Our daughter, age 16, recently had an amazing opportunity to visit Greece – yes, the country – with a group from her high school. To say this created some anxiety for her mother (if you recall, I am a control freak and this pretty much relinquishes all control) is a massive understatement. For months we planned, saved, she worked to earn money, she sent letters to family looking for work to earn money, we researched (well, she researched) the culture, I forced her watch the movie “Troy” because it really did happen like that (& Hector and Achilles just because – whatever), and our entire family became excited for her educational vacation.
Then the day came. The day she was to leave. She was up until well after midnight the night before with all the jitters that come with being excited for her new adventure. I, however, was up until well after midnight trying not to focus on all the possible worst-case scenarios while she was traveling. We were all up, at least awake, by 6:30 that morning. Her brothers gave her the typical half-hearted “mom made me” hug and left for school. She and I ran through the checklist again. And again. And one more time for good measure. (“Please roll your eyes one more time for me so I can remember what that looks like while you’re gone.”) It had snowed overnight and was cold. Roads were less than fun and it took us close to an hour to get to school where the charter bus was picking up the group. She was giddy and talkative. I was just driving, listening, thrilled to hear her voice filled with so much energy.
We arrived at school and she grabbed her backpack and I grabbed her carry-on. Together we entered the main lobby of the school and I was blasted with so much genuine excitement. These kids (my kid!) were traveling to Europe – to Greece – for 9 days! The group gathered for a photo, prayed together, and boarded the bus for Detroit. Somewhere in all of this I hugged her (probably too tightly) and kissed her beautiful face. I sat in my car and watched her board the bus and then drove to work, knowing I just left 1/4 of my heart there.
While she was traveling, I was THAT person – the app checker person. I was on my phone the entire night checking her flight stats and where she was in the world, literally. I waited for the text that she made it safely to each destination and that she had no problems with customs. Then, and only then, did I sleep.
During her trip, she would send us facebook messages to let us know how her day went – sometimes only a quick note and other times she would attach a photo or two of places she’d seen that day. Not once did I get to speak to her, to hear her voice, the one I listened to earlier in the month chatter all the way to school. I filled my nights with lazy activities, boring television, and dot-to-dots (seriously). It was just weird at home. The dog wandered around looking for her every morning. Her brothers asked about her adventures and wanted to see photos. Her dad acted like nothing was different (although I’m pretty certain he secretly was having a more difficult time than me).
Then the day arrived – she was coming home! She messaged us after she got through security at the Athens airport to let us know she was on her way. At work, I peeked at my flight tracking app to see where in the world she was (literally, all I saw was a funky line on my phone that makes zero sense with regards to the path one would think the plane would take) and let my travel anxiety take over. The entire day was a blur and thankfully it was a busy day at work so I wasn’t able to focus on her travels too deeply. Once her plane landed in Michigan, she texted her dad to let him know all was well and she was through customs. Then nothing. Not a peep from her until she was 1/2 hour from the school. I guess international travel is tiring because she slept most of the 2 1/2 hour bus ride.
My husband and I were in the parking lot – with all the other parents – when the bus pulled up. We walked (I walked fast) to the bus and watched through the window as the kids exited the bus. The excitement was gone. The enthusiasm wasn’t there. There was no energy at all. Just some shrugging and shuffling of feet as they gathered their luggage and found home in their parents open arms. She was so tired she could barely walk (20 hours of traveling internationally will do that. That and sitting next to a 1 year old on the longest flight).
We put her and her things in the car and drove home. We let her chatter about things we can only picture with our minds. She was excited to be home. Her brothers were happy to have her home. Our dog was even happier! I didn’t want to stop looking at her, but I know that would have creeped her out. She showed us a few pictures, showered us with amazing gifts (I need a shelf just to hold all the amazing things!), talked to us all for a while, and then she went to bed. My heart was full and overflowing again.
We’ve been asked, often, “how did you afford this?” (we aren’t rich people, we manage and squeak by and quite frankly it isn’t anybody’s business). Here was my response to that – This opportunity, the opportunity to travel and see different parts of God’s amazing creation was something we couldn’t say no to. Not only was the cost a bargain (I can be rather frugal with regards to travel sometimes), but she saw historical places like the Parthenon and the Poseidon’s Temple, she saw religious places like Mars Hills, she ate food with weird names and ingredients, she raced her classmates on the first ever (!) Olympic track, she toured countryside in a country that NEEDS tourism. I can’t even begin to scratch the surface of what she experienced. I do know that it has forever changed her view of travel, of the world, of different cultures, and of her own personal journey in this world. We are 100% convinced this was the right time for her to experience this trip. God opened her eyes and her heart while she was gone and, for the rest of her life, she will understand people and cultures differently than those of us who only dream of the adventure. There was not a missional element to this trip, and we’re okay with that. Sometimes God works on us the most when we aren’t expecting it and usually when we aren’t planning on it. I guarantee God worked on her and every single other person on that trip and most of them likely won’t fully grasp the enormity of it all for many months or even years. But the stories, oh the stories! They are never-ending and wonderful. They are life-changing and amazing.
My favorite part of her first night home and even though she was absolutely exhausted, she and I were lying on my bed looking through photos was “When I get my job in international whatever (seriously, she wants the word “International” in her career), I will take each of you with me at least one time.” Knock me out and take me on an adventure! I truly cannot wait.
A strong desire or urge to wander or travel and explore the world.
This is the island Hydra, I think.
This is the group at the starting line before they raced each other on the first Olympic track.