Wanderlustress

Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

The In-Between Steps

Somewhere in the middle of Tanzania.

For those of us traveling from place to place in perpetual motion, this in-betweeness – the heavy steps of transition – is a feeling that I get each time we’re on the cusp of moving to a different foreign country. I’m neither here nor there, yet, merely taking excited steps towards the possibilities, the excitement tempered by the burden of prematurely missing our familiar surroundings and people we’ve yet to part.

Yesterday, our material belongings were all packed up in boxes and crated and are now on their way towards a ship or an airplane – they are treasures when we are settled at each new place, giving us a sense of home; they are junk when we uproot, each little item vexing me to sort it for sea or air or storage or luggage or carry-on, or to just throw it away and be liberated. I thought I’d feel relief from the weeks of planning after the last box rolled out the door, but I din’t…

I stood in the middle of an empty apartment feeling displaced and I could hardly move on to the next task to be done. It was as though whatever routine I had in our life here for the past ten months had also been fixed by my familiar material belongings. Not only did I have to recalibrate working on a different computer, searching for things inside our packed bags, or remembering the things I’d have to make do without because it’s now gone, but I also had to be aware enough of myself to recognize what was going on emotionally to shift out of the funk, lift my heavy feet and get on with the next steps of our move.

In some ways my feelings were similar to the self-awareness so wonderfully described by Jodi Ettenberg at Legal Nomads in her account of returning home from long-term travel. In fact, reading her post several months ago about what she refers to as “the in-betweens” resonated with me so much that it stayed with me and helped me to recognize my feelings more acutely than during previous moves when my husband would be so confused by my crankiness at a time when he fully expected me to feel the complete opposite. This time I was able to tell him exactly what was happening and why.

Jodi says, “I’ve become an observer to my own existence in a way that I never anticipated, musing about my own temporary discomfort before I settle into my skin once more.” – from On Homesickness and Long-Term Travel

And this eloquent passage by Roxanne Krystalli at Stories of Conflict and Love about her own transition could not have come at a better time for me to take solace among kindred spirits…

“It is a summer of holding my breath and wishing that the bureaucracy allows this next dream to materialize. In that sense, Greece hangs in abeyance. It is the stopped gondola in the air between Jerusalem and Boston and I am the anxious passenger waiting for forward motion.” – from Making Homes Out of Numbness

That feeling of “abeyance” is something that I have felt for several months after arriving in DC. It took me that long to shift out of it to enjoy this wonderful city, just like it will take me some time (hopefully not as long) to shift into my full blown excitement for leaving DC and going to Laos. For now though, the steps I take are heavy. The in-between steps of transitions are surprisingly heavy.

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21 comments on “The In-Between Steps

  1. allthingsboys
    July 24, 2012

    I’ve heard others talk about the same feelings when living foreign for long periods of time. May your journey through the heaviness be swift.

  2. Lisa McKay
    July 6, 2012

    I don’t often say this, because it’s a dangerous phrase. But, “I know just how you feel.” Hope this in betweenness settles into being here soon.

  3. OneWeekToCrazy
    July 3, 2012

    Beautifully said! I have never experienced moving to a new country, but instead to different states within the US…you captured the feeling perfectly!

  4. Dani
    July 2, 2012

    I love this part especially: “they are treasures when we are settled at each new place, giving us a sense of home; they are junk when we uproot, each little item vexing me to sort it for sea or air or storage or luggage or carry-on, or to just throw it away and be liberated.” I’ve grown to love/hate the transition times too–hope yours in Laos is a good one!

    • Wanderlustress
      July 2, 2012

      Good luck with yours! At least we’re all in good company 😉

  5. I feel your words reverberate through me…

  6. meanwhilein3
    June 29, 2012

    I am excited for you and your family, your post is well put especially the parts about the materialistic items that you have to consider in the move.

  7. Legal Nomads
    June 27, 2012

    Thank you for the kind words, and I’m happy to hear my post helped during your move. Those who don’t have those in-betweens in their lives have an understandably difficult time in relating to how they can unnerve you. Like you, I’ve found turning to prose from others (Roxanne’s beautiful writing included) helps build that bridge in your mind. Good luck with next steps and thank you for including me in such an honest post.

    • Wanderlustress
      June 28, 2012

      Thanks Jodi! I meant to let you know about the ping back but you beat me to it! Looking forward to reading about your next steps.

  8. LA Edwards
    June 26, 2012

    Great post! Best wishes to you in your new adventure.

    • Wanderlustress
      June 27, 2012

      Thank you so much! With each day the excitement is gaining momentum…

  9. travelladywithbaby
    June 26, 2012

    Beautifully expressed, the in-between is always overlooked.

    • Wanderlustress
      June 27, 2012

      So true. I’m just glad that I can recognize the awkward feeling in order to process it (and so is my husband). 😉

  10. Sarah
    June 26, 2012

    How good the timing is, for me to read this! Thank you, and good luck with every step in between and after 🙂

    • Wanderlustress
      June 27, 2012

      Sarah, I have no doubts that your momentum will take you to wonderful things! Enjoy the ride.

  11. Rebecca Schonebaum
    June 26, 2012

    This is a beautiful post…thank you for sharing!

    • Wanderlustress
      June 27, 2012

      Thanks Rebecca! I’m getting more and more excited to be back in CO for a few weeks before Laos. Always good to reconnect with home before setting off.

  12. Spiritual World Traveler
    June 26, 2012

    Bon voyage!!! Here’s to new memories!

  13. travelerlynne
    June 26, 2012

    Beautifully written and personal.You pointed out how soothing and necessary it is to draw inspiration from other writers you admire. Their words help get you through the transitions. Thanks for sharing as you enter yet another time zone and culture to embrace.

    • Wanderlustress
      June 27, 2012

      Yes, this collective space where we share similar experiences that not only inspire but give us perspective has been a great experience. Thank you Lynne!

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