Deep Breaths

Ready or Not?
Ready or Not?

“So, are you ready?” My father asked me this question two nights ago as he collapsed into the couch next to me.  My nose was pressed into a map of Iceland, where I had been uttering low guttural sounds in various attempts to pronounce the names of small towns along the Ring Road.  With an open Sam Adams in his hand, the haze of another long day in the office began to lift from his eyes and my father tilted his head wryly to one side.  I could tell by the intonation in his voice that he half-expected me to fall to the floor, groaning under the weight of his words.  I was, after all, scheduled to be a plane in less than four days time, which would mark the beginning of an open-ended trip across Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Central and South America with my husband and two young children.

I’ll admit, when asked about our upcoming travels, rolling on the floor was something I was known to do, of late.  Rather than confront the reality of what was ahead of us, I frequently deflected outsiders’ inquiries, believing that an outward show of vulnerability somehow humanized us, made others understand that what we were about to set forth on was not a matter we were taking lightly, indeed. And sometimes I actually believed that act.  Sometimes I let myself feel afraid.


My husband Ryan and I returned to the United States in August 2010 after a year of backpacking in Asia with our then two-year old son.  I was newly pregnant with our second child, and we set about reassembling our lives in our little Southern California home, enrolling in preschool, reconnecting with friends and family, pretty much picking up life where it had been left off.  Only, things were different.  We had returned from China, Nepal, India, Japan, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.  We had the stamps to prove that we had come and gone, along with photos and small traces of our experiences while in faraway places.  We were home again, safe and sound, full of strange and wonderful stories and thankful for the familiarity of our own beds.  But something was not as it should be.

How clichéd, we thought. Typical how the traveller returns home only to find himself no longer suited to the life he once knew, and therefore is quick to return to the road.  We acknowledged that this could be the feeling that had settled over us, so we did just as that traveller would do, and in January, at the beginning of my second trimester, we left.  We drove north on the Pacific Coast Highway, up the Central Coast and Big Sur through to San Francisco. We turned east and spent the remainder of the month in Yosemite, Sequoia and Death Valley, and then took a turn through all of Southern Utah’s national parks. By March, we had cut sharply through Colorado and New Mexico and returned to California through the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon.

One night on the Colorado Plateau, Ryan and I made a promise to each other.  Some time in the following year, we promised to start over in another part of the world; we would again try on the skins of other countries and their cultures.  It was late, we still had not checked into a room for the night and Ollie had long since fallen asleep in the backseat of our car, his Junior Ranger hat pulled low over his eyes. Hours earlier, he had scurried over boulders scattered throughout a gorge in Capitol Reef National Park in search of collared lizards.  I had read to him the notes pioneers had carved into the canyon walls as they passed through in the early 19th century.  We were both tired, but in a good way.

“You know… I really believe this is who we are.” Ryan said, staring out past the reach of our headlights. “Out here is where we belong”.


Ideological epiphany aside, once we made the decision to travel open-endedly, Ryan and I very soon found ourselves confronting some gargantuan logistics.  Planning this endeavor proved not for the faint of heart, particularly considering that we were now four in number, and that our newest family member was as onerous to deal with as, well… a newborn baby.

“You talkin’ to me?”

Between the diapers and night feedings, the baby-proofing and newly-minted sibling rivalry, we somehow managed to rent out our home for two years, streamline all of our business dealings, and dissolve nearly every single one of our worldly possessions down to only those which could be packed in two 100L rolling duffels.  Various homeschooling/unschooling books were consulted, toys were packed off to Goodwill, cars were sold.  Decoupling a conventional Southern Californian life for a family of four was painstaking achieved over the span of six months. With the help of very good and well-connected friends, we procured Italian visas that would allow us to remain in the Schengan for an uninterrupted year. At long last, the date was set.  We would fly on August 1st.


 Fast-forward to July 28th.  My father’s eyebrows begged the question again, and again, I was silent.  Were we ready?  Was I ready?  So many questions remained, so many loose ends kept me awake each night long into the early hours of the morning.

“No,” I answered with a long breath.  “But we’ll be just fine”.


  1. You guys are going to have such an amazing time – stress and all (of course, you know that already) Can’t wait to read the stories, and hopefully hear some in person down the line 🙂

    p.s. Pretty please send me the pics from our visit? I’m asking super nice!!

    1. Thank you, Beth! And thank you for stopping by earlier…I’m glad to have been able to see some old friends before hitting the road. Pictures are on their way!

  2. You know we will miss you. We wish you the best of everything on your entire journey. While we have not caught the incurable travel bug as have you two, someday we will also drive the Ring Road. I want to see Gullfoss, Godafoss, Skogafoss and of course the Aurora Borealis as you can’t see it even from the farthest reaches of northern Minnesota. Bon voyage!

    1. Hello you two!!! I wanted to let you know that I have decided to dedicate my Icelandic waterfalls post to you! If you ever make it out there, be sure to let us know, as we wouldn’t hesitate ever to go back. Iceland was simply stunning. We love and miss you too. Lots of hugs and kisses.

    1. Thanks, buddy. It sure was nice to see you, Sarah and Joel in Iceland, even if it was only for a few minutes, and we were all pseudo-zombies. Maybe you will have a chance to visit a little longer somewhere else along our journey…
      btw, did you guys see any whales outside of Husavik? Hopefully you had better luck than we did…

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