(I originally wrote this three-part travel memoir in February - March 2018 and wanted to share the experiences away from home that in hindsight were preparing me to become a caregiver upon my return. Some of us travel after loss, I travelled before it and it's as though my travels were a prelude of what was to unfold. I was being prepared for what was to come on many levels. I hope this three-part blog supports your caregiver journey as well ~ Jill).
Photo: Great Ocean Road, 12 Apostles, Port Campbell National Park, Australia - image captured on my iphone 7+
With wings outstretched, she pierced her gaze right through me and into my soul. I silently gasped for a breath. I knew I had to pass under her to get to the other side.
As I approached her I knew she was recalling back to me every experience I had gone through during my travels…both the good ones and the dark ones, the lessons from the Maori woman at Waitangi, the deeply spiritual Aborigine cleansing ceremony in Sydney and the pervasive masculine energy that revealed itself to me continuously throughout my travels across New Zealand. She also reflected back to me the quiet serenity I felt on the island of Maui.
As she whispered to me, ‘you have been on a great journey’ my experiences flashed simultaneously in my minds eye. ‘Yes’ I whispered back. I breathed in Canada for the first time in four months. I was home.
Allow the meaning to set in.
Later that day, I learned that I had walked under the art work of Connie Watts in the Pacific Passage at Vancouver’s YVR airport. It’s located within the US and International arrivals on the way to customs. This is the actual description of Connie’s creation and I understood why I needed to experience ‘her’ -
“Connie created the grandmother, this dramatic work combines the features of the mythological Thunderbird with the personality of a woman Watts describes as determined, creative and generous. Created from powder-coated aluminum and stained birch panels, Hetux looms above travellers as they walk through YVR's Pacific Passage, displaying images of animals and celestial bodies that represent aspects of Hetux's character including intensity, determination, joy and prosperity.”
In all honesty, the descent into Vancouver was smooth except for the pain in my left ear and the feeling as though the plane was descending on its side…hello vertigo. So when it came time to walk up the passenger boarding bridge to enter the airport, the damp west coast air hit my lungs and I felt somewhat light-headed and at ease.
The Vancouver airport is well known for its First Nations art. At one point I asked my husband if the airport was piping in sound like wind through the mountains. Nope. Lol it was my ears. Great effect though. So when I first saw the gigantic Thunderbird art installation towering above, I knew I was about to have another experience. There was no escaping her. Another gift.
Why do we journey?
Our goal for this time away from our daily routines was to Rest, Rejuvenate and Refuel.
My husband and I journeyed together for four months beginning at the end of September 2017 to the end of January 2018 returning to our physical home in Halifax, NS on February 1.
Yep we’re crazy. We still have friends and our parents still love us.
During our four months, we spent time in Australia including Tasmania, both the north and south island of New Zealand and three islands in Hawaii. To help us with returning to our ‘normal’ lives, we transitioned our travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic by spending six days in Vancouver with our friends (thank you Connie and Tony). Vancouver holds a special place for my husband and I. It’s calming and rebellious at the same time; a risk taker always looking westward to what’s possible. I always feel abundance and health when I am there.
This blog post series is a personal account of some of the life lessons we experienced. I’ve written it primarily from my perspective because both my husband and I had our own experiences as well as a collective one.
And yes we are still married after being together 24/7 over four months, after 18 flights, countless trains, buses, taxis, and subway rides. We also counted 18 hotel stays of which included three Airbnb’s. If you told me a few years ago that I’d be leaving the comfort of my daily routine (and home and work) to travel for four months I would not have believed you.
My husband and I can problem solve anything now. Maybe this is a secret to a good marriage / partnership. Travel together without parents or children and reconnect on what you both need as a couple going forward (ps I reckon this can be done in one week, four months was an absolute gift).
Anything is possible.
What does one learn from being away besides the obvious to explore new landscapes, learn more about the local culture(s), history and to meet new people? Oh, and eat amazing food?
Here is my big picture learning. I’m sharing it with you in the hope that it resonates with you. Moving outside of my comfort zone allowed me to:
The hardest part in embarking on this travel journey was being away from my family, close friends and clients. It was tough to say good-bye. I left with the intention of blogging up a storm to stay connected with everyone. I thought I needed to hold on to everyone and keep teaching and giving by writing lengthy recounts of my experiences.
Here’s what really happened. The journey outward became an inward one. As a result, I made the decision not to blog regularly and take the experiences in for myself because I truly needed this time for myself. Enter guilt. I have given to others all my life. Enter truth. It took the first six weeks to get to a state of mind of non-guilt. Enter reality. This was a gift of time in my life that had been given to me. Gratitude began to surround me.
And so it begins.
Has this happened to you on your air travels? You’re a mess from the airplane ride? After my interpretation of ‘surviving’ the 15-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean my body literally needed to be uncoiled. I’m not a tall person. I can fit anywhere and I usually have the patience of a saint.
We were on one of the largest planes to date (an Airbus A380, thank you Qantas, I call it the double-decker). I had no legroom in my seat. Is this for real? My husband’s seat was perfect for him. He’s tall. No seat in front of him. I was in the middle. In all honesty, my nervous system was on maximum. I was in fight or flight mode (go figure). I wasn’t chilled, zen’d out, nor at one with the universe. I was silently freaking out. And the plane was still on the tarmac at LAX.
Enter tears. Enter self-talk. Come on Jill, pull yourself together. The steward handed out the in-flight menu. Six course meal coming up over 15 hours. I was distracted like a toddler with a toy. Look at that wine list. All complimentary of course.
Seatbelt buckled, my legs near my chin (haha) and then the Qantas safety video streamed in front me (like an inch away from my face). Amazing video. That Aussie accent. More tears. This is real. More self-talk. Why me? I’m blessed. Then why I am so scared? Oh because you’re about to leave everything and everyone you hold dear behind (except for Alec). And obviously your adrenal glands are still not 100% back. There’s no escape now. You’re on an Airbus A380! Suck it up buttercup. You’re going to explore the plane. Fear, excitement, nerves, need too sleep, when does the first course start?
These were some of the lessons I learned and want to share with you:
When we give in and surrender to what is about to unfold for us, all will be revealed. Have courage to both observe it and take it in at the same time. And also be able to face your darkness with a deep knowing. That is the underlying message of the New Zealand landscapes and I really had no idea of what was about to hit me.
Look for Blog Part 2 – Finding strength while experiencing darkness (travels through New Zealand).
For a visual and more info about the Thunderbird in The Pacific Passage, click here.
For that amazing in-flight safety video by Qantas, click here