What a time this past five months has been. In February, on the weekend I was in Texas running the Austin Marathon, Bill received word that he had been given a Fulbright Grant to work for a few months at a Chilean University. He learned about the grant the day BEFORE the marathon but didn’t tell me until the day AFTER the race because he thought I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I knew. He was right. As soon as I knew the grant had come through, I started making lists. The minute I got home from Texas, we hit the ground running.
- Start applying for the visa
- Find someone to take care of the dogs
- Find a house-sitter (doesn’t have to be the same person who cares for the dogs)
- Prepare curriculum (mostly Bill)
- Clean the house
- Say goodbye to friends
Of course the list of what needed to be done in order to get ready to go was long and involved. And it didn’t even include what we already had on our schedules:
- Bill and Cami to make a road trip to Oregon, California, Utah and Arizona
- Bill to run the Boston Marathon, after visiting the baseball and basketball Halls of Fame
- Cami to run a half marathon in Lancaster County, PA to see if she could meet any Amish women runners to interview for her new book
- Cami to direct the Wind Horse Half Marathon
- Cami to write two articles for Adventures Northwest Magazine
And certainly, my original get-ready-to-go to South America to-do list didn’t even anticipate:
- Have tumor removed from cat’s tale and administer 10 days of antibiotics to reluctant patient
- Treat dog’s newly developed allergy to pollen with steroids three times a day for two weeks
- Go to no fewer than 10 chiropractic appointments to treat ongoing plantar fasciitis
- Bill to help son (who happens to be a brand new first-time father himself) move into new condominium
But anyway, here we are—one week from our departure date.
The thing about life is that if we don’t grab hold and live it for all its worth, we have to settle for something less than full-on living. Every time I have to make a decision about whether or not to engage in some major undertaking, I ask myself the same question. “Will I regret not doing this when I’m on my deathbed?” I imagine myself lying in a hospital near the end of my life (I know, it’s morbid, but stay with me), pumped full of morphine so that only bits and glimpses of my life find their way to my consciousness. What regrets will I have? Will doing or not doing this thing in front of me right now be one of them?
The first time I asked myself this question was twelve years ago when my grandmother, who had just turned 75, wanted to visit Norway. She’d found relatives—a cousin of her father—and wanted to see her dad’s childhood home before she was too frail to travel. I was the only one in the family with any international travel experience, and I knew she would be safe if I took her. If I didn’t go, she wouldn’t go. But I was in the middle of my divorce. I was tired and broke, and traveling to Norway would mean charging that trip. I’d never had credit card debt before, and this trip would take a year to pay off with the salary I was making at the time.
One night I lay in bed wrestling with the decision of whether or not to take my grandmother to Norway. She had some urgency about the trip (actually, looking back I think she felt that if she could get me away from home, maybe I would start to heal), but I simply couldn’t afford to go. The thought came to me, “What if I said yes and it took me a year to pay off the trip? Would I regret that decision on my deathbed? Or what if I said no and the opportunity passed? Would I regret not going?” And the answer was obvious.
I charged that trip to my Visa and it took me more like two years to pay it off—with interest. And Norway with Grandma is one of my richest experiences to date.
So when Bill told me he’d gotten the grant he’d applied for and asked me, “What do you think? Shall we say yes?” I knew how to make the decision.
Leaving home for nearly five months right now gives me mixed feelings. I LOVE my life in Bellingham and have some major projects on my calendar for 2014. But Bill has always wanted to work in South America. He applied for this grant twice; it took three years to get it. When we applied the first time, I wasn’t in the middle of structuring a book or working with writing clients; now I am. But when I asked myself what I would regret, I knew I would regret passing up the chance to have an extended cross-cultural experience. The chance to learn Spanish. The chance to find a favorite coffee shop in Concepcion (the city we’ll be living in). The chance to make friends with people I don’t know yet. The chance to go wine tasting in Chile and Argentina. The chance to find favorite running trails in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The chance to see my best friend live out one of his life-long dreams.
Off we go, then. We leave next Tuesday on a series of flights that will take us more than 24 hours. Come along for the journey. I’ll be posting at least every week with pictures, news, wine recommendations, running reports, adjustment struggles, new friends, and whatever else occurs to me.