Some thoughts on saying no to South Africa


A few incredible travel opportunities have rolled into the inbox in the past few weeks: London, Glasgow, South Africa, Istanbul. They’re all places I’d really love to go and if the opportunity had arisen a year ago, I’d have been all over it.

It was hard to leave Francisco behind at home as I traveled to Chile and Brazil and St. Kitts last year, not because I’m some needy, co-dependent spouse (ok, well, kind of), but because we really spend all of our time together and all of our experiences and thoughts bounce back and forth as if we were one person instead of two. So when I’m out there alone in the world, I really do feel like my other half is missing. God bless Skype.

Anyhow… it was hard to leave him behind, but I could do it, the main reason being because he was so happy to see me out in the world. He embodies the peculiar Cuban trait of being genuinely happy for others without envy or anoranza.

This year, we’re in a different place.

It’s not just the fact that we have a daughter now, though that’s a definite factor; it’s also that Francisco’s immigration status problem (a drama I’ve written about or around here and here) remains unresolved and isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I could leave Mariel with him and travel, or I could find a way to bring her along and leave him at home, but neither feels like a true option.

A few weeks back, we talked about all this under a piercing blue sky while standing on the subway platform and made the decision easily: We won’t travel unless the three of us can travel together.* That decision leaves us with the United States and US territories as our potential stomping grounds. No offense to my home country, but that could make me feel really sad: There’s so much of the world to see and I’m really happiest in Latin America… Mexico, specifically.

But absolute happiness isn’t ultimately about where I am. It’s about who I’m with.

I could go to London, Glasgow, South Africa, or Istanbul, but I’d spend a good chunk of my time there wanting to be sharing the trip with them or wondering what new experience in Mariel’s development I was missing.

And so, for now, I can say no to South Africa and not feel all torn up about it.

I’m exactly where I want and need to be.

And when everything gets sorted out, Mariel’s ready:

*One potential exception being a trip to Cuba so I can take Mariel to see his family.


10 responses »

  1. Definitely the right spirit to have!

    There’s a season for everything. A season to retreat, a season to power on. A season to relax, a season to rev up.

    A season to settle and reprioritize what truly is most important in life.

    There were many travel opportunities I’ve had to pass up too because my new marriage remains more important.

    Ultimately, that’s what it’s about. The people that love you unconditionally and tending to their needs.

  2. I’ve often wondered what I’d do in the same situation, which is why I’m so eager to travel now instead of later when my priorities will change. I KNOW they will change, and it’s nice to read that it’s ok to do. Know what I mean? I’ve always felt strongly that it’s the people in our lives that are most important, not place. Especially family! P.S. Is Newfoundland an option?!

    • Candice- I wish Newfoundland was an option, but (over a beer in NYC sometime, I’ll be happy to give you the longwinded version of the story), Francisco’s pretty much confined to the US.

      Travel now, but I know you’re going to be a cool mom and will have a little one ready to hit the road with you! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Satisfying The Traveling Soul « Geotraveler’s Niche

  4. I know exactly the place you’re in and I’m so glad that you recognize it. I didn’t travel when my daughter was young unless I could take her along. That seriously limited my trips but it gave me piece of mind and no regrets. Now, I have just discovered the right balance of travel so that my family doesn’t fall apart and I remain sane.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. It’s really helpful to hear that other travel writers have shared such feelings and experiences and arrived at the same or similar decisions.

  5. I love travel like I love my music; I can’t imagine living without them. But, since meeting my now-husband, we’ve made the pact to travel together whenever possible (a la Paul and Linda McCartney, lol).The energy of wanting to bounce thoughts and ideas and share the same experience with him detracts from the solo travel experience. Since we got married relatively young, we’re trying to travel as much as we can before we start a family. It’s great to see that it’s ok to shift priorities. I love this statement: I’m exactly where I want and need to be. I feel the same way. Btw, we’ll be moving to SW Virginia in May and will have room for visitors. 🙂 Let us know if yall ever want a mountain/ski vacay!

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