SOME PEOPLE ARE BORN TRAVELERS. We know who we are. We love airports, even when we aren’t going on the trip. We don’t really understand vacations, and never go on them. We can land alone in a foreign airport, without a guidebook or even knowing how to say thank you in the local language, and feel nothing but anticipation for the next meal. We often don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight — and don’t really care. We have short-term or flexible careers, if any, though we can turn a hand at just about anything. We don’t “settle” well.
Our families think we’re crazy, yet they envy us at the same time. We can sleep anywhere, pick up languages easily, and are never bored. We are dangerously curious, often to the point of irritating. People think we’re interesting, but it’s hard to make friends “at home,” wherever that is. We’re not very patriotic, but doubt the viability of world peace. We focus on what we have wherever we are, not what we miss. We have something that we loved about every country we’ve been in, even the ones we didn’t like.
When the shit really hits the fan, we recognize it as a story in the making.
I am a traveler. So when my husband, of 26 years and many adventures, and I decided to separate, “going on a trip” was the obvious choice. Ending such a long and quite wonderful relationship isn’t quick, especially when there are kids involved, so by the time we were ready to make the move, we had been stationary for four years. Four years is a long time, more so for a sun lover living in Canada. Luckily for me, two of our three sons had finished high school by that time, and the 15-year-old was willing, if slightly reluctantly, to go on an adventure with his mother.
I chose the destination in my typical haphazard fashion: while volunteering at a high school grad fundraiser, another volunteering mom mentioned Ecuador as a wonderful place she’d heard had cheap real estate. Maybe a month later, another acquaintance mentioned Ecuador as a hot new destination. That was enough to convince my inner mystic that it was ‘a sign.’
Some six months later our family exploded in twos: the older boys off to Nicaragua, my husband and the family dog to roam the US, the youngest and I off to Ecuador.
Separations are nothing new. Broken marriages are a dime a dozen, especially at my age (ok, I’m 48). The traditional approach, especially if there are children still living at home, is to maintain as consistent a routine as possible. Keep the house if you can, kids in the same school, same friends…hopefully you have a steady job and solid network of family and friends to rely on for support through the transition period. Yes, you’ll no doubt suffer from insomnia, and don’t worry about the panic attacks — any clinic doctor will fix you up with antidepressants. But in short, your life will suck for a while.
We stayed with one of my online English students, Bianca, who was a wonderful host. Through her we had a very gentle “insider” introduction to Ecuador, and got to know her family and some friends at the same time. Instant support network — and strangely enough, when the inevitable question, “…and how long have you been separated?” came up, the answer (anywhere from “yesterday” to “last week”) sounded so ridiculous, even to me, that all I could do was giggle my way through it. Giggles spawn smiles, and what at home would have been awkward silences and sympathetic looks somehow became conspiratorial laughter. Especially amongst women of similar age (and often experience), there was a “mice coming out to play” undercurrent. The reaction in the eyes of eligible men (few but not nonexistent) was different, but no less welcome.
And in that strange way that it’s often easier to share your most personal details with total strangers, my new marital status became an easy topic, something to be discussed objectively, or examined from a fresh vantage point. People often even jumped to the conclusion, “Yes, it’s probably much easier to make the adjustment while traveling, instead of staying at home and missing the person…” in that logically agreeable tone people use to agree that it’s “much better not to have a television at home” when they have three. In a way, it did turn what I considered my bold step into a case of “taking the easy way out,” but of course, the only opinion that really matters in this case is mine.
Since that first week, we’ve been on our own. We’re traveling. And I feel great.
Maybe the cliff is coming. Maybe these are just the last few steps in the sunshine before I fall into the abyss of depression, insomnia, insecurity — of regret and longing and general panic. Somehow, it doesn’t feel that way. Anyway, for now, I’m not even going to try to see that far ahead, but keep my face turned to the sun and bask in the warmth of it.