Fifteen days. Should I leave my husband and children for fifteen days to travel across the world this summer?
Researching author websites in order to design my own, I examine the sections of Cheryl Strayed’s page. Her books ‘Wild’ and ‘Dear Sugar’ are favorites and heavily underlined in my library. I admire the courage in her writing, the directness yet tenderness in which she tackles highly personal subjects. Under ‘Workshops’ on her webpage, I read of upcoming opportunities of her leading groups in France; Big Sur, California; and finally – which seems to leap off the screen – Patmos, Greece.
‘The Journey is Your Story’ is the name of this salon in July. I read on and my pulse quickens. Small group conversations, interactive learning experiences, late night story time under the stars, time to explore the mystical island with its rich spiritual history. It is a rare moment in my life when I am both available and can afford to go on such a journey. My husband approves, even encourages me when I show it to him. My daughters, ages twelve and fourteen, say, “You should go, mom. That looks awesome!” before returning to their friends and responding to the sounds that emit from their phones.
I allow myself to daydream. I will probably become friends with Cheryl Strayed! There may be a hundred people attending this workshop but somehow my talent will be evident – Cheryl may offer to write a blurb for the cover of my novel. Maybe she’ll introduce me to Oprah and Reece Witherspoon. I will get just the guidance I’ve been looking for on my screenplay – selling it for thousands of dollars, making the cost of this trip seem insignificant. The separation from my husband and daughters will deepen their appreciation of me, and mine of them. My ivory skin will tan, not burn. I’ll lose five pounds without even trying.
The travel details are daunting. Once in Athens, one has to take an eight-hour ferry ride to arrive in Patmos. This ferry leaves only three times a week, departing from the Port of Piraeus at midnight. I would need to get myself from the airport, alone and jetlagged, to the port in the middle of the night. Having journeyed to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, I am almost ashamed to realize that I have haven’t traveled without my husband since we have been married. I decide to pursue a travel companion. After reaching out to a few friends, only one seriously considers going. We have under a week to make a significant deposit towards the trip from which there is no going back.
My friend can’t decide; she is worried about getting seasick on the ferry among other things. Both of us take the weekend to soul search. Why would I hesitate to pull the trigger on this once in a lifetime opportunity?
What if my husband needs my help to access our business records while I am gone? What if my youngest gets her period as I pursue my interests in this far-flung location? Who will know when our (my) dog hasn’t pooped yet and needs to be taken out? Or maybe the worst… what if my absence goes unnoticed?
I imagine looking into my daughters’ eyes – one set deeply blue, one set hazel green. They ask me – why aren’t you going to Greece, mom? As their mother, I push them to try new activities, to go to summer camp and to embrace the unknown. Realizing that if I were to tell them the truth, I would have to tell them that I am afraid to go alone. I don’t want to tell my daughters that I am a chicken. I don’t want to be a chicken. So I make the deposit online before I change my mind.
After sending a text to my potential travel companion about my decision, I hope that she will immediately respond that she’s jumping in as well. She doesn’t, but still has three days to decide. I contemplate these fifteen days…
I am going to the Greek islands without my family. Like Cheryl did in her journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, I am stepping outside of my comfort zone to travel alone to pursue my inner desires. Not wearing a heavy pack on my back, but a roller bag on an airplane, I nonetheless feel I must access the courage that Sheryl did to take her first steps on the trail.
The day before the deposit deadline my friend tells me she has decided to go! I am thrilled and relieved to have her come with me on this adventure. My inner narrative shifts from Molly walking into her version of wilderness, to ‘Thelma and Louise’ – laughter, sunglasses, the wind blowing our hair. I remember the ending of that movie and reconsider. Our own story will be revealed as we take our steps forward towards the Aegean Sea.
In Sheryl Strayed’s ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’, she gives advice to a man named Johnny who is afraid to say I love you to a woman. She ends her response to him with one of my favorite lines from the book – “We’re all going to die, Johnny. Hit the iron bell like it’s dinnertime.”
I have deep love in my life and I have seen death up close. For me to hit that iron bell first I must pick up the mallet. Holding that mallet demands that I loosen the grip on my identities as wife and mother – and this is scary. But this I will do and for fifteen days in July I will see what remains in my open palm after I have struck that bell.
Molly Krause is a writer and restaurateur whose debut novel, ‘Joy Again’, is scheduled for publication by Bedazzled Ink in September 2015. She co-authored ‘The Flavorful Kitchen Cookbook’ and her essays have appeared in Ragazine, Manifest-Station, and Brain, Child. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her husband and two teenage daughters. You can find her online and follow her on Twitter.
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