December 28, 2017
My tears were going back but I fought back. I felt a giant ball in my throat as I looked my mother’s tearful eyes. She choked and told me,“Please, please be careful.” It was hard to see her at that last moment at the airport because that moment of truth slapped across my mother’s face:
I am leaving.
9 months earlier.
After putting my loved ones through a traumatic experience, a lot of things have been reprioritized in my life. I wanted to drop graduate school and just travel but held myself back because I only had 2 semesters left until I earn my Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Although it was an exhausting program, I was looking forward to a new goal: traveling long-term.
But how would I explain this to my family, especially my mother? I just put them through hell, so how would they take this? My family even freak out at the thought when I was camping at local areas, such as Joshua Tree National Park or even San Francisco. I promised them that I’ll let them know where I’ll be at and even send them specific information, such as the license plate of the car rental. If that what makes them feel relieved, so be it. I can’t blame them after what I put them through. The incident also even affected my good friends and their family. “Stacey, because of you, now my parents are acting up!” they teased.
I took a deep breath and I told my mother, “Ma, at the end of the year, I’m going backpacking for a long time. It will be longer than 2 months. Maybe 6 months, a year, I don’t know but I’m not kidding.” I added “I’m not kidding” because I knew it wouldn’t seem realistic to my family. She looked at me, “okay, hija” but I was right, she and my family didn’t really believe that I would travel more than 2 months.
By the time October arrived, I bought a flight ticket to Indonesia. It was surreal because that is where I would begin my first long journey. “Ma, I bought the ticket!” I told her in a nervous but excited tone. She paused her conversation on the phone, covering her phone so my aunt wouldn’t hear, “we’ll talk about it later, okay?” I was a little worried about the conversation with my family, especially my mother but I know that this is only natural for my family to be worried.
“What about your family? What about your brother?”
I sighed. I assured her that I know family comes first but it was also time for me to live my own life. It can be quite challenging because the norm of our Mexican culture is to put our family first before anything. I felt it was quite selfish of me for putting travel first than my family. As much I know that isn’t really the case, my heart couldn’t help but ache at the thought of, not only my mother’s but my family’s sadness. My father felt I was running away from reality, and my brother believed that I need more time to rest at home after graduation. And they were right about few things, but I didn’t want to cancel or postpone my flight date. “Ma, I know. You, dad and my brother are all important to me. But I’m sorry, ma, but
Una vida, ma. Solo tengo una vida.”
(“One life, mom. I only have one life.”)
I read the expressions on my mother’s face. She muttered something in Spanish but I couldn’t catch it on her lips. She looked worried as she furrowed her eyebrows, exhibiting fears that her Deaf daughter is traveling around the world. But there was something else on her face: she understood. She looked down sideways, frowning and holding her hands together.
For the next couple weeks, as the date was drawing closer, there were frequent battles between cultural morals of “family comes first” to “I need to live my own life.” My mind was scattered with “what if?”: What if my brother needed me? What if something happens to my aging parents? What if something happen to my dogs? What if it would be my last time of seeing them?
STOP. I knew that this is not only about my cultural value, but it is my own personal problem: always considering others’ need first before my own.
I’ve grown up that way, but I knew that if I continue this habit and didn’t try to reach my goals and dreams, I’ll only become bitter. A bitter old lady who would often reflect back on her life and become antsy. And I don’t want to be that bitter old lady. Although I felt anxious and worried about my family, I knew what I need to do: living my own life and discovering happiness.
“Pack a pillow and a blanket. See the world. You will never regret it” – The Namesake
December 28, 2017
I held my mother’s hands before entering the airport’s security check. “Ma, te quiero mucho. I’ll miss you, dad and Alex so much.” I choked. My mother gave me a prayer and one last big hug. I looked back, waving goodbye. Saying goodbye to my family was one of the hardest moments for me (I’m even tearful as I’m writing this post). But I know everything will be okay. I know my family understand and are being supportive of my decision, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.
Now I’m a next chapter of my life: exploring the world long-term because
I only have one life.
Do you look for or hope to find a community while traveling?
Were they really supportive? Or was it really challenging? How did you manage it? Share your thoughts/feelings in the comment below!