I’ve talked about starting this blog for almost a year now. I’ve done research, taken all kinds of notes, and traveled a lot, adding to a vast cache of potential content for a travel blog. I’m taking the plunge now by joining the blogosphere, but I do ask that you forgive any rookie mistakes I make as I feel my way through this virgin territory.
I dedicate my first post to my late mother, Peggy, as she is (mostly) the reason I decided to start this blog. I’m about to commit a blogging faux pas and post about a sad and somewhat depressing topic. This is a necessary evil, as it will explain the heart of the matter at hand.
My amazing mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March of 2011. This rocked my world, and it started to crumble. My mom was one of the most positive and optimistic people I’ve ever known, and she was determined to beat “this monster.” She even created a Caring Bridge page to update friends and referred to herself as a “pan-can survivor”. Her doctors were quite positive about her diagnosis and treatment as well, since her tumor was detected so early and completely removed during a pancreatectomy procedure at MD Anderson in Houston.
After her surgery, she remained radiant, healthy and positive, traveling throughout the summer with my dad. Everything seemed to be going so well. Then she suddenly had a blockage in her intestines and could not pass any food through her system. The doctors assured us that it was likely just scar tissue caused by her radiation treatments, which was somewhat common, and her surgeon explained how he would perform surgery to remove the obstruction. She went in to surgery November 23, the night before Thanksgiving Day. I was at dinner with a friend near by (I had been at the hospital all day and the night before and stepped out to get something to eat) when I got the message to come back to the hospital. My stomach dropped. When I arrived, my brother and father greeted me in the hall and told me the worst news that I’ve ever received in my life. Mom’s cancer had spread. It was covering her entire abdomen, and it was inoperable. The prognosis was that she had a week, maybe a few if we were lucky. I collapsed to the floor in inexplicable agony.
I won’t delve in to the details of the depths of despair one feels with the loss of someone you can not live without, but I will say that almost a year later, I’m still in excruciating pain and long to hear her voice and hug her every single second of every day. My mother passed away 11 days later, on December 4th, just three days shy of her 59th birthday. Before she passed, we had a conversation with an old friend of Mom’s. She said that I was going to write a book. I explained that this is definitely on my life-goal list, as I have always had a passion for writing and dreamed of being published- for real (I am technically a published co-author, as I cowrote a chapter in the book Peace Paradigms, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company 2005). I mentioned my passion for traveling to learn about different cultures and geographies and how I would like to merge those passions and write about these experiences. My mom said, “You should do it,” smiling warmly. This was a bit of a shock to me, because while Mom always wanted us five kids (I’m the oldest of 5, by the way) to follow our passions and lead happy lives, she was also the voice of reason, encouraging us to strive for practical, financially secure careers. I can’t tell you how many times she told me that I couldn’t just keep traveling. I needed to get a real job.
I did have a real job, though…. several of them. I worked really hard through graduate school and put myself on a career path that I thought I wanted in foreign policy. I started at a small company, working full-time while in grad school, then moved to a large international, environmental non-profit, The Nature Conservancy. After a couple of years at TNC, and then a bout of unemployment (due to the economic downturn in 2009 and massive layoffs), I finally had my “dream” job at The State Department. Well, sort of. I was a contractor, but I was on the path to becoming a federal employee in the foreign policy-arm of the U.S. government. Then Mom got sick. I didn’t return to DC (other than to pack up my house to sell it) after Mom passed. Getting back to the story, my mom had come to realize many things about life in the last year of hers. I was not happy in the career path I had chosen for myself, which I thought I wanted. She knew what made me happy and what my strengths were. She said, simply, “do it.” That was all I needed to hear.
Traveling has long been my passion. I maintain some favorite hobbies that dovetail nicely with this passion, namely photography, scuba diving, and hiking (known as trekking in some countries). I travel for many reasons, like most people. I travel to escape, relax, find adventure, and experience different cultures and landscapes. The main reason I travel, though, is to learn about myself and about the wonderful world we live in. At a very soul level, this is what moves and motivates me. It is how I grow as human being and how I better myself. I am addicted to learning, and I think that traveling is the most pure and essential form of education.
Traveling used to be a hobby or even an obsession of mine. After Mom died, it became my lifeline, literally. You see, when you look at the sky on a bright and beautiful day and wonder: Why? What is it all for? What is the point anyway? We all just die. You are broken, down to your core, and your soul aches. Life looses a lot of its meaning and purpose.
The one thing that could pull me out of the dark place I was in was to embark on a journey and become reacquainted with life’s wonders and beauty. I fell in love with (sub-Sahara) Africa when I went with my dad in 2006 on a two week safari, and I always dreamed of returning to experience more of the vast continent. I needed to love life again, and I could not think of any better place, with its raw beauty in nature and people. So I spent six weeks in southern Africa, traveling around five different countries. Without sounding overly dramatic, I’m tempted to think this might have saved my life.
Now, here I am. I am embarking on a new adventure in life; to follow my heart and my passion and to share it with you. I think that travel is an educational tool that is essential to every human being on Earth. I know that this is an impractical thought, but it is my thought nonetheless. My goal with this blog is to help point to easier paths for you to get to where you want to go in your travels, by sharing resources, stories, advice, photos, and open discussions. Hopefully you’ll be entertained along the way. Please reach out to me any time. This is my journey to love, understand, and appreciate life on this planet, with what wonderous and little time we have here.
Thank you for stopping by and reading!!
Read more about my goals for this blog here.