One Year Worth A Lifetime
Clearing New Delhi security with my boarding pass in hand, I let out my first sigh of relief. I was officially on my way home. It’s been nearly a year since Jeremy and I left our home and our jobs to embark on the trip of a lifetime: 10 and a half months of volunteering and traveling in South America, Southeast Asia and Nepal; 46 weeks of new culture, new friends, and first time experiences; 320 days of sleeping in strange beds, eating strange foods, and cursing at horrible internet connections; and 477 hours on buses, boats, planes, and trains. Waiting to board my final flight across the Atlantic, put me fifteen hours from the end of it all.
Airports are interesting places. They are a place that’s either halfway away or halfway home. I was halfway home, conflicted by competing thoughts of the past and future. Sweaty hands clutched my plane ticket as memories of yesterday melted into my anticipation of tomorrow. I couldn’t understand what I was feeling. Was I happy or sad? Confident or scared? The thought of reuniting with friends, family, fresh salads and potable tap water was comforting, I admit; yet knowing that I was leaving behind the freedom and adventure of my “no rules” lifestyle made me anxious. Regardless, this was the end. I was fifteen hours away from home. Awww, home. I relished the thought. No more power-cuts or cold showers, no more scams or ripoffs, and no more food poisoning or malaria pills. Wait a minute… this has been the best year of my life, I realized. I just lived a year that has opened my eyes to the world and changed who I am an individual, friend, and wife.
An ocean later, Jeremy and I were graciously welcomed home by a beautiful, springtime Vermont. And for the week that followed, those who have welcomed us have also patiently listened to us complain about being broke. To you, I apologize for the shortsighted self-pity, because I would be lying if I didn’t say that my life is richer now than it has ever been before. The wisest person I have never known once said, “travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer.” Nothing I have experienced this year disputes this claim. Visiting the birthplace of Incan civilization, summitting Cotopaxi, and snorkeling with sea lions are South American experiences I would pay for over and over again. Just as I am forever indebted to Steve for certifying me as a DiveMaster in Thailand, to Kath and Koon for inviting me to an unbeatable Cambodian party, and to Poonam for her loyal support in keeping Shraya enrolled in school.
Not to sound like a MasterCard commercial or anything, but I wouldn’t trade the world (or my 2011 bank statement) for these experiences. They truly were priceless. For all this, I owe an enormous, never-ending THANK YOU to every single person who has crossed my path in the last twelve months and made these experiences possible:
Thank you to Scott and Chris Coats of the Trailblazer Foundation for inspiring our desire to volunteer abroad.
Thank you to the folks at Seventh Generation who have always supported me – even when I told them I was leaving work to save frogs in Bolivia.
Thank you to the friends and family (you know who you are) who always had their Skype on and emails open.
Thank you, thank you to our new friends from SB who helped us through the hard times.
Thank you/love you/thank you to all my dive buddies on Koh Tao. I am a happier person because of you.
Thank you to everyone who helped us help others by donating to our cause. Your donations to the Bolivian Amphibian Initiative and the Trailblazer Foundation went a long way in protecting biodiversity and human health, respectively.
And last – but not least – thank YOU, my Readers, for reading (at least, I hope you are still reading) and keeping us company throughout this journey. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t still be writing, which is something I’ve discovered that I love. So I thank you for bringing that out in me.
It’s been over a week now since I was in the New Delhi airport and I am still trying to figure out how it feels to be home. It’s probable that I’ll never have a good answer, because home will never be the same anymore. The last twelve months will be with me forever, and have taught me how to love my life regardless of where I am. Which is what it’s all about anyway, right? As we grow, we learn; and as we learn, we grow. I have learned how to live and love life while loving those around me. I suppose that has made everything worth it.