I had been contemplating the possibility of traveling around the world with my boys for a few years, dating back to just after my wife died in early 2014. I held the notion close to my heart, but yet far enough away from my head so as to allow a sense of excitement to rise without being attached to any of the myriad external realities of making it happen. That was not something I did consciously, but rather out of necessity; a survival mechanism that afforded me the opportunity to escape the deep pain that I was in. Any thought about what it would actually take to execute such an endeavor threw me into a tailspin that instantly derailed the fantasy. Having traveled extensively, though, I could envision the situations we could be in. I could imagine conversations with other travelers. I could taste the sense of freedom of traveling for extended periods of time. I could feel my curiosity swelling with each new place we visited. The thought of entering each day without regard to the first-world responsibilities and challenges of single parenthood was incredibly alluring.
The concept of world travel started as a singular notion during the apex of my grief. It was a moment of ostensible reason substantiated by all my prior world travel experiences and forged with the catalyst of deep suffering. However, I had no ground under my feet to take such a thought seriously. There was no perspective for me in which traveling around the world made any sense at all. If I ever had context and meaning in my life, I surely lost it when Shira died. I was free-floating. Untethered. I didn’t have any resources left to take responsibility for my life. I was laid out flat in front of forces that were much greater than me; subject to the divine.
Perhaps informed by Shira’s love, I somehow had the fortuitous sense to hunker down and maintain stability, especially for the sake of the boys. So the thought of packing it all up and hitting the road didn’t stick around for long. My focus turned to leading myself through the despair and grief towards praise for life and love. If nothing else, I did this for my boys. I understood that their ability to rise out of the ashes of loss was wholly dependent on my ability to do the same. I latched onto the idea that if I were to become the captain of this ship, I needed to take charge. I needed to take responsibility for my life. I needed to turn towards love and away from anger, and blame and shame.
Over time, as I gained greater levels of perspective and the grief-praise paradigm that I entrusted shifted its proportions, the nebulous idea of a global expedition, built loosely in my sub-consciousness, ripened to the forefront of my mind, buoyed by its potent possibility and attractive nature. The ripening was made possible by my ability to cultivate love out of threadbare fields of grief, blame, and anger. It was made possible by hope. It was made possible, somehow, by my desire to choose life; to wake up each day and put myself in front of my circumstances; to face the seemingly impossible; to try and fail, and try and fail. It was made sweeter by integrating the meaning of my wife’s life with that of my own. Her life – and death – gave me all the reason I needed to seriously entertain the thought of making such a bold move. And because I was reevaluating every aspect of my life, and myself, I began to understand that if there were ever a time to undertake such an endeavor, now would be the time.
It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. With all due respect to the Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, I’m inclined to improve on the quotation by adding that the journey begins with one single step of intention. Once I connected with my intention, the train began to roll out of the station, and all my thoughts and actions began to support the idea. I began to dream up itineraries, drafting them out on maps that came in the mail from Partners in Health’s fundraising packets. I started to make lists of things to do on scraps of paper, and then into a spreadsheet on my computer. I initiated the overwhelmingly arduous task of clearing out my house in advance of renting it out – one drawer at a time. I broached the idea with my boys and spoke with close friends about it. Well over a year in advance of our departure, I was taking stock of what it would take to make this trip happen – a daunting set of associated responsibilities with extensive breadth and depth to each one.
And, with each step along the way, my intention grew stronger.
The first, and largest, outward step came in January 2018 when I posted my house for rent on the web. Then another big step in the beginning of May when I received an email from a family in Colorado who, after visiting my home in early May, sent an email stating that they wanted to rent it. I actually knew before I even met them – when I received their first email inquiry to arrange a visit – that everything was about to change. I could feel it. From that moment on, it was game on! The train had left the station and I was on for one hell of a wild ride.
I never imagined how much form these initial actions would bring to such a grandiose and nebulous idea. I had spent so many months conceptualizing and considering it, deliberating and dreaming. The plan was starting to develop and crystallize. As with other major steps in the process – telling my family, giving notice at work, buying air tickets and insurance – the idea of travel shifted from being a probability, to a possibility, to a budding reality.
Now, after many months of intense preparations, as we depart Boston on the first leg of our journey, the immensity of what I’m doing is finally starting to sink in. Taking my two sons around the world seems incredibly ambitious! Holy shit! I’m at once terrified of the idea and absolutely excited by it. I’ve been moving on such a high-speed train towards this goal that I haven’t had time to digest its speed and direction, its potency and enormity. The locomotive seems to be well on its way, but I’m not driving anymore (was I ever?) and I certainly don’t know where it’s taking me. We shall have to wait and see.