Home today — after whirlwind trips to and lots of goodbyes in D.C., Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts — where I am packing for Abu Dhabi. We leave in exactly one week for our latest adventure. With each pair of linen pants that I lay in my huge suitcase, I realize that adventures get harder when there are more people (and pets) to love and leave behind.
In 1986, I left for Kenya with one duffel bag. I left behind my young parents and my younger siblings. I left the swimming pool behind, too, which really had been my home for 18 years. The pool at the University of South Florida, and the pool at Carlouel Yacht Club. (CYC pictured here.) I left behind friends, too, but we were all on our way somewhere.
In 1988, I left for South Korea with two suitcase. Again, I left much behind, but I wanted to see the Summer Olympics and Seoul more than anything, so I went. I came back a year later after finding out a murderer had been among my circle of friends in Korea. Try as I might, I can’t leave that memory in the past.
Then there was Arizona, then England, then Vermont, then New York, then Virginia, then Quebec, then Singapore, then New Orleans. The stories of going kept coming.
But some people have gone along the way. I no longer have my dad to say goodbye to, nor my stepbrother Craig, among many others.
And now I have new people who I hate to say goodbye to: my stepchildren and THEIR CHILDREN. Oh how I love Beckett, who is nearly 2, and Lillian Grace, who is nearly three weeks. Beckett is learning how to say “Abu Dhabi,” and it’s the cutest thing ever in the history of the world.
We also had to say farewell to our beloved dog Kip, who has gone to live with a great lady, and another lab named Max, on three acres in rural Pennsylvania. It’s also tough for our son David to say goodbye to his good pals, but he’s pretty excited about the chance to go the American International School, and to see the Pyramids in Cairo at some point. He’s also asked if he can spend his 11th birthday in Tokyo.
David has our gene pool, which dictates that you gotta keep swimming.
Sometimes, I think I’m a shark not a mermaid. I worry that if I stop moving, I will drown.
But the reality is that I am compelled to go in the same way some people are compelled to stay. I’ve always been like this, and I always will be. Yet it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard, or that I’m not balling my eyes out with each goodbye.
I simply cannot resist the lure of a new setting, a different culture, and previously uncharted waters. What might I know in three weeks that I didn’t know last month? What story will I discover and share? I can learn Arabic, to add to my Swahili and Korean, and tiny bit of Mandarin.
I will no doubt meet people in Abu Dhabi who will eventually be hard to leave. (I think of some very dear pals in Singapore who I may never see again: Carol Capitani, Jen Kircher, Kansas Carradine, Liz Jensen, Liesel Duhon.)
Maybe I’m hoarding memories for the day when I may not be able to remember any more. That thought has been in the back of my head since losing my dad to Alzheimer’s disease two years ago. You know, my dad who kept his dad’s brain in a jar.
Occasionally, someone will ask me what I’m running from, and I abhor that question. I’m not running. I’m seeing the world. Looking for the best in people and in places.
Collecting hearts, not brains.