On Traveling

Frequent flier, expert packer.  

Frequent flier, expert packer.  

Growing up my family traveled often. With relatives in nearly every corner of the United States, vacation meant Christmas in Boston or Easter in Florida, beach trips to Northern Michigan or visits to the Chicago suburbs. Travel was a means of being together - with our immediate family and with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  Our crazy schedules of little league games and swim practices, business trips and PTA meetings were put on pause. For these trips, these moments, we occupied the same space. As the plane took off, we would clasp hands. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we were. The plane would steady, reach cruising altitude and we would let go. We'd return to our books or puzzles, then later iPods and e-readers, but still we were together.


Now our reasons for travel aren't quite so simple. And we find ourselves across states, countries, even continents. Just this morning when I woke up in Sweden, my brother was in Mexico, my dad in New Zealand and my mom in the Netherlands en route to Tanzania.  Needless to say, it's harder to have that time together. It's nearly impossible to find ourselves in the same city, let alone on the same flight. And yet, I can always count on an email or a text: "Safe travels! Text when you land." It may not be a squeeze of a hand mid-take off, but it's something. A prayer for a safe flight, a moment to acknowledge how thankful we are. And that is everything.

Giving Thanks

Holidays away from home can be difficult and social media doesn’t make it easier. The barrage of snaps, Instagrams and status updates made last week challenging at times. I so wanted to be home with family like everyone else seemed to be. I wanted to hug my ninety-year-old grandma and congratulate my brother and his fiancée. I wanted to squeeze into Nanna’s house with countless cousins and bake pies without visiting the American Food store. I wanted to quote SNL’s “Back Home Ballers” and watch football with my dad. I wanted all of the familiar joy and gratitude of the holiday. How foolish I was to think I could only have that at home. 


Last week I celebrated no less than FOUR thanksgivings here in Uppsala. I celebrated with friends, roommates, colleagues and students and I ate more sweet potato than I am comfortable admitting. I laughed around a table with so many amazing people. I prepared my first turkey and didn’t give anyone food poisoning. I botched a pecan pie and then made a killer one. I shared in traditions new and old and broke bread with this family I have made for myself. And I regretted my poor, pitiful me routine.

In three weeks time, I will be celebrating Christmas at home with family and my petty homesickness will feel even more selfish than it does now. Truth is, our world is in a tough spot. There are families without a place to go home to, or families whose gatherings this holiday season will be a much more somber affair. There are many reasons to feel saddened or angered, many reasons to feel hateful or hopeless, but I am choosing gratitude. I have to. 

In Those Small Moments

A rare thing happened this weekend: my family was all in the same place. With my parents in California, my brother in New York and me, bopping from Kentucky to Sweden, we aren't together often. I guess you could say we're a close bunch for not being close at all.  When we have these opportunities to see each other, I am thrilled.  And we celebrate with great meals and countless toasts and big hugs, but without a doubt, I most enjoy the small moments. 

An evening trip to the lake. 

A post-brunch nap. 

A winding conversation. 

A favorite movie and a crowded couch. 

These are the moments I love - the small, the mundane, the familiar. 

I will so miss these moments and the people who make them so special when I move next week, but I know I'll be making new memories and savoring so many new experiences.


- EM