The Gap Year Forges On
Two Months Ago:
I woke up Sunday morning in our guesthouse in Downtown Bangkok to one of the kids’ iPads ringing. I pulled the covers over my head, rolled over and tried to fall back asleep. We’d arrived late the previous night, after a 5-hour, white-knuckle ride up the coast of Thailand in a jam-packed van. Travel days are hard. Today was a day for sleeping in. Later, we’d grab breakfast on the street and head to the market.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
I flung my arm across the bed. Empty. If we were staying on the coast, Rob would be out running along the beach at this ungodly hour. But we were in a big city. Cities meant insufferable heat, and really f’ing good coffee. I’ve really learned to appreciate the simple things in life – like not instant coffee. I smiled at the thought of the Flat White that would be delivered shortly.
Ring. Ring. Ding. Ping. Ring. Ring.
The pillow over my head wouldn’t block out the noise. Now both kids’ iPads and the computer were ringing and dinging with calls. Something has happened. Bangkok had been bombed the previous week. Twenty people, mostly tourists, died. Had Bangkok been hit again? The city was still on high alert.
Last night, Oskar had proudly navigated us, via metro, across town from the bus station to the guesthouse. At every subway station, our bags were checked; we were required to walk through makeshift security scanners. The city was eerily quiet.
The previous week there were a lot of messages; people wanted to know that we were okay. This traveling is risky business.
I rolled out of bed and checked the messages and missed calls.
I pulled on some clothes and went down to the lobby. Rob had just returned. He handed me a latte and held out his phone. It told him to contact his mom immediately.
His dad had passed away.
Two days later we were supposed to fly to Cambodia, but we were on a flight home to Winnipeg.
Bike Tour of Bangkok prior to flying home. Check out Isla's face! A fairly accurate representation about her feelings about the trip at that point! Hot cities, bike tours and 6 year olds do not a friendship make!
A week earlier, we were watching wild Asian elephants cross an open plain, now we were hauling our bags into my old bedroom - pink floral wallpaper, from when I was ten years old, still intact. At least I’d taken down the Duran Duran posters before I moved out twenty years ago. (Apparently, I wasn’t allowed to ask the lovely Irish family who is renting our house for the year to move into my old bedroom).
Coming home was really hard. We had some heavy boots and heavy hearts. And we felt lost. (Except for Isla Blue. Our little creature of habit had been begging to come home for weeks.) We privately mourned the loss of a parent; the world changed.
But we were immediately reminded of how incredible our roots are and we were buoyed by a whole lot of love, family and friendship. I met friends for wine and dinner, gorged myself on my mom’s mashed potatoes, had conversations like these with my dad:
Me: Man, I’m so tired by Friday night?
My dad: Why? What do you do all day?
Me: I write, dad. It’s like my job.
My dad: Go get me a rum and coke.
As I was driving out to Stony Mountain one evening, I pulled over on the highway to watch a sunset. A combine rumbled along, engulfed in a haze of wheat dust was silhouetted on the prairie horizon. This rivaled any sunset I’d seen in the South Pacific.
Beautiful sunsets happen everywhere.
I've done handstands all over the world. Couldn't resist doing one on a hay bale on the prairies!
We stayed in Winnipeg a little longer than anticipated, but it just felt right to be here. This thing we are doing - it’s not a vacation. It’s very, very hard. And this adventure requires a substantial amount of energy. It’s taken us some time to build up the energy to get back on the road. When we left last February – we had no idea what we were getting into. Now, we know! We understand the stamina, perseverance, patience and sense of humour that is required to travel long-term with young children. But, we also know that the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile; we will carry these hard-earned experiences around with us forever.
We fly to Brazil tomorrow! We’ll travel around South America for three months to finish off our Gap Year. (If you want to see a kicking, screaming 6 year old getting dragged on a plane against her will – come to the airport tomorrow! Should be a good show!)
We have plane tickets to Rio, a place to sleep for the first five nights. And that’s about it. There are a few places I’d like to see –Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, but really, seven months on the road has taught me that it’s never about the destination – it’s about the experience. My absolute favourite aspect of this trip is waking up in the morning and having absolutely no idea what kind of magic or chaos the day will bring.
And when there’s chaos, I'll be writing all about it. Fingers crossed we don’t cross paths with any more lice!
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