Yesterday, millions of people around the world celebrated Easter. Children searched all over the house to find their baskets filled with pastel colored eggs and a wide array of candies. Hams and racks of lamb spent hours in the oven prior to playing the leading role in a glorious Easter Sunday dinner. And copious amounts of bunny-shaped chocolates were consumed leaving only a mess of tin foil wrappers as evidence. Whether you subscribe to the religious or Hallmark versions of the holiday, it’s a wonderful time for family and friends to gather and be together.
However, when you’re a long-term traveler away from home, it’s not all Cadbury Cream Eggs and extra helpings of scalloped potatoes. Holidays on the road are a bit different.
Yesterday was my first holiday away from home.
In the past, I spent a couple Christmases alone. But in those situations, I was at my home and simply kept away from my family due to work obligations or poor travel conditions in Western Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Since my dad passed away six and a half years ago, I’ve made it a point to go home for all holidays. So, when I made the decision to travel around the world, I knew it would be hard being away from my mother, sisters, and grandmother.
I knew I would miss the basket of candy that, despite being thirty-five years old, my mom still puts together for me.
I knew I would miss Mom’s “would you like to come to church with us?” request and “OK, maybe next time” follow-up to my standard “no thanks” response.
I knew I would miss the ham dinner that always left me stuffed and half-unconscious on the couch for the remainder of the day.
I knew I would miss the baked goods and candies that Allison & Hilary would make that I would still try to stuff into my mouth while half-asleep on the couch.
I knew I would miss Grandma Ruth slapping me on the back when she gave me a hug goodbye before scurrying out the door back to her house after visiting.
Simply put, I knew I would miss my family.
My friends, family, and social media followers see all the pictures of the fun I’m having and the work I’m doing through my volunteer projects. Being away can be hard, I just put up a good front. Don’t get me wrong, I’m 100% happy with my decision. But, when you see the photos of your first holiday away, it’s tough.
Last night, I tried to video chat with my mom and sisters. Unfortunately, due to poor internet service and equipment in my hometown, we only got about 30 seconds of choppy video and lagging audio. I got a flash of seeing my family, but that was it. To be honest, it was kind of heart breaking. My weekend up to that point had been filled with #FirstWorldProblems frustrations. When I think about it now, none of the “problems” were really a big issue. I was just sad that I couldn’t see my family and the sadness was masking itself in frustration and anger.
Long-term travel can be frustrating, it can be challenging, and it can be sad.
In reality, yesterday wasn’t so bad. The stove that pissed me off at breakfast by not working managed to work “mostly OK” when preparing dinner. The pork tenderloin I cooked wasn’t my mom’s ham, but it turned out to be perfectly cooked, tender, and juicy. Making yuca frita for the first time was an unexpected success. And I got to spend the day with my roomie, who managed to tolerate all of my little melt downs throughout the day with grace and compassion.
When you travel long-term, there are going to be bad days. They’re not the ones you see on Instagram or Facebook. They’re filled with frustration, screaming, throwing things, crying, or sulking alone in your room. The important thing to remember is that you decided to travel for a reason. If the good days are outnumbered by the bad days, then maybe it’s time to shift gears and do something else. But most likely, it was just a difficult day and tomorrow will be better. Your family and friends may be hundreds or thousands of miles away, but they’re thinking about you just like you are thinking about them. The bad days will pass and better ones will take their place. You’ll miss holidays, birthdays, weddings, births, and more. That’s what you sign up for when you travel long-term. Your loved ones will understand. They want you to be happy; and being happy doesn’t necessarily mean you’re all in the same place at the same time.
So maybe your video chat didn’t work or you overcooked the asparagus. Big deal. Look out your window and ask yourself, “is there anything else I’d rather be doing than what you’re doing right now?” For me it’s a simple answer; no. I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to be doing. Hopefully you are too.