Last night, my sister got married! The wedding took place at Sugah Cain, our family property on Johns Island, under a canopy of live oak trees – truly God’s outdoor temple. A week ago, the forecasted 80% chance of thunderstorms was unpromisingly bleak. A lot of prayer warriors were on their knees supplicating for more favorable conditions, and MAN did Jesus come through. The gentle breeze, glow of the setting sun, and just a touch of summer humidity created the perfect ambiance, but the ceremony itself was even more beautiful.
My life of funemployment has continued to be a cycle of trip research, planning, and itinerary spreadsheet writing; packing; jumping on an airplane; adventuring; flying back home; crashing into bed late at night; unpacking; running a load of laundry; meeting up with a few friends; and planning once more before I’m off on another travel escapade. I have to admit…within that physical merry-go-round, I also endure psychological swings of gratitude, utter exhaustion, a “here we go again/just do it” mentality, and excitement.
If we’re friends on Facebook or you follow me on Instagram, you know that, after an incredible year living and studying in New Zealand — one of the most adventurous, beautiful countries on the planet — I did not settle right into the working life of most young adults.
Since I returned to the States in the middle of the school year and needed to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops to be certified to teach in South Carolina, I devoted the spring to re-grounding myself in American culture (I love this country more than ever), spending time with dearly missed family and friends, obtaining my teacher licensure, and finding a job before August. I realized any leftover time was an opportune window of, as Mariah has coined, funemployment. For the last two months, I have continued to travel and enjoy some of nature’s most precious gems — first hiking among the towering glacial mountains and gale-force winds of Patagonia, then on to swimming in Havasupai’s crystal blue waters and camping in Joshua Tree’s dinosaur rock desert.
Our first 72 hours in Chile have gone so smoothly. I floated into the customs entry line amidst the sea of others disembarking from our flight, unaware of my surroundings as I usually am — especially after a three-leg, twenty hour journey. “Well hello there, friend. Fancy seeing you here.”
And there, just a row ahead of me in line, was Mariah. I dove under the line divider and embraced one of my best friends. There was lots of jazz-hand jumping and high-pitched outbursts and laughing and more hugging.
Happy Valentine’s Day! As my soul friend and Italy study abroad companion Mariah so aptly posted earlier today, this year, Cupid set us up on a date with the mountains – in Patagonia! If you’re sheepishly hiding your ignorance that this word is more than just a fluffy fuschia fleece name brand, you’re not alone. FYI though, it’s also the region in Chile and Argentina at the very bottom of South America. Tomorrow afternoon, I’ll land in Santiago, reunite with Mariah – who I haven’t seen in 15 months – and the first big JComp Adventure of 2017 will commence!
It’s a good thing I’m so cheap that I pack most of my meals for layovers rather than pay inflated flights in terminal food courts. Sitting outside of JFK’s Terminal 4, I have finally landed in limbo, both physically and metaphorically. Physically, because my layover here is 6 hours long, and in my haste to get to my next gate and THEN relax, I did not have the forethought to realize that customs is not going to screen me four and a half hours before my departure. So rather than chilling in the comfort of a lounge seat or restaurant bar in Terminal 5 where I landed two hours ago, I ate my unrefrigerated leftover crab cakes outside of the terminal, on a blue plastic chair that’s technically only reserved for the handicapped and elderly anyway. Now I’m cumbersomely attempting to write this post on my phone and kicking myself for a rookie mistake. I hate making rookie mistakes.
I’m in a metaphorical limbo, because on this hard seat, I rest in the calm surf before the wave of cultural excitement about to crash over me once we begin wandering the streets of Spanish-speaking Santiago. Prior to the “rest” of sitting for twenty hours in transit, the last few weeks I have been running on a speeding hamster wheel around Mt. Pleasant – trying to submit teaching applications, and squeeze in a few more babysitting jobs and friend outings, and finalize trip plans for the next few months, and finish up wedding projects for Georgia. I emailed Save the Dates, successfully uploaded the invite list to the RSVP online platform we’re using (…all 618 guests); and finished designing, printing, cutting, and glueing chic burlap Extra Information inserts. Whew! All these to-dos, with a deadline of today, have been simultaneously exciting and exhausting. They did not, however, allow much time to process or reflect or get stoked about the fact that I would actually shortly be embarking on one helluva journey.
Beyond the to-dos, my mind has more recently gotten stuck in the stress of packing, like making sure I had, and could fit, food for 11 days on the trail. Or how I had to run to Dick’s Sporting Goods this morning because Georgia accidentally took the ONE pair of Nike shorts I planned on packing. And how that kind of threw off my relatively “together” mental preparation for some hectic packing two hours before I needed to leave for the airport. How I’ve already realized that I left my hat drying outside after it was washed, or how I forgot to pack an extra pair of contact lenses and dark chocolate and cushions for this planters wart on the bottom of my foot and toilet paper in a ziplock bag and deodorant (deodorant! Which I refuse to spend $6 on in the airport). How I couldn’t find one pair of the wool socks I wanted to bring, and the other pair I did bring I neglected to put in my carry on, so my feet are going to be cold tonight. Things I should know by now. Petty things, many of which I can solve with simple purchases and don’t affect my overall travel, but remembering after the fact, still mess with my mind, still make the butterflies in my gut act up a little, still make me question how experienced or novice of a traveler I really am.
But it’s all good. Because if I was too busy beforehand to get excited, being in the airport now makes me STOKED. All I needed was to walk through the sweeping terminal halls, bask in the serenade of foreign languages around me, the portrait of people who don’t look like me, setting off to their own destinations. And strangely, as I leave my birth home, I also rediscover my world-wide home in this international environment I find so invigorating. For me, I intrinsically associate airports with the anticipation of enriching experiences and welcome opportunities for growth. My nerves have subsided, and if the small packing hiccups I made are the biggest mistakes on this trip, we would be sailing on serene seas.
But I know better than that; mountain trails and international travel are mired in obstacles. It’s the nature of the beast, and overcoming those hurdles is one reason I gravitate to them. From not quite having all the camping permits we need, to intentionally deciding to hitchhike and find accommodation in the cities day-by-day, I have a hunch Patagonia will provide its own unique set of complications; we’ll take them as they come.
As we do, your prayers for safety and protection are, as always, deeply appreciated. Until the next post!
Through the month of January, I had about fifteen distinct blog topics floating around in my head. Some were life updates, like that Subaru Outback WITH a sunroof that I bought — woot woot! — or weekend trips up to Richmond and Roanoke to visit Abby and Kayla.
Other blog intentions included evaluations on Trump’s first week in office and podcasts I’ve listened to; some entertaining babysitting anecdotes; the decision to move to and teach in Greenville this fall, and the peace and excitement I’ve felt about it.
I flew direct from Auckland to Houston – an overnight flight that made a nonstop 13-hour journey relatively bearable. As I braced my body for the jolty touchdown onto American soil, I also braced my being for reverse culture shock. I didn’t know how I would feel about the materialism of Mt. Pleasant, or the general culture of the Bible Belt. I was giddy, but slightly scared, as my in-flight journal entry attests:
My chest feels light and twisted, because as much as America is home, I’m afraid of waffling between two cultures and not really having a place. It has been a whole year, and I’m nervous about all the differences in my outlook and experiences that up to this point I was not aware of, or had not acknowledged.