Finding Answers in Traveling
© Copyright 2020 by Lauren Barrett
Pulling up to our Airbnb, I affixed my sea bands to my wrists and did my best to ward off any further nausea. We were here, San Francisco, at the start of our California road trip with the theme being to capture the major league stadiums in our quest to see them all. And instead of jumping for joy at finally arriving at the destination of a much planned and carefully crafted trip, I was cursing the high heavens for being in the throes of morning sickness and food aversion thanks to a much unplanned and not carefully crafted pregnancy. My husband, on the other hand, was annoyingly elated over the start of our vacation and the pregnancy as well. I cursed him too.
“I need bread,” I murmured.
He didn’t seem to register the urgency.
“I need bread. Now. It’s the only thing that will make me feel better.”
And that’s how we began the first night of our long awaited trip. Me stuffing my face with bread, realizing that I had just given up a yearlong hiatus of gluten and praying that it didn’t flare up my Hashimoto’s disease. My husband quietly turning on Queer Eye and trying not to disturb the woman who so clearly looked like his wife but yet who was acting not a bit like her.
The next morning, dragging my tired self from the warm comforts of the bed, I lacklusterly prepared myself for the day’s events: Bike Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge. Day 1’s schedule of events haven’t even happened, and I was already looking forward to the evening spent in bed bingewatching more of Queer Eye.
The sea bands once again strapped to my wrists, a permanent fixture in nearly all of our photos, I mustered up the little strength I had and hauled my bag out the door.
“Let’s do this,” I feebly pronounced.
Traveling has a special way of changing the heart, soul, and attitude. It changes the way we perceive the world, and it’s the dose of medicine that we all didn’t know we needed until we got there. There - out in the world, a foregin place with immense possibilities around us.
There I was in Fisherman’s Wharf on the Fourth of July surrounded by hordes of people darting here and there. And I on my bike weaving in and out of the crowd, up and down the hills, passed the Presidio, and then finally face-to-face with the great Golden Gate Bridge; it’s majestic rustic color spanning out across the bay. So big, so grand, and so significant. And I so small.
I heaved a deep sigh and pedaled. With each pedal, my anxieties over whether I could take care of a baby melted away. With each breeze of the most perfect weather hitting my face, my worries of whether I would be a good parent drifted away with it. With each uphill climb, I grunted out my anger with being so sick. With each downhill, coasting into the beautiful town of Sausalito, I opened my mouth in exhilaration, and I let out every fear of the unknown and told myself to enjoy the here and now.
The day was great. One that would live on as one of my favorite days. I collapsed into bed that night with the nausea out in full force but feeling exhilarated for the week to come. The Golden Gate Bridge and all her charm had healed me. I closed my eyes thinking of all the other ways San Francisco could cure a broken spirit.
The next day I woke with a little more pep than the previous one. The itinerary for the entire day revolved around taking a bus and touring Napa Valley in what I had once imagined to be a day full of drinking copious amounts of wine, pretending as if I was a connoisseur who could judge a drink by its wafting aromas, and then swirling my glass around like I was some kind of extravagant lush.
Instead, I stood among the crowd letting the sun bask down upon my face, feeling radiant in my new dress. The only sober one in the group, I accepted each glass of wine and discreetly passed it to my husband who was drinking for two. I didn’t care, though, I had a delicious secret, and for once I was glowing from it. Eventually, we met another couple, and like my husband’s wine intake brimming over, my secret spilled out to them. Seeing these strangers so excited for us, I started to feel giddy and drunk off the upcoming arrival of our child.
Napa proved to be everything my mind had conjured up. Beautiful weather. Exquisite dining. Abundant wine. An air of sophistication. A day of living like the rich and famous. Once again the realms of our travels settled my heart and eased my mind.
The next few days in San Francisco passed by in similar fashion. We would wake up early and take advantage of when I felt my best. We explored the Presidio. Labeled ourselves tourists by visiting the Full House house and riding the cable cars. Caught a Giants and Oakland A’s night game. Kayaked McCovey’s Cove hoping to catch a foul ball. Ate excellent food. And ended each day by throwing ourselves into bed. I, sometimes, retching in the toilet. But I felt renewed and upbeat and ready to begin the second leg of our journey.
Bags all packed and loaded in the car, I passed by the mirror for the umpteenth time since we arrived. This time I stopped, smiled, and rested my hand on my belly.
“Let’s do this, Little One.”
Yosemite was a place like no other I have ever seen before.
“Wow,” my husband and I both said in unison slack-jawed. We were standing and looking out over Yosemite Valley at Tunnel View. El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and Yosemite Falls loomed in the distance. When we had gotten enough pictures to semi-capture the beauty of what we were seeing, I hurried my husband along. I wanted to do it all.
And do it all we did or at least tried to do considering I was pregnant and always on the brink of lying down and drifting off to sleep. We climbed the rocks of Bridalveil Falls, hiked out to Lower Yosemite Falls, climbed up the path of the Mist Trail, and trekked out to Mirror Lake as the sky was dimming. I loved every minute of it. I felt energetic, strong, and capable from experiencing the wonders of Nature and all that God had created. I felt like I could do anything.
But the next day proved that I couldn’t. I was beat. So sick. I curled up into a ball and closed my eyes as we made our way toward the coast in what was going to be a descent down the Pacific Coast Highway to Los Angeles. My mood soured.
“I feel so sick,” I groaned.
However, I quickly perked back up again when we stopped for lunch in Carmel-by-the-Sea and then entered into Big Sur terrority with the bluest of waters and steepest of jagged rock cliffs I had ever seen. I posed for a picture by Bixby Bridge wearing my Eagles’ Hotel California t-shirt. The wind whipped my hair. If I were cooler, I imagined this could be an album cover. I laughed to myself. I’m going to be a mom. We rested that night in Cambria.
Then, the next day we drove to Los Angeles.
Travel also has a way of bringing you back to reality and reminding you that you don’t really belong here and where you are isn’t your home. While thankful for the opportunity to even get to fly to another part of the country and explore all that the area has to offer, traveling makes you realize when it’s time to go home.
Upon entering the traffic ridden, smoggy skyed, glamorous people city limits of Los Angeles, I missed the atmosphere of San Francisco, the backcountry of Yosemite, and the freeness of riding down the road with the sea so close. But most of all I missed home.
The next two days were pretty miserable. The baseball games and a hike to the Wisdom Tree were tiny glimmers of hope, but they didn’t provide the healing powers like the other places in our trip had. I threw up. I sulked. And counted down the hours to when I would be home. Traveling had healed me, and then it turned right around and stabbed me in the back.
The final day, I lugged my carry-on through the airport and tried not to throw up from the smells wafting toward me from the food court. The upcoming flight from California to North Carolina loomed ahead of me. I dreaded the thought of being stuck in a window seat and having to pee every 10 minutes. And to make matters worse, my husband giddily came strolling over me. He had a little boy's grin on his face from securing an authentic Asian dish from somewhere deep in the realm of the airport. He went to dive in, and the pungent odor from his dish smacked me in the face. I gave him a murderous glare. How dare he order Asian? It's the one prominent cuisine that has given me nothing but nausea since the beginning. He made a sheepish face pretending like he didn't know. I skulked off to be alone.
I was at an all time low in the pregnancy. The morning sickness had reached its peak. My stomach hurt. My head ached. I was beyond tired. I had thrown up multiple times. I was feeling what I imagine to be heartburn or something brewing in my lower chest. My appetite was pretty nonexistent. Week 10 was definitely the worst. I was feeling sorry for myself and having thoughts like If I can't even deal with being sick, how am I going to be a mom? There is so much worse happening in the world, and I am complaining about this. I feel so weak. How do other women do this? I can barely cope, and I don't even have to work. What's wrong with me? While those thoughts were milling around in the back of my head, something happened that began to change my perspective.
I have always been a big believer in the positive power of prayer. No, I do not think praying will stop bad things from happening. Bad things will still always happen. I do, though, believe prayer will change the way we view, perceive, and look at bad things. The more we pray, the more we can gain positive control of a situation rather than slipping into despair.
So there I was at the airport throwing the ultimate pity party for myself and silently weeping over how I could possibly endure any more weeks of feeling this way. The negative thinking was spinning out of control. That was until I sat down on a random seat in the airport and felt something underneath me. I pulled the object out from under me, and it was a rosary. I teared up, stuck the rosary in my purse, and began to pray and pray and pray until slowly my mind started shifting.
I would love to say that the sickness miraculously disappeared, but it didn't. In fact, it got slightly worse, for when I arrived home after the flight, I puked violently three times.
But instead I received something better - the clarity that suffering is a part of life, and there is something meaningful at the end of it. And it took traveling to figure that out.
I was born in New Jersey, grew up in West Virginia, went to college in Pennsylvania, and now live and work in North Carolina. I'm a high school teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer by night, and a full time mom to an amazing toddler. I love my faith, running, traveling, watching baseball, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending I would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, and helping out all moms. I am always one day away from planning my next great travel adventure.