Thursday 12 July 2012 23 °C
It has been about seven months since the Baxter’s 2011 World Tour concluded. It has taken us this long to digest our travels and assimilate back into the “real” world – or at least what passes for “real” as we now know that it’s a relative term.
Our return to Canada was rather anti-climactic. We slipped through customs in Toronto without any interest or inquiries about our extended absence. After a few days with our very dear friends in TO (and another rather rambunctious birthday celebration for Warren), we found ourselves stepping out of the airport into that familiar lush, sweet, fresh air that can only be found in one place… Vancouver. After eleven months, we were home.
The shock of being home took a while to overcome. It was strange being indoors after spending the majority of our time outdoors during our year away. It was strange (and uncomfortable) being in cold weather… and wearing shoes and coats and multiple layers of clothing to keep warm. We explored our home city, reacquainting ourselves with the familiar and discovering the changes that had taken place since we left … different restaurants, more parking meters, new stores, more bike lanes, more construction. Gradually the strangeness began to fade…
Reflecting back over our year away, we are actually in awe of the enormity of our own experiences. There is no doubt we’ll be pulling as yet undiscovered memories from our mind’s recesses for the rest of our lives – and we have a lot to pull from:
> Continents visited: 4
> Countries visited: 17
> Number of flights: 34
> Kilometers traveled: 81,000
> Modes of transportation: Airplane, train, bus, car, scooter, motorcycle, tuk-tuk, bicycle, camel, ferry, cruise ship, houseboat, sailboat, water taxi, canoe, shuttle, our own feet...
Some of the things we appreciate most about being home include sleeping in the same bed night after night, a closet full of clothes to choose from (and a washing machine to wash them in!), and a kitchen to cook in. And of course…being back with family and friends (and our cats)!! Some of the things we miss most about travelling include the freedom, lack of schedule and routine, meeting new people every day, bare feet and sandy beaches. And the time to just think…or the time to not think and just…experience.
The question we’ve been asked most often is: “What was your favourite place?” Our answer is always the same: “Everywhere”. Admittedly, there are places where we would go back to again in a heartbeat; places we’d love to go back to but know it’s best to embrace what we had and leave it at that; and places where once was enough. But there is not a single place we would not include if we did it all over again because it was the perfectly beautiful, clumsy, chaotic mix of people and places that made it so magical. And it’s this “magic” that makes the answer to the second most often asked question easy: “Have you changed?”
Cliché? Maybe. Accurate? 100%.
In the simplest of terms, we have seen too many people living / loving / dying / worshipping / surviving / thriving / happy / sad / hopeful / lost… to not call into question our own beliefs about “the way things are supposed to be” because supposed to be, like reality, is relative to how each of us individually and uniquely sees, perceives and believes.
For us, this realization has made us very aware of how incredibly lucky we are (as is everyone we know). When we set off to explore the world, we could not begin to imagine how amazing our experience would be, the incredible sights and rich cultures we would discover, the wonderful people we would meet, or how deeply our perceptions of the world would change… or how much gratitude we would feel for our good fortune and the quality of life we enjoy at home. On the world stage, we – along with all our friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances – won the lottery.
Our travels have also made us aware of the multitude of choices we have available to us that so many others – billions – don’t have. We have the opportunity to make choices that can change our lives, change where and how we live, and the kind of work we do or don’t do. Prior to our travels, we didn’t truly appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to make those choices; what a true and somewhat rare privilege it is.
Finally, we experienced the complete and utter joy of those who decided – and had the courage – to pursue their own personal vision of how they want to live their lives and the determination not to succumb to what society dictates it should be.
As we synthesize all of this, we have decided that we’re going to continue to make the most out of our time here on this big blue ball - continue to explore, take some risks, try new things, stretch our wings. And while maybe not as dramatic as last year, or with respect to the lives of many people we met along the way, we’re going to take that next step. In September, we are moving to Toronto. Warren has accepted a new job representing a completely new career path that provided the opportunity for the move. Lee-Ann will spend some time doing the “leg-work” to explore our new city, and then open her arms to what comes next for her – whatever that might be.
We wouldn’t be making this move if it hadn’t been for our trip last year; if we hadn’t allowed ourselves to “just be open” to the possibilities; if we hadn’t bumped in to Nan and Steele from Minneapolis in Hoi An, Viet Nam; if Steele hadn’t passed along a rather dog-eared copy of a particular book – at the very point when we were ready to – meant to - read it…
But we did. And that book along with a zillion other tiny but impactful moments throughout the eleven months changed our lives. We’ll never be the same again. And we’re incredibly happy and grateful for that.
Thank you. To all our friends and family for your love and support last year – thank you. We will always be appreciative for this once-in-a lifetime gift.
Well…maybe not once-in-a-lifetime...
Warren & Lee-Ann,
July, 2012, Vancouver, BC