my drug of choice

Travel. What a glorious thing it is. Just the mere thought of the next new place I might explore is serotonin-producing for me. I have my parents to thank for instilling this passion in me at a young age. They took me to Spain when I was 12 and while that experience certainly ignited the overseas traveler in me, it was never just a matter of international travel. It was a commitment they simply made as role models to expose my brother and me to as many new experiences and places as possible – we drove cross-country and flew when we could afford it. I often joined my mother on business trips, be they in Washington DC, Toronto or Beijing. Needless to say, I’ve never been without a current passport – you just never know when the opportunity or mood might strike. Another commitment my parents made that I’ve since brought into my own marriage is establishing a regular travel routine sans children. Let’s be honest, up to a certain age, traveling with children is less vacation and more work. Well, for me, anyway. I do know mothers who swear that traveling, even internationally, with small children is no big deal and they truly love it. Just like anything motherhood-related, to each her own. But I know myself well enough to know what my limits are in that regard. In fact, I just read a blurb in a motherhood astrology book this past weekend about the Aries mother and how the selflessness aspect of parenting is by far her biggest challenge. The authors made it clear that without consistent visits to the “decompression chamber,” an Aries mother is likely to explode. I’m apparently a superb role model when it comes to setting examples for independence, individuality and ambition, however. Phew!

So in accordance with these more selfish character traits, I’ve grown newly passionate for the solo travel experience as well. My 2-week adventure in Bali last year was incredible, to say the least, and often described by myself and others as a “once in a lifetime experience.” The more I thought about it, though, the more depressing that statement became. Why only once in my lifetime should I break out of life’s everyday rhythms and fly free? If I have the time, financial means and encouragement from the people who matter most to me, why stop at just once? And so I approached Sean with the idea of giving each other the gift of a solo travel experience every year for our birthdays. An annual trip into the decompression chamber, if you will. I brought this idea to him around the time of his birthday last August, but he’s no dummy. He knows who he married and he knew this was just my feeble attempt at cleverly disguising something I wanted badly as something we could both benefit from. What can I say, the man loves me and so he obliged. And there are a host of life-threatening activities that Sean would love to do that I simply don’t have the stomach for – heliskiing, base-jumping, Everest-climbing type insanities. What better way for him to meet his death-defying goals than by going alone? And so we have it – an idea was created, a budget was set and a tradition was born. Sean has since decided to triple his budget and defer his inaugural soloventure to 2016 when he will, in fact, go heliskiing in Alaska.

But for me, I have been salivating in not-so-patient wait for April to roll around so I can find out where I’m going in 2014. Part of the tradition is that the gift-giver gets to reveal the recipient’s destination. No one, and I mean no one loves a surprise more than this girl. And while there are certainly hundreds of picturesque and culturally rich places I have yet to see in my home country, I was praying that 2014 would require a passport. And in true see-right-through-me fashion, Sean came through. Come this October I will be boarding a jetplane for Vietnam. Vietnam!! I will go for about a week and likely focus on the Northern part of the country, places like SaPa and Ha Long Bay (for your own benefit, this is worth a quick Google Image search). I’m toying with the idea of getting completely outside of my comfort zone and doing a short homestay with an indigenous family. Whatever the outcome of my itinerary, I’m over the moon with gratitude for what is sure to be another life-affirming experience.

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell

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