Written By Eric
If you follow our regularly updated Facebook Page, you realize we are all over the place (literally), as our planned year’s itinerary has changed significantly over the last 6 months.
When Shannon and I first moved out of DC on June 29, 2o12, we took a 17,000 mile/38 state road-trip around the U.S. and Canada. Besides exploring and seeing the raw beauty of North America, we were doing our own research to discover where we might want to live in the next few years, once we slowed down our international travels.
On the eve of last year’s Presidential election, we headed to London and then Istanbul, to explore the vastness of Turkey and complete our TEFL certification. We originally planned to teach English in Malaysia for a year, where we would also run our own businesses. The “original” plan was to slowly make our way to Malaysia by first traveling through Eastern Europe and the Middle East, landing in Malaysia in May.
This is where it all changed! After freezing our butts off in a freak snowstorm in Istanbul, while living in an apartment with zero insulation, we decided we couldn’t stomach the idea of traveling through Eastern Europe in the dead of winter. (We aren’t that crazy!)
We scanned cheap flights to warmer places settling on a month-long stay in the Greek Isle of Crete, near the historic Venetian Port of Chania (Hania/Xania). We scoured AirB&B, found an affordable apartment with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and booked our flights to Santorini, where we stayed for a week before traveling to Chania.
Not only did we fall head-over-heels in love with Greece, but we made the decision to focus 100% on the growth of our businesses, completely forgoing teaching English for the time being. We realized we did not want to be tied to any one place for a full year, therefore, getting a contract teaching English was no longer our best option.
As our month in Chania was coming to an end, Shannon became sick and needed to undergo a small surgical procedure. Fortunately, we had become very good friends with a few locals who were able to assist with finding doctors, translating, and checking in on us. At this point, we decided to extend our time in Greece another seven weeks in order to fully give Shannon time to heal and recover. We decided it would give us a renewed focus on our work and an extended amount of time in a relaxed atmosphere in which to do so. After all, we were living our dream, working adjacent to the beautiful views of the Mediterranean.
It was hard to eventually leave the Island of Crete. We had made beautiful friendships with local Cretans, ate the most gorgeous meals of our lives, and vigorously explored some of the most extraordinary places on the Island, which happened to also be some of the most ancient on the planet! We even took time in Southern Crete on the unique beach of Matala, on the Libyan Sea- adjacent to its famous Neolithic caves- to pull off an epic April Fool’s prank! Hundreds of our friends and Facebook followers believed we had married in romantic, impromptu fashion. Ultimately, Crete transformed us.
But as much as we wanted to stay forever, we knew we were becoming too comfortable.
In April, the European discount airliners Ryan Air and EasyJet opened terminals in Crete, and an opportunity to easily, and more importantly, CHEAPLY fly to northern Europe emerged. We planned a seven week trek around Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland (an important place to both of our heritages), Scotland, Wales, and England.
At this point, we were plotting out all our possibilities. With our businesses, we can work from anywhere in the world, so the ideas were limitless. We began mapping a course of travel, that would begin after leaving the UK, to Morocco. That would be followed by a ferry to Gibraltar, then hiking to Spain. We then planned to ferry to Mallorca, after which we would travel to Tunisia, ferry to Sicily, and slowly make our way through the boot of Southern Italy and north to the town of Bari. In Bari we planned to ferry to Albania which would then begin a massive road-trip, where we hoped to traverse over half of Eastern European. Still left to be planned was when we would finally make it back to Turkey, and then begin to forge through to Southeast Asia.
Then life took a sudden and devastating turn. On April 24, while we were in flight from Dublin to Edinburgh, we received a Skype call from my Uncle informing us that my Mom’s health had taken a sudden decline. My Mom had been struggling with and fighting long-term COPD; she had remained precariously stable for many years. After assessing the situation for 48 hours, receiving doctors reports and opinions from informed family members, it was decided that we did not have to “jump on the next plane”, however we needed to make our way back to Louisiana in a natural trajectory within one month. On April 26, my Mom informed us that she had approximately 6-12 months to live, and that she could not wait to see us. On April 27, my cousin, a nurse, who was vigilantly taking care of my Mom, who had originally stated we could probably wait about a month before coming home, informed us we should probably be home sooner. Everyone felt if we were home within two weeks, we would get some quality time with my Mom before her physical condition slipped into a much weaker state. Shannon and I were mentally preparing for the idea that we would become my Mom’s primary caregivers for the final months of her life.
Knowing we had several pieces of luggage being held by our friends in Istanbul, we cut our Scotland sojourn short, skipped the rest of our itinerary, and began the trip towards Turkey making a pit stop in Macedonia to stay with friends. We planned to stay several days in Macedonia before heading to Turkey and making the long journey to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It was on our second day in Skopje that my sister called with the devastating news of my Mom’s death. My life changed forever, and I was a world away.