Four years ago I was on my way to South Korea, carrying only my new tightly packed huge backpack and enough excitement to fuel the multiple modes of transport that would take me to my daughter. I was bringing her home from her year of teaching but first we were traveling to Cambodia and Thailand. Many weeks of traveling, just us and our backpacks. Mine was pink, I sent her a green one. A constant flow of information between us as we selected our routes, planned our hostel stays, determined how little money we could get by on, and especially the detailed plan for me to reach her apartment once I landed at Incheon International and then found the correct subway and then the all important right stop to disembark. I was traveling across the world to see my girl, all alone, Chef dropping me at the local site to catch the shuttle to take me to the airport 3 hours away. Many transfers, many opportunities for me to get mixed up, turned around, lost. I always get lost. This time, though I found my Stella, I was at her apartment when she returned from work, a testament to her preparation and determination to get me there, a story of just how badly I wanted to see my daughter.
I can point to many life events that have shaped and changed me, set my path on a new course. Some are awful, just so horrific they left me wandering in the dark lost and searching for too long. Other events opened me to new lights and greater glorious fields, new ideas and realizations of my more. This trip was the good kind. The very best kind. I saw my daughter as a woman on this trip, no longer my little girl. I loved who she was, who she had grown into. Sure and confident, living in a foreign country, alone and mastering it. She took me to favorite restaurants where owners hugged her as she walked in. She showed me her classrooms where children asked us to take them back to America because they loved her so much. I met her supervisors who said she always had a place there, she was a wonderful teacher. Then we began to travel and she showed me the world. She taught me how to navigate, how to find our way when English is no where to be found. She showed me her soul as we cried over the Killing Fields in Cambodia. She showed me how to play as we laughed with the elephants in Thailand. She taught me to eat street food that I will never be able to replicate or name. We slept in places we agreed to never tell Chef about, we rode in vehicles we weren’t sure we would survive in. We talked into the sweaty nights and laughed every sweltering day.
I think my daughter is lost now, maybe I am. We can’t find each other. God knows that I would travel on any tuktuk or midnight bus with sketchy hipsters who haven’t showered in forever if it meant I could reach her. A constant flow of apologies, beseeching, anger, crying out to remember who we are, nothing I do seems to cross the divide. My God I miss that laugh, those eyes, that beautiful woman who teaches me things. I miss how her soul, always an old soul, uses creative ways to explore and explain her insides. Her art, oh Lord, her art. I miss how she loved so fiercely that it often broke her, she loved so loyally that she had no understanding of those who left others behind. I can’t find my daughter in this big world, maybe she has lost herself.
Four years ago today I was leaving for the trip that would forever change how I travel and why I travel. It forever altered how I see those around me, those in the places I visit. I seek out their stories, I want to know them and learn how my life is connected to theirs. Because we ARE all connected, that’s what she showed me most of all. She showed me that the water we waste, the clothing we take for granted, the extra food we throw out, the stories of suffering we don’t care to learn as we buy trinkets and bargain for the lowest price, we are connected to others who suffer. Today as I look back on that trip 4 years ago, I am reminded that Stella and I are still, forever connected, once through joy, today through heartache. She knows I will travel the world to reach her, she knows I will stop at nothing once she says she wants to be found. I feel her some days, so close she could be a shadow, a hazy bit of fog, I reach out but cannot touch her. I trust that God is with her, near her, hovering over, listening to her soul. I know that God celebrates our connections, God loves our reconciliations and seeks restoration in our broken world. One day God will draw the map that will bring us back together. Today, we remember our past travels and keep walking in the light. Soon, Stella, we will meet again and my God won’t we laugh?