I am sitting in a waiting room reading this year’s April/May edition of National Geographic Traveler Magazine. Since I was a small child and my mother came home with a monumental stack of NG salvaged from someone’s half packed up yard sale, these magazines have been my favorite – the only magazine I have ever or (probably) will ever subscribe to.
From the glossy expanding centerfold maps to the most electric and awe inspiring photographs attached to their equally vibrant stories, National Geographic took my young child’s heart around the world and back time and again. It isn’t a wonder that with childhood inspiration such as this, my adolescent and adult life has had one key focus: world exploration.
Flipping through these familiar pages and reading articles which once again take my heart far away, I am reminded that this is why I do what I do. This is why I pursue the things I chase and why I am so heartbroken when I find myself in places I can’t seem to venture from. This is also why I am teaching myself patience and why I must learn to be content with myself wherever I am. I know that eventually I’ll be able to do all these things I crave so much, even if now is not that time. This is truly the hardest part.
Of all the things I have encountered in life so far, this is the only thing I’ve ever wanted so badly, the only thing that I absolutely must accomplish and achieve during my life.
That part scares me a little too, or it did, from time to time. When all your focus is in one place, if you’re not careful, you can miss a lot of other good things. But I have long ago accepted that there were things I would have to forego in order to have the life experiences I seek – any career that would keep me in one place, relationships that I couldn’t take with me, a family that needs the stability of finding a home to settle down in. I have been okay with giving up most of the things which compose a normal life, but the hardest of those things to reconcile was having a family.
I think that eventually I’ll want that. A family. Down the road of course. But what then? Stop globetrotting? Stop searching out the beauties of cultures foreign to me? How could I do that? Or how could I settle in one place and raise kids who stay in one school and don’t know what it’s like to move ten times in 18 years? How can I give that sort of life to a child when I never had nor wanted it for myself?
I’m surely jumping the gun here, but let’s put that aside for the moment. (That’s another one of the phrases I never understood.)
So I’m here in the waiting room, and I’m reading a brief article by NG photographer Aaron Huey. His young son’s name is Hawkeye Huey, which I think is amazing by the way. The article is about how, since his son was a baby, he has taken him all over the country on unforgettable adventures. When his son was 4 he gave him a real camera which developed real pictures instead of digital images on a screen. (They’re great photos, too.) He says of their trips that he “wanted to instill in him a love for adventure, scraped-up knees, and the smell of rain on sagebrush.”
Now that, my friends, is good parenting.
That is what life is about.
I have been following Aaron and Hawkeye on their Instagram accounts for …I don’t know, a long time, at any rate. And still it was a surprise for me to find inspiration such as this from these fine folks today. Because what I realize is this – having a family or relationships isn’t going to prevent me from seeing the world, if I do it right. If I give it all that I’ve got instead of trying to confine myself to normative familial expectations, then instead of giving up on a family I can instead have traveling companions in whom I can instill a love of adventure and scraped knees and the smell of rain on every landscape on the planet. I can have both, as long as I’m true to what I know. I can’t give what I don’t have, but what I have is a love for our world, and surely that is worth passing on to a new generation.
This is enough to put my foolish heart at ease for the time being. Between learning to wait for the right time and circumstances, and the understanding that for now I’m not closing any doors in pursuit of the future I crave, I think I’m finally figuring this out a little. Maybe one day I’ll see my own words in print on the pages of National Geographic, and hand it to my child to read as we watch a sunset in the Moroccan desert.
A girl can dream.