Stay

For anyone who doesn’t know, we’re doing the insane and slightly radical thing of packing up our family of five and chooffing round the US and Canada for eight weeks or so later on in the year. Needless to say, we’re very excited.

Just to recap, I’ve been dreaming of travelling like this for as long as I’ve known it was possible, that people do such things – since I was about five years old. I’m now quite a lot more than five years old. It’s been a long wait. My first ever overseas trip was November, where I discovered that Americans are, in fact, wonderful, and I didn’t get shot. Not even in Sacramento. Not even walking by myself in a forest in Sacramento. Nor did I see any dead bodies in said forest in Sacramento, which is terribly unusual for anyone who watches The Mentalist as much as I do.

I’ve also now (I’m sorry. True confession time) fallen hopelessly and completely in love with anyone with an American accent. Or a Canadian accent – and (oh aren’t I a clever clogs!) I’m learning to tell the difference.

So that’s the backstory. Most of you knew that…except the bit about me being hopelessly in love with anyone who talks to me in an American accent. By the way, TV doesn’t count. Not even if it’s Kevin Bacon. Not after Sleepers…

ANYWAY…

(This is, of course, why I haven’t blogged for a while. My brain is spitting out random sentences without any kind of art or design. AND I’m drinking tea, and it’s not helping.)

But here we go. Here’s the point of all the backstory (and the tea). My husband said to me the other day something along the lines of “we could have done this years ago, before we had children, but we didn’t know that we could“.

It made me ache with sadness.

I ached because for so many years I held that dream in my heart, the yearning to go, the desperate longing to see a world that was not mine and meet a people that were not like me, and everything in me rebelled against staying. I hated being here. I hated staying.

And then one day there was a day, a voice, a notion, a thought, a feeling. A sense. A word from God, and it was this: Bloom Where You’re Planted. Stay. Grow. Relax. Give it up.

I cried.

I said yes, because there’s nothing else to say really, but I gave the condition of only-if-I-can-go-to-the-mainland-at-least-once-a-year. I live on an island. Sometimes it feels like a prison colony still.

And that was that. I went to Melbourne pretty regularly, usually once or twice a year. Usually for work. I didn’t care why, or what I did there. I just wanted to go, and I did. And then I had kids, and the trips off the island got harder and more sporadic, and the need to go lessened, and then eventually I forgot the need at all, the need to see the world that was bigger than me.

I still don’t like to look at the ache.

We talked about it last night, my husband and I, about what he’d said and about what I felt, and we came to the conclusion that although physically it was true – we could have travelled years ago – mentally and psychologically it’s completely untrue. The walls that held us in were invisible but very, very real.

It was, in hindsight, good to learn how to be able to stay, to bloom, to grow, and to be happy.

Staying so long made walking out so much sweeter. The anticipation mixed with the ache and spiced with memories is, in fact, a delicious cocktail. I can’t say yet that I don’t regret not having gone earlier, but I’m sure one day in years to come I will.

But I never, ever thought I’d love Americans this much.

How about you? Have you ever had to give up a dream, only to have it given back to you? Do you understand the ache? Do you ever wonder if, with all the pain it causes, dreaming is still worth it?

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28 thoughts on “Stay

  1. Hi Megan, I completely understand! Having grown up and lived in the UK all my life I fell in love with the USA on a holiday there. I really wanted to live and work there but couldn’t get a visa so decided to pack my bags and go to Canada on a working holiday instead. After a year there I had to come back to the UK but my desire to travel never left and next week I’m leaving for a year’s working holiday in Australia, followed by a year in New Zealand hopefully after that. I know my family hope that will be the end of my wanderlust and I’ll be happy to settle in the UK, but honestly who knows. I think once you’re bitten with the bug to explore it’s impossible to ignore. I hope you have an amazing time on your trip and that it is the first of many for you!

  2. Kate, Wow! I so get what you’re saying. What awesome, awesome opportunities, wow!
    What did you do during your year in Canada?
    And Australia NEXT WEEK? Hope you have the best time. Where are you headed first? Watch it with Tasmania, by the way, there are a LOT of people who live here who’ll tell you how they “came for a week and just fell in love with the place and I’ve been here ever since!”

    • Thanks Megan! I’ve been very fortunate. My year in Canada was an amazing experience, I lived and worked in Vancouver which is just beautiful, are you planning on visiting there? You must also visit San Diego if you can in the US, it’s my favourite city in the whole world (well, too date, who knows where else I might still discover!)

      My boyfriend and I are leaving for Australia on Wednesday, we’re spending a week in Tokyo on the way and then arriving into Perth where we’re going to start the year with a road trip up the Coral Coast. I’ve heard amazing things about Tasmania and definitely plan to visit, what a special place to live. I’m so excited as I guess you must be too!

      • Yes!!
        Yes, we’ll be in Vancouver – planned about a week there. I’ve hear a few times now that we’ll probably not want to leave BC. San Diego is a possibility. We’re taking the kids to Legoland in Carlsbad, and probably flying north from San Diego – but I hadn’t considered spending much time there. Thanks for the tip, I may have to reconsider that.

        And Perth is beautiful! I loved it there, especially down around Fremantle. It’ll be a big difference from Tokyo. Hope you have an awesome time.

  3. Yes. About 9 years ago, I applied for an MFA creative writing program. I was told (on the phone) that I was “in” and had started the financial aid forms. Then, a week or two before I was to leave (to go alone to Vermont for 2 weeks), I got a letter from the head of the creative writing program. He said a mistake had been made. That I wasn’t ready for the program. That he didn’t see that I had much of a future in writing and to – ahem – seek other endeavors.

    For about a week, I decided to give up writing. Then, after the seven days were up, I wrote something. And I liked it. A few years later, I had a play published. A few years after that, a novel. I realized somewhere along the way that I didn’t need that degree as permission to write. That the stuffy old grump who wrote that letter didn’t have the right to determine what God wanted me to do with my life. 🙂

    I’m so glad you’re in love with us ‘Mericans. We love your right back!

    • Oh My. Gosh. Susie that’s horrendous! Oh I feel for you. I’m so, SO glad you’re on the other side of that now, that Paint Chips has been published (and what an awesome book it is, too!), and that you didn’t give up writing.

      I can relate to that story more than you realise – a couple of very, VERY similar incidents at uni. It’s taken me a lot longer than a week to start up where I left off with those again.

  4. Yes, Megan, I gave up so much to marry and have children, and then I gave up so much to go back to school, and then I gave up so much to do work that I loved, and most of all I gave up travel. Your life sounds so much like the life I lived at your age. I was then able to live through a daughter who went to live in Switzerland for a year when she was 17, and then it was a year in Vienna, then Russia, than Germany, then Kyrgyzstan. And in the meantime our children grew up and then I/we started traveling – like I/we could have done before children. My goal is to do lots of traveling before I get too old to be able to do it. Sometimes I do it alone (like you) and sometimes with my honey. I am so happy that you are able to do it now – and what may help is think about how many years you have left to live – especially after children.

    • Wow Pat, that would have been a big deal sending your daughter off to live in such remote places. Wow. Mine is nine, and wants to get married and move back home with her husband 🙂
      It’s good to remember that there’ll be time after kids for travel too, thanks for that. It’s easy to get caught up in the enormity of “now”, of the never-ending sense of the season that you’re in, but when you stop and turn around (like I did just yesterday) it seems like an age ago – as well as no time at all – that I was struggling with prams and baby nap times at church, now they’re all off and independent and running round the playground. So things change, and usually we don’t notice.

  5. As usual, such a beautiful post. And hearing someone from far away say she loves Americans makes me want to weep with joy. I did not think ANYONE out there in the wide world loved us anymore. Or at least, not many. So thank you for making my day. Lars and I have had sort of the opposite experience from you and your husband: We always thought we could and would go anywhere (for a while we DID), and now we are never even sure we will be able to get into the car and drive ten miles down the highway, if Benjy is with us. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, depending on his anxiety/panic. Traveling halfway across the world is simply unimaginable now. That is such a loss to us all — and yet, in a funny way, my comfort zone has contracted along with my world, and I think Lars feels the same. The longer we stay put, the greater our inertia. Anyway, can I put in a plug for Massachusetts? Boston is beautiful city, and the seacoast here is gorgeous. Lots of history, and some of the oldest architecture in the country. Let me know if you come this way…the tea/coffee/cake/muffins/whatever will be on me! xo Anna/Deborah/whateveryouwanttocallme

    • Thanks Anna/Deborah…what do you WANT me to call you? 🙂
      I’ll answer you in point form, otherwise it’ll sound completely random
      – It surprised ME enormously that I’d ever fall in love with the USA. However, it appears to be quite common. There’s a small band of Aussies in my world who have been there and just love it – and it’s really hard to explain why, especially to anyone who hasn’t been there. It’s. Just. Cool.
      – I understand that constricting of the world, and the inertia. Before I went, especially in the weeks leading up to it, I realised how much the hills and streets and familiarity of my suburb were of comfort to me, and I realised how small my world had become. Right then I would have been happy to stay, and wanderlust was very much a memory rather than a feeling. THAT was a strange revelation.
      – My heart still breaks for your experiences with Benjy.
      – Thank you. If I were anywhere near Boston I would love to come have tea/cake/muffins with you. I have a feeling we’d probably start talking and not stop for about six hours. The closest I’ll be is Grand Rapids (for a rather brilliant writer’s conference). Now, if we could find a way of shrinking the US, the trip between GR and Boston might just be possible…hmmmmm.

  6. I have had to give up a few dreams over the years, and then had them given back to me – one being my hubby (before we were married of course). That was HARD!!! Like the Abraham and Isaac type of thing. But graciously the Lord gave that dream back to me. 🙂
    *Note to self: When meeting Megan Sayer for the first time, put on best American accent!*

    • HAHA!! Can you do a good one?
      Ouch, yes. I’ve had friends have to give up that dream, and the dream of babies too. It hurts so much. So glad that dream was given back to you.

  7. Megan, it wasn’t until I had helped quite a few family and friends to organise overseas trips that I thought to travel myself. I was 28 when two girls in my parish told me about their plan for a trip to England, Ireland and a two-week Insight tour of Europe. They were looking for a third person, so I said how about me? I booked myself onto a 15-day tour to Scandinavia, Russia, Berlin and Poland as well. It was 1991, the Berlin Wall just down, and it was a wonderful trip. I assumed this would be my once in a lifetime trip, and stayed on in England doing some IT contract work in Manchester, then spending December-February in Rome before flying home just inside the one year validity of my air ticket.

    In 1993, I got an opportunity of a month’s board at a college in exchange for computer help in Rome on my way back to England to look for another contract, but I landed a job in the Vatican and stayed until 1996 (except for a trip home for two weddings in 1994-95). Escaping the dusty Roman summer, I was able to visit many European friends from my Italian language classes in their home towns all over Europe.

    I took a two month holiday in 1998 and visited Rome again, and on my return approached Harvest Pilgrimages in Sydney to recommend beefed-up itineraries for Rome and the Holy Land for the upcoming Jubilee Year of 2000. After we designed the itineraries, they asked if I’d like to travel with the groups as Tour Coordinator. So in 1999 and 2000 I spent several months aboard coaches, assisting groups of Aussie pilgrims. In August 2000, there were 1,300 young Aussies among the millions at World Youth Day in Rome, with seven tour coordinators responsible for them on school room floors in Ostia.

    So, this farm boy from Moonbi (pop. 200) ended up travelling a bit after all! Once you start out your front gate, you never know where travelling will take you, as Bilbo Baggins says.

    • Francis it sounds like you fell into travel accidentally, that’s so funny, considering the depths and breadth of your experiences overseas. Amazing too, that you never had the desire to go. Funny how that happens.
      Dangerous thing, isn’t it, starting out that front gate.

  8. Pingback: Nostalgia for Great Britain | A New Day

  9. Megan, you said, “I cried.”

    Well, so did I, when I read this post. Does that tell you how much I relate?

    I love this post and all the comments it brought.

    • Oh yes.
      I’ll never forget the night I read your beautiful essay on Novel Matters. I was very, very quiet for a while, then sat in my bedroom and sobbed for half an hour.
      I related.
      That was before I ever dreamed – ever knew that I could go, or was going to go…that same year even!
      I think we all have lost or unrequited dreams, but it’s hard to explain the ones for travel to people who have not shared the passion. I’m glad you get it.

    • Wow, really? America is so, SO vast, and so diverse. I understand, in that I’ve never had much desire to see other parts of Australia either, even though the differences in culture here are much more subtle than in the US.
      Do you think you’ll go? Check out California? The Rockies? Nebraska???

  10. Just saw a very inspiring Documentary about man name Pearl Freyar who lives in Bishopville, South Carolina who created a massive TopiaryGarden all by himself….They sited there state motto in latin surrounding his story – “Dum spiro, spero”. which means ” While I breath, I hope” I believe dreams are worth any pain you could dish out. and btw I love anyone with Aussie accent…:) cheers Megan

  11. As an American, this had to be the kindest, nicest post I have ever read. So often all we hear is how much people from other countries hate us; your falling in love with Americans is such a breath of fresh air! But about the accents – I’m sure you know we feel the same about yours, the Brits and the Canadians! I am not as smart as you since I still have trouble telling them apart (well, not the Canadians so much – who else says “aboot?”). Anyway, thank you for making my day and if you are planning to make it all the way to Florida, please let me know. I would love to meet someone who loves America as much as I do.

  12. Aww, I’m so glad. That made me smile.
    Hang on a minute though…you have trouble picking a Canadian accent from a British or Australian one? Did I read that right? I would have presumed not, except that when I was in Sacramento a lady said to me “You’re Canadian, right?” (listen to her words: she didn’t say “Are you Canadian?”, she just presumed I was). To me that was both ridiculous and hilarious – we think Canadians sound just like Americans!
    And no, unfortunately, Florida is not on the itinerary. Although if you’re ever in Tasmania…

    • How funny that you think Canadians and Americans sound the same. Canada is really quite diverse – parts of it speak French English, parts are quite similar to have a British accent and the other parts near the border probably do sound like us but I couldn’t swear to it. Tasmania, hmmmm… Not on my bucket list of places to visit before I die but who knows, maybe I will get there someday anyway! Have a wonderful and safe trip and congratulations on living a dream!

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