I know, I know… this blog has grown to be my lifeline to friends and family and I’ve been derelict in my duties. I’ve realized that my life has been shaken and flipped upside down ever since July and I’ve been a little off balance. When I embarked upon my travel year, it was with a plan… a flexible one, sure, but a plan. And even when I adjusted that plan for a work assignment in South Africa, I had a direction. It’s hard to predict how choices will completely alter your course, but that’s what the decision to go to South Africa did for me. And getting sick changed the course again. So, allow me catch everyone up.
After finishing my assignment in South Africa, I went back to the States. I had been ill for the better part of July with tonsillitis and doctors in Johannesburg were recommending an immediate tonsillectomy, but I wanted to go back the US to see a doctor for a second opinion. When I really think about it though, I have to admit, I also wanted to go home. After being away for 11 months, the answer to everyone’s question, “why are you back”, is I missed it… that feeling of home. I arrived in Los Angeles on a gloriously sunny Wednesday afternoon, and that feeling of familiar washed over me like a warm shower. I was so happy and comforted to see familiar sites, deal with familiar problems, and know how to handle all of them. I was instantly at ease.
I went to the doctor, conveyed my story and past symptoms, and he simply gave me an emergency prescription to carry on the road and said I’d be crazy to have surgery after one incident. Again, I was relieved. Surgery was complicated for numerous reasons – no permanent address, no insurance, and two weeks of down time. So, no surgery was music to my ears and by that point, I was feeling almost completely back to my normal self anyway.
I spent the next three weeks in Los Angeles enjoying all of the things that I said I didn’t miss when I was away and it was all the therapy that I needed. Time with friends… sharing stories, laughing until I cried, relishing warm summer nights, visiting my favorite spots, and soaking up some sanity. I went from city to sand to mountains and watched every day melt into sunset.
I’ve been practicing the art of non-attachment this past year – seeing new sites every day, moving just about every week, meeting new people, relishing every moment, learning how to let go and say goodbye. Johannesburg gave me an opportunity to settle in and build some relationships but it still always felt temporary. Coming back to LA and drinking (more like gulping) “normalcy” tonic again, well, it was tempting to fall off the wagon and re-attach. It was all waiting for me – work opportunities, apartment options, workouts, networking circles – all of the things I thought might not be there if I ignored them for a year. I had this nagging feeling though… that if I settled in and fell right back into my old routine, it would be like my yearlong journey was for nothing. I felt like it could be forgotten so quickly and easily. Despite so many coaxing me to stay, there was a little voice in the back of my head cooing, “you’re not done yet, there’s more”.
Thank you to all of the friends who listened to my accounts, my speculations, and my ponderings, and offered their best interpretation of and response to the foreign language that I was speaking. Unlike the first time, I know that I left you all without any conclusive decision, direction, or timeframe. It certainly wasn’t intentional… it was just my current state of affairs.
After leaving Los Angeles, the next stop on the homeland visiting tour was Orangeburg, SC. It is a small town, barely a blip on the map, and I didn’t grow up there, so I truly only go to visit my biggest supporters, my parents. Over the past 15 years, I often saw this little town through my parent’s eyes and I settled into their routine. I went where they went and I met the people that they knew. This time, however, with a completely open agenda, I ventured out on my own a few times and stumbled upon things I never would have known where there. I found a great, little Yoga studio, which had an excellent instructor and a Zen, stylish class setting. I drove through parts of town that I hadn’t seen. I got my Dad to join me on a scenic river walk.
My Dad retired this past year while I was away, so my parents seemed to have a greater sense of adventure too. We all went to Congaree National Park for an afternoon and strolled through the Cypress trees and wild pigs. My parents were even a little adventurous with food and eager to tell me about a new Thai restaurant that recently opened, run by a family who came directly from Northern Thailand. It was like finding a hidden gem – a paradoxical mystery – the exterior didn’t match the interior at all and the food was remarkably authentic. I have no idea how they found all of their ingredients. I’m also a regular sub for the card club now, which is a fun group of ladies. Finally, my sister lives nearby in Charleston, so we made a trip or two into the city to visit with her and her family.
While the newfound exploration and home cooking fed my soul, upcoming work and travel plans unfolded and ultimately made me decide to add a North Eastern road trip to my tour. I missed my standard holiday season trip to Pennsylvania to visit family last year and it was now looking like I was going to miss it this year too. Autumn is the perfect time of year for long drives along winding, colorful, tree lined highways, so off I went. The ten-hour drive gave me the quiet time that I relish for reflection. North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York – I popped around from town to town, household to household, catching up, sharing dinners, visiting family and old friends, meeting new babies, and trying to give undivided attention to loved ones who I see far to infrequently. My answer to “what comes next” changed little by little with every conversation and every day that passed. Emails and phone calls from overseas trickled in to me. There is something about the solitude of the drive and the focus on the road ahead that calms my swirling thoughts. A plan started to take shape. I lingered in New York City amidst friends and the endless hum of energy until the plan was clear and then, I went straight back to South Carolina, to my parent’s house to prepare. In less than a week, I would be back on a plane to a land that has never been on my travel list… I never can predict where the road will lead me.
On October 9th, I left for a 3-month work assignment in Dubai. Revelling in gratitude for an opportunity for continued adventure and discovery. More stories soon to come.