Hey there! I’m Melanie. Originally from Brooklyn, I married a Southerner, Sam, and eventually moved to Charleston, South Carolina. We’ve got three kids, Ben, Henry, and Addie, with whom I’m about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. In my former professional life, I worked as a parenting editor and freelance writer. I’m about to be a full-time traveler and homeschooling mom (gulp!), ready to show my kids just a fraction of the incredible world out there (and do lots of laundry in sinks around the globe).
Why the travel year?
As I’ve started telling people of our plans for the upcoming year, one of the main questions I’ve gotten is, “Why?“
Why do I want to take this trip with the kids?
Why travel for a year?
Why go now?
(Also: have I lost my damn mind?)
I don’t have a solid answer to all of those questions–at least not one that might make sense to everyone outside of my brain.
What I can say is that turning 40 feels like a big and meaningful milestone in my life. My mom started her family at 40 because of biology and circumstance. In turn, I made the conscious decision to try to start mine much younger; I knew that my time with her could be limited (which meant that I had an 11-year-old, a 9-year-old, and a 5-year-old celebrating my 40th with me)–but perhaps that my time with my own children might be too.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time right around my 8th birthday, and she was in remission until I graduated from college. From then on, she fought a pretty constant battle against the encroaching cancer until she died at age 71 (I was 30 years old and had a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old at the time).
During my childhood, she was a single mom of two, working long hours with a long commute. And she traveled throughout the African continent once or twice a year for her job throughout that time. As I got older, my mom and I talked about my accompanying her on one of those trips, but it never happened. I don’t know if it was because of finances, logistics, the daunting thought of missing so many schooldays, or some other reason altogether, but I never got the chance to travel anywhere in Africa with her. If I believed in wasting time on regrets. that would be one of them–but there’s too much else to think about and accomplish, so fuck that.
She *did* encourage me to travel, though–and she made it possible for me to do so starting in my teen years. She enrolled me in a Youth For Understanding summer program mid-high school, when I lived for several weeks with a host family in Dinan (Bretagne), France. Upon my high school graduation, she took me to a country of my choosing (back to France!) for a whirlwind sightseeing trip. And she helped me plan for a junior year abroad while in college–guiding me to become a French Studies major so I could knock out most of my requirements during my year in Paris and balance my studies with virtually year-round athletics (holla, Smith Crew!) during my three years on the Smith College campus. *N.B. Let me state for the record that while technically speaking my French major made it a bit easier to stay on the rowing team and the path toward graduation, it did not lead me down a path of any particular post-collegiate success in life. Priorities, people.
Anyhow, hitting 40 has turned me especially reflective about the years ahead, what I hope my children will remember of me when I am gone, and how I want to use my remaining time on this planet. Forty is often the start of mammograms and more diligent screening for breast cancer in American women; I’ve already been going for annual mammograms for a few years now. Because of my familial history (my mom’s youngest sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer in recent years), breast cancer feels like a very real threat; I know I don’t have any control over whether or not I ever get it–but I do have some say over what I do with however long I have left in this currently healthy body.
And so, I want to travel. I want concentrated time with my children (please remind me next year when I am completely overwhelmed by lack of “me-time” that I requested this). I want to show them some small part of the world in the hopes that they want to see that much more of it as they grow older. I want them to see that there are people so much like us on the opposite side of the globe. I want to show them that there are people living their daily lives in places so incredibly unlike anything they have known until now. I want to model kindness and respect and openness toward other cultures, especially in light of the current administration’s horrific xenophobic politics and border policies. I want to further open their minds and hearts–and my own, too.
TLDR; I just turned 40, my parents are dead, the timing feels right, showing my children the world and continuing to foster compassion and understanding feels particularly important during this shit show of an American presidency, and I can. More on that last part in a later post.