So that’s it. Last day. Sitting on a plane, with my wife and kids, 30,000 feet off the ground, zipping through the air at 600 MPH, returning to “reality”. I have not been away from home for this long since I was at sleepaway camp over twenty years ago. I have never taken a vacation this long in my life. I have never spent such an intense period with my wife and kids. I’ve never had the opportunity. Even when my wife and I were dating, before I become a lawyer, the longest road-trip we ever took together was 10 days.
24 days on the road. 4 states. Over 4,000 kilometres of driving. Each day a clean slate for adventure, with no structure, no schedule beyond where we sleep that night. The day’s adventure written the morning of over bad hotel-room coffee. An adventure which inevitably evolved as the day progressed. A trip to Legoland only to find out its closed. A dead car battery at the Grand Canyon. A rattlesnake on a hike through Saguaro National Park. An 8th of a tank of gas while driving out of Death Valley and the nearest gas station is… somewhere over the rainbow (that video is coming soon:)
And now I have this sick, nagging feeling in my stomach. I can’t think of another word to describe it other than “sad”. I feel sad. Not sad that I must go back to “real life” – the work, the bills, the kids’ homework, the everyday stresses of life… Even in everyday life there is more beauty than stress. For every bill, there is a friend. For every work-related task, there is a special moment with family. For all the stress, there is a cute, fat, blind, incontinent dog waiting for me at home, bumping into walls as he tries to greet me. Usually after having left a surprise for me on the floor.
This trip was an adventure. A special few weeks with only family, where we were truly an island unto ourselves. In any given day, we were both each other’s best friends, and worst enemies. We made each other laugh, and we irritated the heck out of each other. But it was just us. No competition with others. No escape from each other. Just bonding, through the fun and the not so fun.
Now the adventure is over, and I’m already missing it. I’m missing those silly moments in the hotel swimming pool. The hikes. The spontaneous hugs. And at the same time, I’m already regretting getting irritated over silly stuff. Being short-tempered when the kids refused to eat breakfast, and 20 minutes later would invariably complain about being hungry. Getting frustrated at the constant begging for gift-shop garbage. And I’m already second-guessing if we made the best decisions. If we got all we could out of the adventure. If I was the proper role-model to my children. If I taught them important life lessons. If I imparted unto them meaningful knowledge about the people and world around us. If I made the most of this magnificent adventure we just had together.
In writing this, it’s become clear to me. I’m not sad because the vacation is over. I’m sad because this is how I imagine feeling at the end of my life. The end of this vacation is the end of a chapter of my life, but I still have more chapters to write. I imagine feeling this way – this same sense of sadness – at the end of my life, when there are no more chapters to write. When it has all been written. When there is no more time to spend with family. No more time to right my wrongs, make up for my shortcomings, be the role-model and influence I was put on this earth to be.
In a way, the end of this vacation is a microcosm of the end of life. It makes me sad because I think these feelings at the end of ones life are inevitable to some extent. If we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by people we love, we will always want just one more day with them. If we are human, we will have had occasions when we were impatient when we ought to have been patient. We will have made mistakes and done things we wish we could undo. That’s what it means to be human. We just have to be content with having done the best that we could at any given moment. We have to be as forgiving with ourselves as we are with others.
So that’s it. This particular adventure has come to an end. And tomorrow is a new adventure. There will just be less desert, less driving, and fewer saguaros. But there will be more of something else equally beautiful. And I will do my best to make the most out of this vacation and adventure we call life. It’s the only one we have, and I don’t want to have too many regrets when it has finally come to an end. But I will certainly want just one more day with the people I love.