That’s just the traveling life.
ROCHESTER, New York- A couple of weeks ago in Prague I noticed that my sister had changed her profile photo on FB. I don’t use FB for much other than a conduit for people to get in contact with me via messenger, but something struck me as intriguing about this photo: she was with some bald guy.
I don’t know who this bald guy is. I’m told that he’s my brother in law but that’s all I know about it.
My sister eloped with the bald guy from the picture in Vegas last year. I watched a live stream of it on the internet. The officiant sounded like a professional wrestling announcer who’s seen better times. There were bums walking back and forth in the background. Apparently, this was my sister’s vision of romantic.
For some reason I began scrolling through her previous FB profile photos and it started sinking in just how much of her life I’d missed. She’s my sister, and I just always assumed she’d stick around Western New York near our parents.
Then she moved out to northwestern Montana for a job. It was supposed to have been for one year to get some experience in her chosen profession, but five years on she’s still there. She arrived. Divorced her husband. Married another. Bought a house. Bought a big black SUV. Replanted herself.
It became clear to me as I scrolled those photos that a lot has happened to her in these intervening years that I had no idea about. I wasn’t there; didn’t share the daily drama of life with her; didn’t build an interwoven narrative — I’m more or less irrelevant to her.
All relationships need to be recharged. Everything in life goes flabby if neglected. You need to see people, stop and chat, hang out, talk on the phone, interact to remain a part of someone’s life. Familial bonds gives you a free ticket but you still need to take the ride every once in a while to keep it valid. I scrolled through those pictures of my sister and realized that our relationship had waned. She never even met my second daughter, who’s now approaching three years old.
“What I learned from living all these years is that you should really value your family. Because when all is said and don they’re the only thing that you have,” my friend Andy said when I told him about the decision I was facing in Prague.
While I personally feel that you either do one or the other — have a wedding and reception that everybody comes to or elope and keep it simple — my sister obviously does not feel the same. She eloped and wants to have a wedding reception too. Fair enough. If I don’t go I miss another big event for her, I miss a chance to recharge the relationship, I wouldn’t be there for another node in her story line.
If I do go I would need to travel all the way back to the USA from Prague, get in a car and drive for three or four days out to Montana.
Montana is remote.
We tend to frame the word “remote” solely as an indication of distance and travel time — a place that is far from other places that takes a long time to get to — however, in the age of rapid air transport we need to add in another factor: cost.
With enough money you can get just about anywhere fast, and very few places meet our previous definition of remote. However, when we work in travel costs we find that the most expedient forms of transport become moot — they’re just too expensive. This leaves us looking at more realistic options, and, in the case of going to Montana, 35 hours of drive time.
That’s remote. It was a very long time ago that I’ve needed 35 hours of on the road travel time to get somewhere — and I’m often going out to deserts, mountains, and jungles. Montana is out there.
I bought a trucker’s cap with an American flag on the bottom side of the brim. I put on a matching shirt that had red, white, and blue stripes across it. I’m in proper uniform for a road trip across the USA.
Hannah is suitably outfitted too: a red, white, and blue Bills shirt that cuts down real low in the front. But she declined to buy a matching cap: irony just isn’t worth $15 to her.
A week ago I thought I would be crossing the Caspian Sea on an industrial ferry. Now I’m getting into a car to drive for thousands of miles across the USA.
That’s just the traveling life, I guess.