One never travels and returns home the same. Transformation is the inevitable outcome of any journey.
And so it is with life.
This month we said goodbye to my dear Daddy. Over the decades, we’ve covered a lot of ground together as travel companions. He and Mom took me on my first train ride, and though I don’t remember it, they told me I thought it was great fun walking down the aisle and being bounced around.
He took me ice fishing as a young girl, and I still remember the thrill of sitting in his truck and driving over the frozen Minnesota lake, hearing the cracking of the ice and being fearful that we would break through. We spent the afternoon in a tiny shack, with a little stove pumping out enough heat to keep us toasty. While Dad fished, I read Little House on the Prairie quietly. It was just the two of us, and having time alone with Daddy is a real treat when you’re one of four kids. I will never forget it.
When I had my learner’s permit he helped me open the door to the world by taking me driving. I think I must have thoroughly terrified him – he only took me out on the road once.
In my teen years, we took a massive family road trip from Brainerd, Minnesota to Tucson, Arizona to visit our grandparents over Christmas. Six of us crammed into a car, and Dad drove the whole way, resting his left arm on the door, windows open, radio on. Road-weary, we stopped at a hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico one night and got a room, only to discover filthy towels, a broken television stand, stained rugs and questionable bedding. It was one of my first big travel lessons: expect the unexpected. Though he was exhausted, he caved in to our protests, and we all piled back into the car in search of a more suitable place to stay.
As I began to explore the world on my own, traveling solo abroad, sending post cards from around the planet, Dad dubbed me “my wandering child.” He said it proudly whenever I came home to him.
In recent years I’ve been able to travel with Mom and Dad on their annual migration to and from Tucson, where they now have a winter home. It’s been everything you’d expect – trying, rewarding, exhausting and wonderful. Dad loved the soundtrack to Chicago, and he would play it at full volume several times a day. We’d stop and eat at places like IHOP and Applebee’s. He hadn’t driven in the 10 years since his stroke, so Mom and I shared the duty. To the very end he didn’t like my driving much.
So many miles. So many memories.
No matter what your perspective on dying, of all the journeys of life it is the final one that offers the greatest transformation. Though the great Going Home is a solitary trip, its lessons are so powerful it transforms even those who cannot make the journey now. It changes all of us. It changes our perspective on bucket lists and in-boxes and to-do’s. It transforms our appreciation for past journeys and it changes the way we approach the jouneys ahead.
What a powerful gift from a man who gave everything for his family.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer, food-lover and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to individuals and organizations.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.