At home, Derek and I communicate via Outlook calendar. It was in our calendars’ benign squares—via an invitation from him accompanied by consistent (some would say “insistent”) reminders—that the idea for this trip originally took hold. And they reflect pretty much every reality of our day-to-day lives, from nights one of us has to work late to weekend play dates to the guys’ trip he hopes to take each May. I live and die by my Outlook calendar, and the thing is, I love it that way. I get a peaceful, easy feeling when I see those squares fill up—when we’re in the country, that is.
The second we move outside of U.S. borders, scheduling becomes repugnant to me. As far as I know, I can’t even access Outlook while we’re on the road. I can’t be certain; I haven’t tried.
We arrived in San Sebastian knowing we needed to be in Bordeaux today to meet our dear friends who, along with their 11-week-old son, are flying from Chicago to meet us there. At this point, today is the only day of our trip we had to be in a certain place at a particular time.
We have a vague idea that we’ll drive south from here, through some more of France and parts of Spain. And then we want to move toward Southeast Asia. But we can’t bring ourselves to book plane tickets yet. We just don’t want to commit. I’ve gone from a reality in which I know what I’ll be doing more or less every moment of every day to one in which I wake up not knowing where I’ll be sleeping that night. And it’s just such a relief.
I think this kind of dramatic change feels good in the way any sort of 180 would. In February, we yearn to feel the heat of August. After three days of salads, we want a steak.
But more than that, stepping away from scheduling, and from all of the things that populate my schedule, allows me to be more present for my family. If I’m reading a story to Harper now, my mind’s not racing ahead to where I need to be next. I can play with Walker on the beach until we don’t feel like being on the beach anymore. Derek and I have conversations that go beyond the logistics of who needs to be where when and how they’re going to get there.
Not having to be anywhere in particular means we end up only going to places we want to be. Yesterday, that was to a sidewalk café in Bayonne that served up mind-blowing mugs of rich hot chocolate. And then onward to a seaside oyster shack in Arcachon, where the kids played in the sand while Derek and I devoured platter after platter of briny oysters harvested yards from where we sat. Tonight we cooked dinner for our friends in our centuries-old rental house.
This slow way of life is a luxury, and one I’ll miss once those Outlook reminders start coming once more. But until then, I’m off to do—well, who knows?