The wheels of the plane just lifted off American soil, myflight nosing toward Bogota, and I’m already missing my wife and kids. Actually the homesickness began long before that. As soon as a trip is confirmed, the homesickness begins.
This is the 3rd to the last night I’ll give the kids a bath.
This is the 2nd to last night Annie and I will plop on the couch and watch whatever it is she wants to watch (except Dateline, which is about the biggest load of horse crap show there is) as long as I get a foot rub.
This is the last night Oreo, our cat, will chase me around the house in the dark attacking my feet as I switch off the lights.
Homesickness involves a lot of sadistic math.
This isn’t a new feeling. My eyes watered at scout camp when I was 12, and sometimes at a friend’s house when, after a fun day of play, I wanted nothing more than to be tucked into my own bed. I muffled the sobs when they came. At camp I heard the other boys crying. We wallowed in our awayness together.
I suppose being away from those you love is part of growing up. Ultimately we face the world as individuals. We make our own careers, pursue our own passions, we find our own way. Homesickness helps us find our way back to what matters most in our lives.
How do you explain to your daughter that you are going to be away for two days, let alone a month? My daughter Harper, 3, has a skewed grasp of time. Everything in the past is yesterday or yesternight. I try not to hold her too long or too tight as I soak up those last moments before a trip. I don’t want her to think my leaving is sad. One tear on her cheek would melt me faster than the Wicked With of the West.
And then there’s Griffin, my one-year-old son. Does he even wonder where I went?
Harper started nursery school today. Griffin might be walking by the time I get back. Leaving is a reminder that life goes on without you. That your world minus you still turns.
If you aren’t homesick you are either traveling with those who matter most to you or you haven’t experienced what it is to truly give your heart to another. I’ve been traveling solo for more than a decade and my homesickness is just getting worse. Having children is like having little pieces of your heart wondering about the world.
I kill off myself a lot more in my daydreams these days. I no longer imagine I’m invincible. My number one priority with every trip is to return. This is for the unselfish reason that I want my kids to have a dad and my wife to have a husband, but it’s also for the very selfish reason that I want to be my wife’s husband and my kids’ dad.
I couldn’t do what I do today in 2001. I’d be too homesick.
My first travel experience was in 2001. There was dial-up Internet phone calls and email. Today, there’s Skype. I can see and hear Griffin. I can watch my family smile. I don’t think I could travel the way I do as a dad in 2012 if it weren’t for all of the technological connections.
Why the hell do I do this?
Why do I put myself and my family through this?
Man, I love what I do. I love meeting people and learning from them. I love meeting families. I can think of so many fathers who I deeply admire – Josephat in Kenya, Wycliffe in Nicaragua, Juan in Costa Rica, to name a few. I love being able to share their stories with the world.
This writing and traveling life that I live means most of the time I get to be at home all day with my family.
Homesickness is a strength
In a way, my homesickness is a strength. I love the idea of home and when folks let me into their world and into their families, I’m honored. The more homesick I am the more I can empathize with them.
Each night I get an email when Annie activates our home alarm system. They are safe and sound. I imagine Griffin in his crib, his tiny breaths audible in the baby monitor. I imagine Harper fighting bath time and bed time. The bed time/bath time routine is exhausting until I miss one night of it, and then I miss it more than anything.
Homesickness is blowing kisses thousands of miles
Last night I taught Harper South.
“Every night I’m gone, blow a kiss South….like this. And I’ll blow one North to you. No matter where I am in the world we can always say goodnight to each other.”
Damn, writing this is making me even more homesick. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye.