Ever since I was a little girl, I had an overwhelming curiosity to know what was just around the corner. Where other girl’s heads contained the names of boy band members or the latest gossip, mine was full of maps and schemes. I remember places, directions, and small details that other people never notice. I’m different and I always have been.
When I was a child, I wished I was more like everybody else. This got worse as I hit middle school. The other girls were so content to talk about boys and excited about their latest mall purchases. I tried. I really did. I never felt like one of them. A cog that didn’t fit. I never felt as excited about homecoming dresses and hairstyles as it appeared I was supposed to as a member of teen suburbia.
I got my first real taste of the giddy excitement that I had seen on my classmates over the years on a trip to Florida. We were on the trip for my sister but that is a tale for another time. Honestly, I felt guilty for this trip being so important to me because it was meant to be hers. Later, I realized that it was hers but it was also all of ours. A child being sick is hard on the whole family. She made a full recovery to grow up to be a lovely young lady that I’m proud to be related to.
We flew into Orlando via Tampa. It was the first time I saw a real palm tree. It was hot. I didn’t know where anything was. I was completely overwhelmed by the newness of it all. There was an excitement inside that I can’t explain. My brain hard at work, making new connections. I was 14 years old and suddenly I understood that look of glee that I saw on the faces of others.
My dad drove us to Daytona Beach. He had lived near there before marrying a single mother and becoming the instant, much-needed father of yours truly. We were only there for half the day before driving back to Orlando. We parked on the beach, the pier in sight, and I stepped foot onto the sand for the first time. I had never experienced such beauty. The clawing beast inside me calmed. I felt like I had arrived home after being away for a long time. A feeling that was entirely new for me. I had moved so many times already in my short life. I had never felt like I was truly home anywhere. I still feel like that every time I step foot on the beach. It’s like being greeted by an old friend that was just waiting for me to come by.
I came back from that trip a different person. I brought home something that has lasted much, much longer than sun-kissed cheeks. I brought home a wanderlust that has nearly driven me nuts over the years. Who knew that your entire existence could change within the course of a week? From that point forward, I never looked at my beloved maps the same way. I wondered every time we drove anywhere what would happen if we just kept driving. My daydreams were filled with endless miles of road, plane rides, mountains, and beautiful beaches.
I planned to hit the road in a van with my best friend after we graduated but things don’t always go as planned. Instead I fell in love, married a wonderful man, and had a baby right after. My mind shifted into survival mode. I had no idea what I was doing. I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. In my pursuit to give her the most stable life I could, I blocked out those daydreams of living in a van, playing on the beach, and meandering around the globe at my leisure. We traveled as we could for pleasure and work. We had our second daughter. We bought the house in the suburbs near a great hospital when our oldest had some medical problems. That is also a long story for another day. The important part is that she is healthy and happy now.
With the crises of learning to parent and our daughter’s medical issues behind us, that little part of my brain started to hum again. Where would I end up if I just kept driving. We could just move to the beach. Would I be happy in one place? My husband and I began talking about moving, about travel, about our dreams. We added a third daughter to our tiny tribe. I love her in a way that you only love your very last baby. She was the last. The final tribe member until our daughters perhaps add more of their own one day. I knew she was the last one the moment I saw her. Our family suddenly complete. We sucked up all the baby moments we could.
My husband and I talked more about dreams. I played my hand close to my heart, always afraid to say the words and let the beast out. We have a nice life. A nice home. We are very happy. What if he didn’t want to travel? What if he was content right here? Distracted. I was distracted. It clawed again. Constantly, go, go, go. We have a nice life. We take vacations to the beach. I feel at peace when we are going somewhere new.
It was on one of those beach vacations that I showed my hand completely. Not in a dream talk way but in a real way. My husband said we could do it. He said he would follow me anywhere. It’s a nice dream but it doesn’t feel like real talk. It’s vacation talk with vacation husband that wears a straw hat and flip-flops.
We talk about it later at home. He says “We can do anything if we put our minds to it.” We talk about running away. It’s cute, like a little secret we share. It’s not real, just pillow talk between two tired parents in the ‘burbs. Daydreams of being a traveling hippie have re-entered my daily thoughts. I feel like I’m talking about it too much. I try to stop. My husband finally asks why and I tell him because it’s real to me, that it’s everything I have wanted since I was 14 standing on that beach staring into the vast beauty of the ocean. His response…”I’ll follow you anywhere. I mean it. You and the kids are my home.” We sit, in silence, starring each other down. I finally say, “We have a beautiful life.” He responds, “We do. It might not be the right kind of beautiful for us is all.” We sit. My brain running at max capacity.
For those of you that have never sat on the edge, knowing damn good and well you should jump but being so scared about the splat at the bottom that you hang on for an extra second, it’s the scariest moment of your entire life. I tell my husband that I’m completely serious. I want to go as far as we possibly can for as long as we can. I tell him about the quiet voice that has grown to a shriek over the past few years, always Go! Go! Go! The part of me that will never be happy here or possibly anywhere. He understands completely.
We agree to leave by the end of 2020. Just like that, we set invisible things in motion. Setting a date has done something that conspiring in whispered voices never did. We are doing this. We tell our kids. We begin to get a list of things we need to do before we leave in order. We start working on the list, slowly at first, gaining momentum as we go. We tell our families and friends.
We hit a point in March of this year where everything suddenly turned a corner and it was completely real. I am the why behind our journey. I hope everyday that I’m doing the right thing but I know I’m doing it. The daydreamer with the horrible case of wanderlust is finally getting her way. Dream big everyone! It may come true.