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