… Continued from “Why I Cancelled a Trip to Scotland 4 Hours Before the Flight…”
I ended my last post with the realization that the non-trip cemented the fact that a new voyage had already begun.
Blown away by the responses and emails I received after sharing the post, I realized once again that my revelations were as one friend called in her email subject, “seismic changes.” Were they? I thought. Because for me, this was nothing new. It had been brewing for months – all year, really – which I’ll get to… But I suppose I kept such thoughts and feelings and actions so close to the vest that it was only apparent to those in my closest inner circle.
So here were go…
Like probably 95% of the population, I get distracted by looking at photos on Facebook and Instagram of friends, family, and colleagues. It’s not an accurate reflection of how happy they are with their life. It’s not an accurate reflection of life at all. It’s just social media. It’s a form of narcissistic entertainment and I, too, fall prey to its evils at times.
Sometimes the photos tell a story that is exactly as it looks; other times, it’s as far as you can get from the truth. This year, I made a conscious effort to TALK to my closest friends and family by phone or Skype if we couldn’t get together in person — liking a Facebook status or photo is hardly an intimate relationship. It lacks the sacred reciprocity of honest sharing that is necessary in a true friendship or relationship of any kind. For some, it may be only a couple of times a year that we have those deep catch up sessions, but they are always joyous and everything that real relationships are and social media is not.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had conversations that use social media to assume things about another person.
“Well he liked my Facebook status, soooo…”
“She commented on insta this morning, so she must have seen my text by now…”
“Did you see my tweet? Did you post it? Did you check us in? Did you tag me?“
“Not sure why you’re not calling, but I checked Facebook so I know you’re in town…”
People have told me dozens of times what an exciting life I’m leading and how lucky I am to travel here and there. For the most part, they’re right – it has been exciting. Some of the most incredible moments and favorite experiences of my life have been while on the road, shared via social media. But it’s never the whole story. The wanderlust life is not as glamorous as it looks, nor as fulfilling.
I used to envy when others’ online lives looked adventurous and worldly. I’d wonder, “how did they get there? Who sent them? Did they have an assignment?” and the competitive spirit would kick in. Before long, I’d be somewhere equally as fabulous that would have someone else salivating with superficial jealousy. I felt a meaningless but temporarily satisfying sense of importance from it.
At some point over the last couple of years, that changed.
I’d see the photos of someone in a remote land having one of those life changing, all-encompassing experiences, and the green monster was virtually non-existant. Instead I felt joyous for them, finding gratitude that I’d had so many similar experiences over the last decade. And then I’d see the more “simple” posts. The moms with their babies. The dads at the grill wearing their football jerseys. The kids in the car singing “let it go.” The families at the pumpkin patch. The spit up and temper tantrums, too. I found myself envying those.
I ran away from it for YEARS, consciously and subconsciously by choosing unavailable or unsuitable men to date (with a couple of exceptions… but let’s not go there right now. That’s a whole other can of not-so-pretty worms…).
The idea of “settling” scared me. The thought that I’d be held captive somewhere with rules and limitations and obligations freaked me out. I’d seen far too many bad examples of unhappy people in stuck lives. And I didn’t have any positive role models or couples I could point to and say, “Yes. That. That’s what I want.” So instead I ran all over the world as often as I could because travel was something that would never let me down. Even in the worst scenarios, I’d come home with a fabulous tale to tell.
My bucket list consisted of one destination or adventure after another, and I crossed off a lot, from skydiving over the Swiss Alps to camping in the deep jungles of the Amazon. It was a beautiful love affair. Travel was my boyfriend, my lover, my best friend, and my escape.
To be clear, I’m not done. I love travel for what it’s given me over the years. My passion for it is still very much intact. And I will still be publishing, writing and reporting, and choosing select destinations and stories to cover. I also have a backlog of stories that have never seen the light of day because I was so busy getting from A to B, packing, unpacking, and packing again.
Though I may not be traveling today or this month, “traveler” is forever imprinted in my makeup for one important reason – travel is transformative. It’s true that it’s the best education in the world – for the mind, the body, the spirit, and the soul. Sometimes even when you don’t actually get on the plane…
Cue Michael Jackson. I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life… it’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference… gonna make it riiiiight….
I realized earlier this year that if I didn’t stay put for larger chunks of time that my bigger dreams of finding my mate — my “person” — and starting a family of my own would be increasingly difficult. I suppose it’s possible to find the love of your life in the baggage claim line or in the middle of the Serengeti, but really what are the chances? I had to make some decisions that would give fate and destiny a little hand up. To be open to the possibility.
At the same time I needed to be out and about, friends had stopped inviting me to things – or phrasing an invite with “you’re probably not going to be here, but if you are…” It didn’t feel good. I’d been so busy connecting with the world at large that I’d faded away from my connections at home. I no longer wanted an “exciting” life on the road. I wanted simple, quiet, stability. I was tired of running away from things that I feared wouldn’t work out, people who would disappoint, and circumstances that might not pan out as I’d hoped. Someone once said you can’t run around pain, you have to go through it, and with every flight, every trip, I was just running a loop de loop around issues, people, and problems that I didn’t want to deal with at home.
It took an injury to finally slow me down and keep me still for long enough to figure it all out. This too, is for a later post, but let’s just say my body revolted and said, STOP.
I understand the families going to the pumpkin patch or Christmas tree lots right now may be thinking how much they wish they could pack up spontaneously and head to the airport instead. Just as the travel photos don’t tell the whole story, the sweet pumpkin patch photos don’t either. I get it. Life keeps marching on, ready or not, and it’s not all about perfect instagram filters and catch phrases. You choose your path and take with it all the bumps and bruises and challenges that come with it. You may not always make the right choice. But hopefully, you learn and you grow and you do the best you can.
Travel has always put things into perspective for me, and in the case of Scotland, not traveling did the same. I had goals I hadn’t met, promises to myself I hadn’t kept. And 75% of the year was gone…
The night I pulled the plug on the trip, I randomly called a friend with whom I would normally only have “scheduled-in-advance” plans. I said I was a bit emotional and raw about the whole cancelled trip thing; that I wasn’t sure I’d be very good company but that I really felt like having a burger and by any chance was she free last minute.
Her response? “No, but — I’m having people over and cooking vegan for the first time, so COME OVER!” My introverted self wanted to shy away and say no, but I didn’t let it win. I went. I showed up. And I had the best time, enjoying someone else’s home, someone else’s cooking, and being vulnerable, sharing with new people on a gut-wrenchingly emotional evening where I was torn between overwhelming obligations at home and disappointing a dear friend.
Sadly and embarrassingly, it was the first time I’d had such a night in many, many months. I always had “friend time” — ladies nights with my besties designed to look even better than they were on social media with hashtags #GNO #bestnightever #OMG #LOL — but such nights of bonding were reserved for my closest inner circle; the people I trusted the most; the ones who didn’t require effort; the ones who’d already proven themselves to me over and over again.
At some point, I’d stopped investing time and energy and emotion and vulnerability in new people, in dating, in relationships, and I didn’t recognize my social self anymore. I was checking off country after country, but was actually stuck in a bubble of safety, cocooning with my dogs and living a lifestyle that allowed for escapism to trump reality. If life begins at the end of your comfort zone, then where was I?
I was going through the motions, complacent on the road, complacent at home, going going going, instagramming the roses but not stopping to smell them.
This friend had no idea how far out of my box I went, but the opportunity to break the cycle and do something that felt foreign and scary meant the world to me. With one simple action that night, I carved a new path. You put the energy out there – set your intention – and things start to happen…
But there was something else brewing, too.
If you’ve ever seen or heard fertility statistics, 35 is the magic number when “they” basically say you have a few years left before your eggs all shrivel up and your chances of getting pregnant (and having a healthy pregnancy) are lower than the chance you’ll cross the street and get hit by a bus. Pretty much.
I turned that magical young-but-not-that-young-and-still-not-old-age this year and decided it was time to take some steps to give myself the best possible chances to have a family of my own when the time was right. (That statement “when the time is right” also warrants a blog post because no such thing exists…)
I didn’t want to feel the pressure to “settle” for the wrong one – to date or marry for the sake of having a child if the man wasn’t someone with whom I wanted to spend my life. I was perfectly content being alone and rather enjoyed my own company, especially after some disappointing relationships and observing friends in ones that brought more grief than giggles. If I wanted to find the right partner for ME, I needed to genuinely take time to date and get to know people – without that ticking clock in the back of my head.
The women in the mirror
The mirror I was granted to look through over the last two years was a blessing. Absolutely intended. On the road, I met women who came from every walk of life and had made every kind of decision and experience with regard to marriage and children. It didn’t matter if they were Kenyan or Canadian; they shared human experience that made me think, deeply, about what I wanted.
There were women who never had children, women who had them and lost them, women who adopted, women who raised children alone, women in happy marriages, women in unhappy marriages, women who divorced, single moms, women who regretted never having children, women who resented their children and husbands, women who wished they’d had more, women who were adopted, women who had both adopted children and biological children, gay couples (men and women) who were finally able to adopt, women who were getting sperm donors, women who went through IVF successfully and unsuccessfully, women not much older than me who couldn’t conceive after trying for years; and women who happily knew they never wanted children and didn’t… and those are just the highlights.
It was through that mirror that I connected with my own desires, forced to look at it all with a more critical eye.
During both my and Lanee’s first trip to Africa a couple of years ago, we visited an orphanage. It was a powerful and profound experience that was equally draining and uplifting. I joked with my mom upon our return home she should be glad that I just came home with a foster elephant, and not an adopted child. But in all seriousness, it was one of the first times the thought popped into my head – as ignorant as this sounds now – that adoption might be something I’d consider in the future. Lanee and I spoke about the topic at length then and continued to talk privately about whether having children was in her or my futures. We laughed nervously, in fact, about what would happen to the Voyage Vixens brand.
“Baby Vixens doesn’t really sound so good,” she said a year or so ago in a speech we gave about brand building and choosing a name that has longevity. It wasn’t until this month we decided to share these private conversations publicly, in hopes that many women out there may relate and find comfort in the community or commonality.
You see, several years ago, I was told by a doctor – mistakenly – that because of some biological abnormalities, having a child might be difficult for me. This misinformation characterized many of my decisions and lifestyle choices in my 20’s and early 30’s. It was so upsetting to me at the time that I just sort of gave up on the idea of “one day” and focused on creating a life that was more self-indulgent and focused on work and travel. Again, going back to what I could count on.
As I was still in my 20’s, not in a relationship, and was full steam ahead with my career, it wasn’t until many years later and in a serious relationship again that I began to think about it, wondering why I’d never gotten a second opinion. The man I was dating at the time wanted a big family – 4 or 5 kids – and didn’t have the best reaction to my sensitive, emotionally charged revelation that a big family might not be in the cards for me. It wasn’t long after that we broke up.
Though the breakup wasn’t for that reason, the conversation stuck with me. It was a tough one to swallow because it triggered an awkward twinge of feeling “less than.” Here I was, all Martha and crafty and a great cook and educated and well-traveled and this and that and whatever, having what I thought was so much to offer, but not feeling like I, alone, was enough. I’d been here before, having dated for years a man for whom I needed to be a puzzle piece that fit perfectly into his plans, rather than create our own together. It wasn’t quite as simple as that, but this felt uncomfortably familiar.
All of it – and every relationship up to that point and beyond – was a blessing (sometimes disguised) because what I learned was how important it was that I be with someone who wanted a true partnership in every sense of the word; who was strong enough, experienced enough, aware enough, and mature enough to handle the cliche ups and downs, who wanted to tackle the challenges with me, to champion our successes and be a rock in our failures, to dance in the rain AND picnic in the sun, to celebrate the rainbows AND trudge through the mud, and more than anything, who wanted imperfect me, too.
Utopian? Maybe. Hard to find? Definitely. Impossible? No way.
So last January, a new journey began, not at the airport, but at the doctor’s office. I went to see a fertility doctor (two, actually) to see where I was at and to ask hundreds of questions. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge and information as I could. Several tests later, I learned that my doctor from years ago was wrong to jump to conclusions. Were there a couple anatomical challenges? Yes. But most importantly — there was nothing that would prevent my getting pregnant and having a baby. I was actually in pretty good shape. “It’s a good thing we’re talking now, and you’re not coming in here at 40 or 45,” the doctor reassured me.
Though a bit angry at first that I’d been believing such misinformation for so long, that anger served no purpose and was relatively easy to let go of. And onward life went. There were a couple of trips and some obstacles hand delivered by the universe as reminders to find and keep my zen, but the wheels were set in motion. I declined several trips and assignments in exchange for staying put and letting it all marinate.
Recalibrated, I needed a roadmap. The plan was simple. I’d freeze my healthy 35-year-old eggs and be able to relax a bit, forcing that darn clock to tick a little more quietly. Freezing my eggs would just give me a little buffer. Nothing was guaranteed, but it was empowering to feel like I was doing something. Creating options. Not putting all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, but rather (sorry, can’t resist) the freezer. I just needed to save — wait for it — $13,000.
My goal was to do it – signed, sealed, and frozen — by the end of this year.