Note: This is the first of fifteen parts.
It’s a good thing I trained for my month-long journey to the South Pacific.
If I hadn’t, and my adventure muscles were flaccid and un-flexed, I might be flying now over the mountains of the mid-west, wondering if I planned well, packed well and anticipated all possible glitches.
Instead, I am confident and excited that I can handle any physical and emotional toll that might result on this roughly 6,000-mile trek, over 30 days away from home and habits, on an island where electric power and clean water are not to be taken for granted.
I’m headed to Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, where my youngest daughter, Molly, is teaching first grade. I have the luxury of spending a month with her in her new home, where I plan to get to know her colleagues and students and explore the mainland and surrounding islands.
I have a carry-on full of Christmas gifts from home—including a few decorations, a copy of Twas the Night Before Christmas and a Kringle candle that smells like balsam fir. I have summer clothes, running gear, fins and snorkel, swim suits, festive garb, hostess gifts and a dozen pharmaceuticals from antibiotics—just in case—to Pepto Bismal and nighttime cold medicine.
I am ready for what comes my way.
I’ve always been an organized person, but I haven’t ever been very adventurous. I’m rather a home body and enjoy my routine. This summer, though, after Molly left home to take her new teaching job across the world, I started pushing myself out of my comfort zone—just because.
One morning, for instance, I packed a backpack and got on my bike for the first time in summer and rode from Easthampton to Belchertown on a series of bike paths. The ride was about 30 miles, and it felt great when I arrived home, goal achieved.
Likewise, I ran the entire length of the Manhan Rail Trail near summer’s end, about 11.5 miles round trip from my house. I rented a kayak and spent an afternoon solo-paddling up the Connecticut River. And in early fall, I went camping in the White Mountains with only my dog, Lipton, for company.
Each time I planned and set out on one of these mini-quests, I got that nervous, what-am-I-doing-feeling in the pit of my stomach, even when the only pressure to achieve the intended goal was coming from within.
I got that same feeling in the week before my trip departure date of Dec. 20. I kept wondering what the hell I was doing, leaving everything behind for a month in a place so far away and so small you literally need a magnifying glass to see it on a map.
Once I’d made the first leg of the trip, from Windsor Locks, Conn., to Chicago, though, and was snug in gate B17, leaving O’Hare for Honolulu at 9:15 a.m., I realized, “Hey, I got this.”
I have what I need, and if I don’t, I’ll figure it out.
It was only then I started to imagine how fun it will be to greet Molly at the airport in Majuro, and as I did on my mini-excursions this summer, I started to relax and look around.
I experienced toilet seats at the airport that rotate counter-clockwise so as to coat the seat with a clean, fresh piece of protective plastic. (Yes, who knew?)
I devoured a blueberry muffin the size of my fist, in which I counted one actual blueberry.
I watched, impressed, as a woman traveling alone very graciously, and quietly, accepted the fact that she had missed her flight to Cincinatti by about five minutes.
And I did a serious high-five when I boarded my plane and discovered I was in the very, most absolute last row of a huge 747 with no seat mate. A two-fer jet pack was all mine.
So, I am strapped in for that month of adventure.
Bring it on.
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