Why do we travel? Some of the most common thematic reasons that come to mind are: relaxation and vacation, adventure and fun, discovery and enlightenment, to visit family, to escape them…. to name a few.
Personally, my travel plans are usually born from an idea of place, a slow and steady ache to discover a new land and culture. I set my mind on a (usually exotic) locale and focus so intently, until I can physically put myself there. Sometimes I seize an opportunity, like a planned work or family trip, and tag on another country or two due to sheer proximity. I stacked all three once: Costa Rica for work, sandwiched by Galapagos & Quito, Ecuador for a family trip on one side and a tour through Guatemala with a girlfriend on the other side. It worked out quite well, both financially and travel time-wise.
Something recently changed for me, though. My travel priorities for the year have shifted. Maybe it’s because I covered so much ground in six short months last year (ten countries in Africa and Southeast Asia). More likely, I’m missing being around friends and family, and want to participate in their lives more. Specifically, several of my closest, dearest friends have had children in the past year that I’ve never met or older children that I haven’t seen in years. I don’t want these kids growing up not knowing “Auntie Linds,” and I don’t want to miss out on their development.
So I made a quiet resolution with myself: Travel in 2013 is going to be all (or mostly) about being with friends and family. Interestingly, this decision has taken me to places I’ve never been, even close to home, and has also allowed me to spend more “family” time around places I know very well.
I just came back from a suburb south of Houston in Missouri City, where I spent a few days with my dear friend Gwen, her husband Will, and their two girls. The last time I saw Amelie, she was barely speaking. Now, she is the incessant talker. She’s so sweet and growing into such a lovely little lady! I’ve never met Claire, and does that child have a personality! She has this sultry look she gives me with her eyes. It’s quite hilarious. It was an adventure in supine suburbia, filled with wine, back yard swinging, and even a couple of restaurant outings (Houston= good Tex-Mex and margaritas)!
Last weekend I spent several days with two of my closest friends, Matt and Steph, who have twins Cecelia and Luke, in New Orleans. I see them more often than anyone else, I think, because they are so close to my hometown of Baton Rouge. I feel like part of their family, though, so I place a high priority on seeing them as often as possible. I was actually in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) for French Quarter Fest as well (that’s a subject for another post).
More New Orleans!
I return to New Orleans this weekend for our annual girls reunion, where four girlfriends and I have big plans to hit uptown and The Quarter, eat some of the best food (in my opinion) in the U.S., shop and stroll, and just catch up with good friends!
I even ventured to the small town of Alexandria, in northern Louisiana, a place I’ve never visited, to hang out with my friend and cousin Brooke. I wanted to meet her new addition, six-month-old Charlotte, and to see her son William, who has been walking and talking since the last time I met him.
This is the thing: when you live far away from friends and family, you have to make a concerted effort to keep them in your lives in a meaningful way (especially if you don’t have kids and your friends do…it’s much harder for them to come to you!).
Don’t be shy about using your vacation time or focusing your travel schedule around friends and family. It has honestly been the most spiritually rewarding time I’ve spent “on the road” in a while. Chicken soup for the soul, as it were. I plan to maintain this focus throughout the year, ensuring that I meet all of my friends’ children and spend time with the quickly growing ones I’ve already met. I want to make sure that I have excellent quality time with my own large family and nurture my friendships, which don’t receive the everyday attention they used to enjoy when we all lived in the same city.
Traveling doesn’t have to be prioritized around the exotic or beautiful locale. If you listen to your heart, you’ll know what you need to focus on. Right now, I am choosing to focus on people instead of place, and that is making me (and my relationships) happy!
What are your thoughts on traveling to see friends and family?
Thanks for reading!