What Travel Does For Me…And Fi

Before I had Fia, travel was my lifeblood. It sustained me, gave me purpose and left me humbled. No matter how harried or remote the trip, I would always come back grateful for having gone; for having left my comfort zone and experienced life a different way. It never let me down.

From the moment we started dating, Phil and I were on the same page. We wanted big careers and a life of globetrotting. We implicitly agreed that kids weren’t going to be part of our equation. To make a long story short, it was upon our return from Mali, West Africa a few Christmas’s ago that we realized maybe life wasn’t all about exploring the next country. Maybe it was about creating and adding more to the life we had here. And perhaps in the process, god-willing, raise a good child who would do good things.

So now we have Fi. And my globetrotting consists of taking her to Kidville for wiggle-giggle, keeping her from getting mangled by the cat or falling on the steps, and all the other joys that go along with parenthood.  And I dig it. Far more than getting my passport stamped. But now I am realizing I can have both. No need to choose.

When I took a trip to Belize a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I’d be homesick and heartbroken leaving Fi. Turns out I was neither, but unlike other trips, I didn’t want to race off to another country or adventure before returning home. Five days was the perfect amount of time and just enough to make me feel alive again in my travel shoes.

It was also important for me to know that Fia could survive without me for that short time. In fact, I had my blackberry all programmed to send and receive texts, thinking I’d torture my sitters hourly. No such luck. (I’m sure they were quite saddened). We were 3 hours away from the airport in the middle of the rainforest. And once I accepted the reality that there would be NO SIGNAL, I immersed myself in all the joy and empowerment that travel brings to my life.

(Once a day I borrowed someone’s computer at the lodge in exchange for a drink and did a quick check of email. Click here to see what was happening on the home front.)

On the drive to Black Rock Lodge we passed little villages, roadside stands, and fruit and vegetable peddlers. We saw people walking along the side of the road, and waiting for the bus (many don’t own cars).  Just day-to-day activity. Life. But it was that, and things as simple as billboards and store signs that re-ignited something dormant in me.  It’s different. It fascinates. It stimulates.

Once there, we were truly in the wilderness, at a place that is completely self-sustaining, meaning they generate their own electricity and grow their own food. Check out the website to see how they do it. (Luckily they do bring in alcohol and had a fully stocked bar).

One of the women who worked the reception desk was 8-months pregnant. She had a lively spirit. Good juju. She was married to one of the managers and they live in a cabin on the property.

“How are you going to get to the hospital when you go into labor?” I asked, barely able to mask my alarm (the 7-mile road off the main highway is barely that—it could better be described as a rocky, pockmarked bike path).

She shrugged and said, “Well, hopefully I’ll labor here for awhile, and we’ll leave in time to get to the hospital.”

Of course.  What is wrong with me? I’m rusty. I had to pinch myself to remember that most of the world isn’t privy to weekly ultrasounds, hospitals within five minutes and the insistence on getting a “private bed” after delivery. By most standards, Belize is up there. She had had an ultrasound (they’re having a girl. Congrats!). And they do have the capability to perform C-sections, etc.  So while it’s different, (and I think fair to say, more bare-bones) it’s not without modern amenities.

As I hear the whir of my washer, I laugh at how good—no, I shouldn’t say good, that’s relative—about how easy I have it. In Belize, this is what we passed one day.

Baby in a Bucket

Baby in a Bucket

It’s brilliant in that it reminds me why travel is so crucial to my life. It snaps me out of my mom-self world and into one where Exersaucers, bottle sanitizers and wipe warmers aren’t part of the vocabulary. I need to make sure I never lose that perspective or become so self-absorbed that my awareness for the bigger picture disappears.

My hope is that when Fia is a little older, she’ll understand why occasionally Mom needs the adrenaline rush that comes from setting foot in unfamiliar territory. And I hope she’ll want to strap a bag on her back, take my hand, and go crossing borders with me. I bet she’ll love it as much I do.

Quick Update: Before I left, I wrote about how worried I was that Fia would miss me. I’m happy to report that she didn’t! As for that magical reunion when I thought she’d squeal with delight? Well, that didn’t happen either. I got home late and picked her up out of her crib. She looked at me, blinked, and then fell back asleep. The next morning (at 6 a.m.), my grand entrance was met with her usual crib stance, hands out, calling for the cat. Seriously. Wayne Sanchez even trumps me when I go on vacation.

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