually. At first I thought I was crazy. Everyone else thought I was crazy. You’re not content. You’re chasing something. You’re running away. These were the words rolling off tongues, as well as bouncing around in my mind.
I denied it. I clung to the idea of life abroad. I searched and prayed for a reason behind this tiny whisper in my heart. A whisper that turned into a scream, asking me - no, begging me - to say yes to going into the woods. Saying yes to a life lived deliberately.
My five-month reflection is revealing the truth behind that whisper. This is what it says,
I am running. I am chasing. I’m not content.
Because looking back to where I was, and where my marriage was these past four years, I know I had no other choice but to listen to the whisper in my heart.
In fact, I can’t even compare my past life to what we have now. I start to laugh. It makes me cry. I find myself on my knees frantically whispering, “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you” with tears in my eyes and a meek understanding of the unraveling that is still being done.
Looking back, I can see my future self screaming at the girl drowning herself in wine and tv on the couch. She is shouting,
"Run! Sprint like hell and don’t ever look back. This life - your life that is full of anxiety, bad habits, selfishness, poor relationship skills, depression, self-pity, and lack of confidence - run from it. You don’t want this. This isn’t you and it’s not what you’re made for.
Run to the woods. Sing your song. Scream it so loud that all the world can hear. And don’t come back until you're undone; until your container has been constructed. Stop trying to give up a self that is not yet there. Say yes to the further journey. Venture to wider seas and lose sight of the land. Run!"
While I don’t think everyone needs to physically leave or run to fix their life or relationships, I do believe we have to listen to the tiny whispers of our heart. We have to squeeze life for everything it’s worth. We have to look God dead in the eye and say, “Who are you? Who am I?” We must recognize numbness as a warning sign. For Anthony and I, our whispers led to a physical uprooting. It’s what I needed. It’s what we needed.
And I can’t critique something that has only brought renewal to my soul. This adventure is hard. Outside of the photos and stories, I’m being peeled like an onion; refined with flames. I’m learning about myself and about God and about my marriage. And I am pausing to let the weight of that sink in. THAT was all I asked for when boarding our first plane. THAT was my outcry and prayer. Help me Lord. Help me find you and find me and find my husband.Let that be enough.
Not coincidentally, my word or mantra for 2015 was heavy. It happened while taking a yoga class in Fort Collins. It was when the instructor calmly spoke, “Let yourself go. Allow yourself to be heavy.” Immediately I knew the Holy Spirit was claiming that word for my year.
At first this terrified me. I associated heavy with hard and burdensome. Now though, I can see heavy in every breath I take. I see heavy in the weight of this life, in the physical weight of grace on my being, and in the purposeful steps I now choose to take. Heavy is meaningful. Heavy is living awake. Heavy is being present and allowing joy, pain, grace, peace, and fear to hit you head on - asking it what it has to teach you.
So it is in the little things. It’s in the talks about God, religion, race, poverty, and war. It’s in the moments of waking up beside my husband - something his work schedule didn’t allow back home. It’s in the pleasure of food, silly grins over cheap wine, and freedom dances with people all over the world. It’s in the books we read for pleasure and as a team, later discussing passages over a local cuisine. It’s in the friends we make in spite of language barriers. It’s in the weeks we spend apart, determined to know and love God first, before one another. But mostly, it’s in the belly laughs we share and tears we wipe from each other’s eyes as we try to comprehend the grace we've been given.
This is why we travel.