Departure

In life there are lines you cross that, you only realize in hindsight, transform you. Where you were one thing, you’ve become another. Sometimes it is so gradual, you slip a little over the line at a time, that you don’t realize what’s happened until its too late. In our case, it was sudden and extreme.

Me, a successful IT executive, reporting to the CIO, creating presentations, dealing with the board members, managing a large group of talented IT professionals. My husband (DH) alternated between traveling for work and working from home in a niche engineering job. My youngest son, the only one left still at home, was struggling his way through high school. Not because it was too hard, but because of anxiety and other internal battles. He was also completely disillusioned with school, irritated at having to learn things that he would, “…never need to know in a million years.” It was tough for me to argue with that. Being a 17 year old is something I remember well.

We were living in a country not our own – Canada – in a nice three story townhouse with a finished basement and really, more living space than we needed. We were driving nice cars, bills were all paid, credit cards paid down, and really, well, in spite of the small struggles, life was good.

So then, this line…where did it come from? When you live in a country not your own, you have a few options. You can petition to be allowed to stay, or you can plan your departure at the end of your temporary time there. Did I mention life was good? We petitioned to stay. Unfortunately, the Canadian government had other plans for us, and in spite of an attorney who assured us, “No problem,” they declined our petition to stay. We had thirty days in which to plan for our next steps in life, and trust me, thirty days goes by in a flash.

Well, what do you do? Do you cut your losses (the cars! the job!) and run, tail between your legs back to family in your home country until you can get things upright again? In our case, no. We bought an RV. We left our cars to sell off in Canada, we packed everything into storage, and we pulled my son out of school. The guidance counselor working with him told me, well, with his poor attendance (he’d been skipping), with his intelligence and lack of interest in classes, a more “dynamic” method of learning would be fantastic for him. She gave us some options to “keep his brain busy” and encouraged him to make this an adventure. When we did settle down in the US again, after this adventure, we knew he could go for his high school equivalency and/or attend an independent learning or online school.

I’ll spare you the details on how we managed everything. Packing, selling off some furniture, sticking everything we kept in a storage unit, saying goodbyes (so many goodbyes, so many tears), and the final days, when friends helped us load everything we were taking with us into the RV.

One big complication was that we had two cats. Two cats I’d recently learned I was allergic to, and two dogs who would be fine traveling. In the last few weeks we looked everywhere for a new home for these two girls, knowing that if we couldn’t find one, we’d have to take them with us. Neither myself nor DH could stomach the thought of sending them to anywhere but another good home, so that was the only possibility. Through some magical twist, we located a woman in Chicago who had fallen for our cats due to our photos and descriptions, and, as she put it, she was ready to be their new cat aunt.

First destination, then? Chicago, Illinois. Our departure point? Oakville, Ontario, about 30 miles west of Toronto. My home state is California, and in spite of always wanting to travel, I’d not been to very many other states – except for when my son and I first drove to Canada. We loved that drive. This new trip looked promising. It looked shiny, exciting, and of course, like nothing other than a grand adventure.

We crossed the line, you see. It wasn’t easy to do. We put my career on hold, and embraced the traveling that DH’s job requires, and became nomads. Travelers. No longer do I drop dry cleaning off and race off each morning with a travel mug and an audio book cued up for my commute. No more monthly visits to the hair salon to hide my gray hair. Youngest Boy has no more trudges to school every morning. No more electric bills, water bills, no more cable TV. We went from a basement storage room with enough canned and non perishable food to see us through a winter to only buying enough groceries for the week, because that is all that will fit in the RV. It’s amazing, really, how quickly one adapts.

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