The last time Gerard and I put our backpacks away, we knew without a doubt that we would be pulling them on again - someday. 'Travelling', as opposed to 'vacationing' is such an amazing and life-altering experience. I can't imagine that anyone who has ever done it would find once (or even twice, in our case) enough. Although I must say we never expected it would take us this long to get around to it again! But buying a house, slowly fixing it up over time, and enjoying it's comforts and beauty once you've got it absolutely perfect: that can take up an amazing amount of your time and life - before you know it, years have flown by.
And then, when you finally find yourself with the time, money and desire to head out travelling into the world again, you're stuck with a really big, new problem - finding people you know and trust enough to take care of your very favorite place on earth (to say nothing of two beloved cats and a jungle's worth of plants) and who are willing - and able - to leave their own home to do so.
But serendipity DOES strike! My aunt Susan and her partner Dave are just as excited about the adventure of living for half a year in Europe as Gerard and I are about roaming South America. Although, who knows where we might end up? On our last trip we thought it would be Australia, but found ourselves in China instead. That's one of the things I meant when I wrote how very special 'traveling' (as opposed to 'vacationing') is. You really ARE footloose and fancy free, and can go anywhere the wind blows you. It's really an amazing feeling and - thanks to Susan and Dave - in just under six weeks I'll be stepping on the plane to meet up with Gerard in Florida and, after a week with the family, we'll be on our way to Peru and entering that amazing zone of existence again!
Preparations are starting to get down to the wire now. Flights and vaccinations have long been taken care off. The 'to do' list is getting shorter, and the 'travel piles' we've started in a corner of the bedroom are getting stacked higher with mosquito nets, sleep sheets, fleece jackets, hiking boots, windbreakers, first-aid kits, sarongs, swiss army knives, water bottles, flashlights and more. I get such an unreal feeling every time I look at it. We really, finally, ARE going to be doing this again!
I can't tell you how much I wonder how the experience is going to compare to those we've had before. In any case, it's sure to be MUCH more different than the first two trips were to each other. For one thing, we're not going to be nearly as 'isolated'. On both the previous ones, when you were gone, you were really GONE! Staying in touch with people meant picking up letters at post restante or standing in line for the international phone booth at post offices that were big enough to have one. Even though I think it's wonderful that, this time around, I'll be able to share our experiences almost in real time with family and friends, I'm wondering if it might somehow dim the exciting feeling of exotic exploration which made the other trips so special.
For another thing, we're going to be so much older than the fellow travellers we'll be meeting up with! The majority of them by far tend to be in their 20s. Even on our last trip, I got into conversations with various people who said, in so many words, "I can't tell you how cool I think it is that you guys are doing something like this at YOUR AGE!" - and we were just in our mid-30s then! Oh well, I guess I'm going to have to resign myself to hearing something like that a lot more often this time around !