Three years ago this week, I stood in my living room, surrounded by towers of boxes that needed to be unpacked. Today, three years later, I am surrounded by the same boxes, except this time I’m packing them all back up again. Back in 2019, if you had asked me if I’d ever be preparing to rent out my house and leave once more for an extended traveling period, my answer would have been a hearty, “Hell, no!” I was fresh off a three-year sailboat stint and thrilled to the gills to be back in my house with the luxury of multiple bathrooms, laundry machines and a kitchen that more than one person could stand in at a time. I was happy to be back in Telluride, where everything was familiar, and I felt certain that we were here to stay.
What I didn’t know then, but I do now, is that the trip we’d just taken had changed us. Our family of four had gotten a taste of unfettered freedom, we’d learned to live simply, with little to no routine, and we’d grown accustomed to constant change. The hardships and inherent unknowns of traveling that once seemed overwhelming had become the challenges we craved. As months went by following re-entry, our feet grew itchier. When the pandemic hit, our collective itchiness heightened to a full-on case of hives. All of us agreed that something was off; we felt ungrounded, restless and dissatisfied. I was frustrated because I felt this way. Telluride is a paradise, I’d tell myself, and anyone should feel lucky and grateful to live here. What was wrong with us? In the end, it came down to this: We missed being together all the time, we missed the thrill of change, and we missed our wanderlust lifestyle.
But leaving again would not be that easy for us this time around. For one thing, our kids were older and had more ties and obligations. Travis’ business had grown and was more complicated. And then there was the money issue … we didn’t have any. Prior to our sailing trip, we’d saved like squirrels for over a year, cut our spending budget in more than half and sold a bunch of our belongings. Pulling this off again, in a much shorter timeline, would be an ambitious feat. We didn’t even have an idea of where we should go or what we should do, which seemed absurd. I mean, isn’t that how travel plans usually originate, with a destination? So, with nary a landing pad in mind, we decided that this time we’d go about everything backwards. We set a ballpark date to leave and figured that everything else would fall into place as we went along. It usually did, after all. And then around this time my husband got a feverish glint in his eye.
“Hey guys,” he pitched one morning with a sly grin, “What about Japan?”
For this ski-obsessed family, Japan has always circulated in the backs of our minds as a tantalizing “someday” kind of destination. The four of us set our tentative sights on it, and then realized that the country was still closed to tourism due to COVID. That brick wall seemed impenetrable, but we didn’t close the book on Japan, and we kept the idea simmering on our back burners. We tried snagging a work visa, we dragged our feet in choosing another place, we kept our hopes burning and our fingers crossed. Forever the optimist, my husband even found a freestyle skiing team in Hakuba that would accept both our children. Travis communicated with the coaches and signed Hud and Viv up for the team with the caveat that we might not actually ever make it there. Then, in late August, rumors began circulating that Japan would open in October. Those rumors turned out to be true — Japan could happen for us, but we had to move quickly. A fever-pitch scrambling to get organized ensued: passports renewed, COVID boosters received, dog and cat planned for, house spruced up and rented, airline tickets purchased, homeschooling sorted, and a million other details that we are still hammering out every day. We found a postage-stamp sized apartment in Hakuba that we will squeeze into, the square footage reminiscent of our sailboat days.
In three weeks from today, we will set off in our Volkswagon van and drive to Maine, camping (and hopefully not freezing) along the way, so that we can spend some holiday time with our families. After that, we are Japan bound. Our return date is open; Travis bought one-way tickets.
One part of me is exhilarated, the other is drowning in a sea of doubt. I am, after all, the official worrier of the family, and I’m obligated to fulfill my duties. I worry that uprooting our kids for a second time will be hard on them. I’m worried about staying on budget. I’m worried about the thousands of things you worry about when you wake up in the middle of the night and everything seems much, much more complicated than it actually is. Are we making the right choice by embarking on this very new and different kind of journey? My gut tells me we are, and I do know this, that hard choices and smart risks are not to be feared. I guess for now all I can tell you is, we’ll send you a postcard when we get there.