Looking with new eyes: On home, and away.

December 16, 2013 in North America, Travelogue, United States

snow day

One of the reasons we travel is to see new things.

To learn. To grow. To be stretched. To stand outside everything we thought we new and realize that there is more. To experience penguins and kangaroos instead of just read about them or see zoo animals (who have forgotten what it means to be themselves.)

One of the reasons we come home is to remember.

Where we came from. What we love. Who we’re connected to. What matters most. That we’re grounded. Where our roots are. Why we travel.

The reality is that even at home we are traveling.

This weekend we’ve had a beautiful blending of worlds as our buddy Phil, who we picked up backpacking in Guatemala a few years ago, blew into town and surprised the socks off of our kids. Our friends Heather and Nick, from Living Differently, drove days out of their way to connect with us in real life for the first time. My good friend (and editor at Boots-N-All) Adam braved a snowstorm with his wife Megan and their cute little baby to have an evening of dinner and drinks, then turned around and drove four hours back home the next day. All of these folks, from years of travel and online connections woven through the fabric of our Indiana home and Tony’s parents’ living room.

With my friend Heather

With my friend Heather

I sat on the floor, with my cup of hot tea and inhaled the sweetness of friends, the giggle of children, and the quiet picking of guitar and mandolin as Heather played Afrikaans music for us and we reciprocated with our version of Old Crow Medicine Show. It was a source of great joy for me to teach her South African children how to roll a proper snow ball and stack them carefully to make their very first snow man. Watching the gleam in 5 year old Joah’s eyes as he boldly strode into the snow battle with the big boys and did his southern hemisphere best to make his presence fearsome.

Morgan watched me with big brown eyes as I stirred the milk and cream into a big bowl of fresh snow and carefully added the Mexican vanilla my mother-in-law still has from our last trip south. I told her stories about my Canadian childhood as she sipped Tim Horton’s coffee that my brother Muywa gave me a few weeks ago when we left Edmonton. This is her first trip to North America. Her first snow ice cream. Her first eggnog. Her first white Christmas in all of her lovely eight years of life. She giggled through her gap-toothed smile and her dad told us the story of losing her first tooth in America.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget how her eyes sparkled with every colour of the rainbow when we drove, slowly, through the big local Christmas light display two nights ago. Her wide-eyed wonder saved me from that re-entry tipping point where it’s tempting to retreat into the familiar and forget that we’re still traveling, even when we’re places we’ve been a thousand times.

She reminded me to see with new eyes. To open my heart to the wonder. To live in a place that invites each day’s adventure. 

And then there’s Phil.

Hannah and Phil

Hannah and Phil

What can I say about this young man except that we love him. He was just 17 years old when Ez and I picked him (along with his friends) up from the Chicken Bus stop in Panajachel. They stuck around for much of the winter, making our southern Christmas very merry indeed. I remember thinking that he was more put together at 17 than half of the 30 year old men I knew, at 20, he’s just that much better. He drove through a snow storm, over seven hours, from central Iowa to beat my boys to a pulp with snow balls and giggle over stories and pictures, from their backpacking trip in Belize, with Hannah. I will pick up hitchhikers until the day I die because of Phil and a dozen young people just like him.

We sat with Adam and Megan and sipped micro-brew beer in a bar with live music on the corner of the square in Noblesville, Indiana. I know I’m not nearly cool enough to be worth driving from St. Louis, MO to have dinner and drinks with, but Adam and his wife were cool enough to make the trip and not mention it! The very best part of my life is the people I meet traveling, and the people I get to work with as a result of the travels. BnA is my favourite place to write for, for lots of reasons, philosophically and practically, but really, I just love Sean and Adam as men. That our families are well aligned is just the icing on the cake.

And so here we are… rolling again.

Headed south from Indianapolis for a week in Bloomington with our godchildren. We hugged the grandparents goodbye with laughter instead of tears this time. It’s been a fabulous two weeks with them and it won’t be nearly as long between visits this time, as we’re going to stay in the western hemisphere for the foreseeable future.

Instead of grumbling about the cold and dreading another layer of snow, I’m traveling this morning. Not just in my body, but in my soul. I’m seeing Indiana with the same eyes that I saw central Sulawesi. I’m looking for the adventure the same way I did in Borneo. I’m looking for the people who will make life a richer place, just like I did in New Zealand. I’m appreciating the gift of home in the same way I appreciate the gift of away and I’m looking with new eyes.