I dream about setting out on a round the world journey, but I don’t want to miss important family moments like weddings and funerals. I’m also not sure how to deal with a certain amount of guilt I would feel – I know I would make my parents worry a lot, and I would be leaving my elderly grandmother knowing I may not see her again when I come back.
Your question touches on a nerve for many of us who choose to travel for extended periods, no matter the reason. We can’t be in two places at once, and something always has to give. In your case, it’s being home for special events with your family, the reality that people may pass on while you are gone, and living with the fact that those who love you are going to worry. Obviously we each have to weigh these choices for ourselves, but the criteria for evaluating has some common features.
First, ask yourself why you want to go on your journey.What does it means for you, what dream are you fulfilling, what outcomes are you seeking, and how will going potentially impact the rest of your life?
Then look at what it would mean to not go, or to put restrictions on your adventure. Will youlook back at the end of your life and regret giving up this dream, orconversely, do you realize there are a variety of ways to satisfy your yearning to travel that have a smaller impact on your family? Will you resent those you love for worrying to the point of causing you to stay close to home?
Finally, give equal consideration to your family obligations and attachments. Can you accept that you will be gone for major events while traveling and that a part of you will feel torn as a result? Can you accept that your parents probably worry about a lot of things you are drawn to doing but it’s not your job to limit your life to relieve them of their anxiety?
There’s an exercise I often have clients do, which is to write an obituary (having had a full, healthy life passing peacefully in their sleep at a very ripe old age of course) reflecting on what they want it to say about how they lived. It’s a great way to tap into what you care deeply about to help guide you toward the best decision for you. Once you become clear on your vision, then you can work on your planning.
If you decide to go, some considerations might be to create a budget that includes airfare home for the most significant celebrations and gatherings; taking occasional breaks from your travels to spend time at home in order to stay connected to those you care about while they are still alive; or arranging Skype or other internet visits from various locales.
My husband and I leave home for extended periods and have had to face the same issues. We’ve missed grandchildren’s birthdays, final goodbyes with parents, and being able to race immediately to our daughter’s side when her husband was in a near-fatal car accident. We’ve chosen to create alternate celebrations, spend meaningful time together knowing it may be the last time we see someone important to us, and pay exorbitant airfares to rush home for emergencies that, in our minds, couldn’t wait. We’ve never regretted our choices.
PHOTO: PAUL STEWART