First off, I must credit my ex-husband for this title. I texted him my tentative travel dates with and without the kids for his approval and he said, “…sounds like a mid-life crisis world tour.” I thought that was a fair assessment and slightly comical. My instinctive reaction was to reply, “Better than the douchemobile you bought five years ago,” but I refrained.
In my 39 years on this planet, I’ve sadly never traveled outside of the continental United States and even more sadly, haven’t explored much of that. In 2005 I planned a trip to Italy and got my passport. A messy breakup killed that trip and though I was invited to travel abroad several times before having kids, I was never able to because of lack of time and/or money.
It’s not uncommon for people to have regrets about not seeing more of this country and the rest world. I’m definitely not unique in that, but the degree to which I feel the need to just go has become all consuming.
When my ex husband and I got married, we (more so he) had grand plans of sailing the east coast. We discussed this plan at length driving to and from Florida where we had our honeymoon of sorts. We also discussed many other places to which we would travel after that. But within three weeks of returning home, we learned we were pregnant. This coupled with him starting a new business brought those plans to a screeching halt.
While both of our businesses allowed for us to work remotely, he was growing his business here in Columbus and our family was growing as well. Married in 2008, we had our first child in 2009 and our second in 2011.
Though we didn’t recognize it at the time, after our second child was born I was suffering from severe anxiety and postpartum depression. Our solution was to move, because that’s always the best answer. We were both feeling tied down and trapped. He with the marriage, I believe, and I with two kids in two years. It was a jarring change to both of our previous “fly by the seat of your pants” lifestyles.
We settled on Marseille. Not the village in Ohio, but the second most populated city in France. We thought this would enable us to travel throughout Europe easily and fix both our marital issues and whatever it was that I was experiencing. Hilarious. My family thought we were crazy and the move was highly discouraged. I began to have second thoughts, but plans moved forward.
Just as I was overwhelmed to the point of a nervous breakdown with everything that moving to another country entails, the apartment he had lined up fell through. Though this amazing opportunity for us and our children was now gone, I was so relieved and asked that we not pursue another apartment. It was more than I could handle at the time and my passport remained empty.
Fast forward to last summer, two more kids (yes, that’s 4) and a divorce later, I was resenting my ex husband and my baby’s father (story for another day) as they were traveling at will and I was here, as always, taking care of our kids.
I got a burr up my ass and decided to take a nationwide road trip with my the 8, 6, 4, and one year old by myself. Once again, I was discouraged by friends and family. They said it would be too difficult alone and unsafe. This placed enough doubt in my mind that I cancelled those plans. We made the most of our summer and before I knew it the big kids were back in school.
This school year has flown by and my kids would be perfectly content spending another summer at home in front of their computers, going outside every now and then and maybe a staycation, but I feel I’m doing them, and myself, a huge disservice to allow that again.
Shortly after the new year, I mapped out our road trip and decided to give it a greater purpose. My brother died of a brain tumor as a baby. My mother has said that she believes if he were born today, with the treatments available, he would have lived. For this reason and for the extreme gratitude I have for the health of my four children, we will be raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on our trip.
I don’t know what the number of people is who think that tragedy will never strike their family verses the number of people who live in some stage of fear that it will, but I live in the latter. Not only do I live in the latter, I live in a very unhealthy stage of that fear.
But that fear is not all bad as it has motivated not only this trip with my kids, but also a huge leap of faith in a jump across the pond with my partner. Jokingly in conversation, I suggested I accompany him on a business trip to the Channel Islands.
Of all the places I want to travel to in the world, my number one must see before I die place is Sark Island. Very coincidentally, this island is a ferry ride away from the island on which he has business.
Nearly a year and a half ago, I went to Chicago over a weekend without the kids. It was the furthest I had ever been from them. I toggled between the high of feeling free and anxiety of being so far away. So the suggestion that I leave the country really was a joke.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought why not? Then one day in the good ol facebook memories appeared the image I shared above. “If not now then when?” I made that image my wallpaper on my phone and I asked myself that question several times a day, not only about leaving the country, but other things I’ve put off as well.
At what of my kids’ ages would I feel comfortable leaving them for an extended period of time and how far away would be an acceptable distance? I had recently declined taking a trip out west without my kids. I justified it with logistics but the reality was I could make it work. It was my anxiety wouldn’t let me.
The answer slowly became clear. The answer to “when?” is now. I just needed to make the decision and make it happen.
So the wheels are in motion. Dates have been set. Never in my life have I been more excited.
Perhaps my ex husband is right. Maybe this is a mid-life crisis. But a mid-life crisis by definition is:
a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45–64 years old. The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly shortcomings of accomplishments in life. This may produce feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle.
If in making drastic changes to my lifestyle I diminish the feelings of regret and my shortcomings, conquer my fears and anxieties, and take action before my inevitable mortality strikes, I accept that this is, in fact, my mid-life crisis world tour.