This isn’t easy. For the past four months we have pondered, prayed, and sometimes fretted over what we should do in the wake of our life-changing trip and Tom’s subsequent layoff. During this time we have approached our uncertain future with the same level of enthusiasm and hope that we did our RTW journey. We have tried to open our minds to new and unexpected directions and explored a myriad of options for moving forward.
When we asked you what we should do, most of you voted for us to keep traveling or to at least continue working on travel-related projects. A few thought we should settle down and simply enjoy what we have at home. Both options are enticing, but neither is the perfect fit for us right now. Once we got over our initial travel withdrawal (thankfully it will never go away completely), we realized immediate extended travel was out because the kids need time to process their experiences and spend time with friends and family. When we moved on and put our minds to ways of financing future meals and mortgage payments, we found settling down in Atlanta to be difficult. Tom has few job prospects here and we both left our hearts back west…he with the mountains and I with the ocean.
The last four months have been a unique time for our family. For the first time in 15 years of parenthood, Tom drove the kids to school, packed their lunches, and volunteered in their classrooms. He coached Asher’s soccer team, helped McKane make the middle school volleyball team, worked with Kieran to overcome his fear of writing, and let Dax beat him at Guitar Hero time and time again (maybe “let” is not the right word). For four delectable months, he didn’t have to hop on a plane, answer hundreds of emails, or leave before dawn to beat the traffic.
We thought this might be a permanent nirvana and when Tom wasn’t running someone’s forgotten homework to school or taking me to lunch, he was researching ways to change the world and apply some of his travel-inspired wisdom to the business world. He made some progress, but as word of his unemployment got out, potential employers came calling. One proved particularly compelling and we spent many weeks contemplating their offer. We thought long and hard about what it would mean to return to the corporate world. We weighed the pros and cons and decided that this new opportunity would serve a lot of our long-term goals, not the least of which is future RTW adventures.
And so, with a little bit of sadness but a groundswell of enthusiasm, we will be leaving Atlanta at Christmas and returning to our sunny SoCal home of Los Angeles. While Tom helps shape the future of the internet at MySpace in Beverly Hills, I will be shuttling kids to school and penning our travel tales from the seaside village of Pacific Palisades. Dax and McKane will continue the surfing they started in Australia, the little kids will get their first experience with California’s liberal recess policies, and I will derive constant energy and inspiration from the ocean I so adore. We will all embrace the mountains and beaches that surround us. They will tickle our memories and conjure images of faraway peaks we hold dear–Jiuzhaigou in China, Table Mountain in South Africa, the Altiplano in Bolivia–and golden strands we strolled on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, the banks of Vietnam’s South China Sea, and Tunisia’s ancient Mediterranean shoreline.
Life in California will help us realize some of the goals we had set before leaving it all behind 15 months ago. Downsizing our living space by 2/3 (gulp!) will require us to get rid of a lot of stuff. A smaller house, smaller driveway, tightly packed parking spaces, and heavily trafficked streets lend themselves to smaller cars. I still haven’t managed to replace the car I sold before leaving the US and now my indecision has proven wisdom rather than ineffectiveness. I was encouraged that every tenth car in LA seemed to be a Prius or other hybrid and will now opt for something that sucks down a lot less gas than my former SUV. I could have done this in Atlanta, but the wide open parking lots and suburban distances lure me to comfort rather than efficiency.
Though many of our books will be in boxes in the garage, the Rough Guides, Lonely Planets, and assorted travel tomes will sit shelved in plain view as fodder for planning our future travels. Perhaps one with my byline will join the ranks in the near future and the possibility of other travel projects will continue to percolate in the background (perk, perk, perk…I can hear them now). Tom will have a quick commute down Sunset Boulevard, travel rarely (in a good way), and charge his intellectual batteries in an office where he gets free smoothies…but I’ll let him reveal more about that in a future post.
Atlanta has been good to us, and we credit her sultry environs as the incubator for last year’s trip. Fellow Georgians have supported our travels and are currently reading about them in a 2-part article in Atlanta Life magazine (see pp. 58-62). Ironically the second part will not appear in print until after we have departed, but we want our former neighbors to know that Atlanta will remain in our hearts as we head west. After 5 years, we leave this fair city a little more mannered, a little more genteel, and a lot more traveled. Farewell, Atlanta, and hold on, LA, here come The Six!