January 12, 2012
As our boat slowly made its way back to Tonsai Pier, we breathed in the fresh air, admiring the breathtaking limestone cliffs and the jade-colored ocean waters that surrounded us. It was day 6 of our long-anticipated "Trip of a Lifetime," and we were relishing the beauty of Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. On our snorkeling tour that day, we swam and kayaked among a myriad of brightly-colored aquatic creatures in the crystal-clear Thai waters.
In less than a week, we would be required to tell our boss definitively if we would commit to teach in Beijing for yet another school year. It was a decision we had discussed, analyzed, prayed about, and toiled over for months. Should we return to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies, or should we stay in Beijing to teach students we loved in a place we had considered "home" for the last 3 years?
We huddled closely to keep warm as the sun set and the air cooled around us. As we did, M (my husband) looked at me seriously and announced that he was "ready to take the plunge" by telling our boss that we would be leaving Beijing at the end of this school year. For several months, we had been pretty certain that this would be our decision, but the gravity of it struck us as our boat continued its journey back to the pier.
Returning to the U.S. meant leaving a land and people we had come to love. It meant abandoning security and the place we had called "home" for our entire married life. It meant willingly entering a lifestyle vastly different than the one we had be living, and a significant drop in the amount of time we could spend together. It meant subjecting ourselves to what would inevitably be an intense 2 years.
Something in that moment made us cherish our time together on that boat. We were 1/3 of the way through our "Trip of a Lifetime," and we recognized that when we returned to Beijing after day 21, our life would begin a journey down a very different course. It was the beginning of the end of "The China Season" of our life.
Feeling emotions of both sadness and anticipation mingle in our hearts, we decided that at the end of the next phase ("The Grad School Season"), we would go on another "Trip of a Lifetime." We committed to saving our pennies (and our airline miles) and excitedly began to dream about the places we could visit. Trip of a Lifetime #1 took us to Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. Where would Trip of a Lifetime #2 bring us? Part of me wondered if this "Trip of a Lifetime #2" would ever truly become a reality, or if it was just a way to make us stop thinking about the massive life changes that awaited us upon the conclusion of this wonderful adventure. Either way, it was a welcomed distraction.
March 16, 2014
Our dream is becoming a reality! The trip that began as a dream on a small snorkeling boat more than two years ago is starting to become a reality. Piece by piece, it is coming to fruition! Our plane tickets have been "purchased" (with miles) and our itinerary is almost finalized. We have poured over hundreds of pages of travel guides and have found lodging we can "pay for" (with points) for 15 of the 18 nights we will spend on our second Trip of a Lifetime. The "countdown clock" has been set: 83 days until we officially declare an end to The Grad School Season of life and embark on our Trip of a Lifetime 2.0.
A midst my excitement, questions linger in my mind. What will we name the next season of life? What landmark events will characterize this upcoming stage? And will we one day embark on a Trip of a Lifetime 3.0?