“Awww, so cute!” an acquaintance remarked, stroking Talon’s fuzzy head while we waited in line at a local coffee shop. “Aren’t you glad you got traveling out of your system before the baby was born?”
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that question lately, I’d have been able to buy my cappuccino. I know my friend meant well. But anyone who’s set off to explore the nooks and crannies of the world knows that you never “get it out of your system.” Travel is a virus that stays in your blood – kind of like hepatitis or certain strains of malaria. It lurks at the edge of your daily routine, waiting for just the right moment to surge forth and overwhelm you with the urge to pack up and go.
I bit my tongue and smiled pleasantly as I paid for my coffee. Then I took my baby to a corner table, where I vowed to him that my travel bug is dormant but not dead. Talon gazed solemnly at me with his wide eyes as I promised him future trips to new horizons.
That afternoon, I walked with my friend, Amy, through the yellowing cottonwoods in Greenough Park. She’s taken her two children to live abroad several times, to Spain, Brazil, Mozambique. We talked about the transitions to and from these adventures, and how to manage the virus that flares and recedes in our blood. Amy told me that her personal travel bug follows a recognizable pattern: it takes a full year to settle back in after returning from abroad. And a full year after that before she starts yearning again for distant shores.
My friend, Ali, is leaving tomorrow on a nine-month international adventure, her route as open as her heart. I went over a few nights ago to cull through her already small pile of potential packables, helping prioritize what she’ll need for a trip that includes farming in Italy, trekking in Nepal, touring through South Africa and lounging in Bali. We both cheered when the pile finally fit in her small backpack. I lifted it appraisingly, and felt the travel bug nip at my heels.
It was a gentle nip, considering that Rob and I just recently unpacked our own international backpacks. But it was sharp enough to keep me awake after Talon’s 3 am feeding, my mind spinning through potential (and affordable) travel options with an infant. Could we make it through the long flight across the Pacific to visit our friends in Tonga? Maybe we could camp for a month in Baja. Where might I find a friend with a sailboat that needs looking after in February?
Then I pushed pause on the travel scenarios scrolling through my sleep-deprived new-momma mind. I made a resolution that had to be enough for that night: we will take our child abroad some day, somehow. We will take him on buses and boats and bikes. We will give him the gift of new cultures and new vistas. And – in time – we will see if he inherited the yen for exploration that courses through the veins of both his parents.