When I began traveling the world 24 years ago, none of my family or friends understood why I chose this vagabond lifestyle. Other than my father, who wished he could have gone with me, most everyone else wanted a stay-in-one-place manner of living that focused on barbecues, Super Bowl parties, pets, and gardens.
I, on the other hand, wanted to visit exotic cultures, dream down dusty trails, and witness firsthand the wild variety that is humanity around the world.
Initially on my journeys, especially since we began them long before internet, Skype, or Magic Jack, there was this seeming disconnect. I was “long distance” and everyone else was together “back home.”
These days, things are different.
Billy and I normally travel a year between our visits to the States to see our loved ones. That’s a long time and lots of celebrations between seeing our family and friends face-to-face. To bridge that distance in time, I call their homes several times a month using Skype and video. In this way, no one forgets what I look like, including my grandniece and nephew. I watch as the decorations in their homes change, their gardens grow, and I’m there singing Happy Birthday or shouting Merry Christmas or Happy Anniversary as the pages on my calendar turn over.
When I visited the States a couple of years ago, I realized that no one there could relate to the perspective I had been nurturing for decades in my world travels. The U.S. is a developed nation so there were no donkeys in the streets, no indigenous people walking the neighborhoods with their hair wrapped in hand woven textiles selling their wares. And there were no food carts where I could purchase fresh fruit or grilled shrimp on a whim.
So I gathered about 300 photos of my wanderings, put them on a chip, and purchased digital photo frames to display them. My family was amazed—or maybe speechless is a better word.
Not Everyone Writes
Not everyone enjoys writing letters or emails, or sending postcards. However, every person I know likes to receive them. Since I am a writer—and always have been since I was a grade school child wishing I could find a pen pal—I have taken this responsibility on. And, it is one of the ways I keep in touch. Any chance I get, I write an email and tell a story about my life, and of course, I ask about theirs. Or I send a post card giving a full-and-in-color snapshot of where I have been.
Since I carry everything with me when I travel, in the old days, my family was initially stumped as to what to give me for gifts. Before I carry anything around the world with me, I must consider it in terms of value versus its weight and the room it takes. Today, digital downloads for music or reading material delight me because I can carry it online instead of packing the heavy book or CD plus-case in my rucksack.
I have also been gifted great walking shoes, washable and lightweight clothing, scarves, a beach wrap, earrings, socks, and even nail polish. When I dress myself in the mornings I have all these reminders of the love we share and I take them with me into my lifestyle of skipping from one country to the next.
While nothing replaces being there in person for each occasion, I am psychologically built to enjoy my life of movement. My friends and family are constructed for a lifestyle that I would find constricting. So by wearing and using these gifts, I am able to carry my loved ones with me everywhere.
After all, there is no distance in the heart.