The road to Kathmandu

I’m sitting in the airport terminal waiting for the rest of my group to arrive–then we’re off to Kathmandu via Frankfurt and Bahrain. I’m excited, and torn.

In introducing myself and the reasoning behind the title of my blog, “Cancer Hits the Streets,” I fessed up to being a certified travel junkie. The thought of not venturing out, of living my days situated in one place, is almost inconceivable to me. Every time I hit the road, to Kathmandu or elsewhere, I discover a spark that just can’t be unleashed from the comfort of my living room. Leaving is a chance to start over, to put the everyday choices I make into perspective, to think things through in a fresh space that is wide and open and unmapped–at least to me.

But I worry about the toll of leaving more precious things, and people, behind. As I left Kansas City to board the plane to Atlanta, I felt very sad and empty. Celia was crying and asking when I would be back and how much we would talk while I’m gone. It’s funny–like a lot of parents (I’m guessing), I often assume my kids don’t really need me. They’re immersed in their own interests, friends, and technologies–surely I can come and go with little notice. And while I know from the many parenting manuals I’ve read that it’s the big picture that matters with raising kids, I’m known to fall into the trap of holding on to those moments each day when I come up short as a model parent. I lose patience. I say yes one too many times to the girls’ request for another piece of candy. I allow my kids to watch a rerun of Good Luck, Charlie–yet again.

Maybe it’s the academic in me, but I find the hardest part of parenting to be the absence of a grade to tell me how well I’m doing,  how effectively I’m fulfilling the admittedly blurry objectives that I’ve set before me.

When I publish an article, I’ve achieved a goal. My words might not be as precise as I’d hoped, but someone gave the final version a stamp of approval.

When I travel, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m strong enough to move outside of my comfort zone and explore new territory.

This morning, as we sped down the runway away from Kansas City, away from Bruce and Celia and Helena, I faced the fact that maybe the greatest adventures can’t be summed up in a report card or captured in a photograph of a village or monument that I’ll see just once in a lifetime. Maybe there are other sparks to be had–from my living room, the pool, the park, my own backyard.

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