It’s technically time for a “People We Meet” post, which I plan to do each week to highlight the best part of travelling: the connections we make with others. But this week, with everything else going on, I want to talk about some people I already know, and who have known me, and supported me, through every step of life’s journey, not just this one: family.
Every Friday at 1400, the reminder on my phone goes off to Check-In with Kristen. Kristen is my younger sister (only by 16 months and undoubtedly the more mature one regardless). Over a year ago, Kristen learned from my mom the extent of some of the betrayals in my marriage. She called me, furious on my behalf, but also frustrated that we didn’t keep in touch better and that she had had no idea things were so bad for me. There was a lot of crying. I’m not known for my keeping in touch skills, and though Kristen and I got on well enough in our adult years, we’d never been super close. All that was to change, as she demanded that we have weekly check-ins to stay more involved with each other’s lives. And so, every week since for over a year, Kristen calls me on her drive in to work on Friday mornings and we talk for 30 minute or so about what’s going on in our respective lives. Occasionally we miss a call, always on my side due to inconsistent phone service or bad wifi; Kristen has never once failed to call.
On Thursdays I have another reminder set, this one for around noon my time. This weekly call is with Krissy (ironically also a Kristin), my best friend of nearly 20 years. Krissy drives to Harrisburg, a multi hour drive for her, on Thursdays for work, so we either talk on her ride in or her ride home for about two hours. We miss our weekly phones call more often with me travelling because that time of day is a little harder for me to ensure I’m around wifi for (and the farther away I get into Europe, the later in the evening her ride home gets for me!), but we haven’t missed a single month in almost two years. These calls started when my husband asked for a divorce… for nearly six months, she was the only family member I told or talked to about it. It was a big deal when we started the regular check-ins, because there had been times where we had gone months, even close to a year without speaking, so this was completely unheard of.
For the past year and a half to two years, my life has revolved around these two phone calls. I doubt either one of them realises how much they have come to matter to me. No matter how bad the week has been, every Thursday, and every Friday, I can count on my phone going off and reminding me to touch base with two family members back home. Often, I am busy, or distracted, or honestly just not in the mood to talk, but if I’m available, regardless of how I’m feeling, I either call myself or answer the call. And I’m always glad I did afterwards. Sometimes we talk about the crappy stuff, like my call with my sister today about what a mess I’ve gotten myself in to financially. Sometimes all I want is to hear about their lives, especially because these two particular people are living what I pretty much consider to be the dream life (happy marriages, own their own homes, stable finances… you know, everything I’ve managed to screw up). Ironically, my sister would probably argue that I’m the one living the dream, she wants to quit her job and travel Europe like me… the grass is always greener as they say!
Regardless of what we talk about, it soothes something in me to be able to count on the phone calls. I left home at age 18 for college in Arizona (I grew up near Philadelphia, PA), and the closest I have ever lived to my family since was two brief months in 2010 in New Jersey with my aunt while I waited to go to boot camp… it was still a two hour drive from my parents and best friend. Keeping in touch has never been my strong suit. Homesickness didn’t plague me much, and I was generally content with just catching up when I was home. I’ve always made new friends fairly easily so loneliness wasn’t often an issue. But the last couple years have made me realise how much I missed out on by never making the effort.
I thought that these calls might die out while I was travelling, but though they are sometimes harder to make and often require calling each other back a million times per call, they’ve even more important to me then ever. Connecting with or nourishing existing connections with the people we already know and love is just as important as making new connections, I’ve realised. They offer a stability and sense of home that is very needed when travelling as I am, under the conditions my life is currently in. They also serve as a reminder that there are people thinking of me, every Thursday and Friday if nothing else, which counts for a whole hell of a lot when your mental state is as fragile as mine often is these days (Yes, Mom, I know you are thinking of me every second of every day too!). And they give a new perspective to my experiences as I share them, making my travel journey that much richer and more complete. I think often in my life, I have spent so much time seeking out the new, the different, the adventure, that I’ve failed to value the familiar, the stable, the constant. Kristen and Krissy remind me every week that I should never again neglect the connections that have stayed with me through every trial and every triumph.