Well the time has come. We’ve made the decision to come back to the United States at the beginning of November and are closing this chapter for now. Our list of places to visit and experiences we want to have has only grown on this trip, not diminished. In the end, our dwindling funds make those experiences more and more truncated and therefore less what we want them to be. So we’ll spend the next 3 weeks doing as much as we can in Italy, maybe spending a bit more to have richer experiences, rather than trying to see more countries and having a superficial experience.
Naturally, this is bittersweet for us, and the ending of a very interesting chapter in our lives. We would love to keep traveling (who wouldn’t). But the prospect of finding work is daunting enough, much less during the holiday season.
It's not all sad though. Jon and I are both homebodies in a way, and the 10 months we've been away from our friends and family has been a generous amount of time to explore and learn about the world. My general feeling from the long-term-traveler world is that going for as long as you can is the goal and that going back to the more 'normal' model of an 8-hour work day means you failed at something; like you failed to figure out how to live an alternative lifestyle.
But Jon and I have been and are very deliberate about our choices; and the choice to end this journey is not a matter of failure, it's a matter of knowing when we've hit a sweet spot, that our community of friends will still be there when we return, and that perhaps, just perhaps this isn't the last journey we'll ever take. As I read through our archives of this blog, I'm so proud that we accomplished one of our original goals: to find fulfillment, just to the point of 'enough.'
As I begin to apply for jobs I think about the life I left behind 10 months ago. There was a lot of stress. There was the whole process of being and acting 'professional,' like that was different from who I really was. I think a part of me wanted to prove on this trip that I was separate from that. But as I begin to envision new work opportunities, new colleagues, new ideas and of course, most importantly, being with the friends and people we care about, I realize that I'm not leaving anything behind in ending our travels. We are just beginning a new chapter - a new adventure. Perhaps it's one of a more generic sort, or one that's not always seen as an 'adventure.' But part of my goal will be to continue to 'seek fireflies' in the daily rhythm of work and life. Perhaps in the life I left behind 10 months ago I had just forgotten to look for bits of inspiration and the dolce vita which has been so easily handed to us during our trip (when things weren't really stressful or tiresome in and of themselves) made it seem like we couldn't have that at home. Or maybe I was just too distracted by what seemed important that I felt like I had to completely extricate myself and figure it out. Whatever it was I think it's worked.
About a month ago, and prior, I was terrified of ending this trip. Terrified that if I went home I'd lose a sense of freedom and get locked back into that work-to-live, live-to-work mentality. But now I'm enthusiastic. No it's not always going to be roses and puppies (god I hope not), but I look forward to putting on a little eye make-up, going to coffee meetings and visiting with a friend over cocktails. I have to admit I like that world and it can be just as fun as sharing a cup of sweet mint tea with a friendly Moroccan - it's just that the surprise factor isn't the same.
Anyway, our last remaining 3 weeks won't be without interest. We go to Naples on Wednesday (hellloooo Pompeii!) for three days. We'll visit Florence before we leave. And then, because it's us, we've extended our overnight layover in Istanbul to a two night visit to what should be a fabulous ending adventure. Then off to the bustling metropolis of Springfield, Illinois for a conference on my great grandfather, and then back to Seattle.
So over the next couple of weeks (if I get my act together) I look forward to sharing more reflections about the trip, and the wonderful places and people we've met. And I think I'll continue to seek fireflies at home (maybe Jon will too!) since really, looking for things that inspire should never really stop.
By the way, I think it's more than just a coincidence that Italy, our last place to be (besides Istanbul) is the only place we've been that has actual fireflies during the summer. We missed them this year, but knowing they live here makes me really happy.
How do you find inspiration in your daily life?
PS: Happy birthday to my wonderful husband Jon.