It is midday in a crowed market place in downtown La Paz, Baja California Sur when I realize what started as a feeling of being “slightly off” this morning is quickly turning into a tsunami in my bowels. The smell of meat in the open air butcher shop is not helping my condition. I swat away the flies buzzing around both the hanging sides of beef and my head and suddenly, it hits me. I need a bathroom and I need it NOW! I am too embarrassed to say what happened next, but I am sure you can guess. As the saying goes, shit happens!
It was 1994 when two prairie farm kids decided to take two months off work and travel from Alberta, Canada to the tip of Baja California on motorcycles. As kids, our family holidays consisted mostly of camping trips, ski holidays and trips to the big city of Calgary for back to school shopping. International travel, was either outside the family budget or outside the family comfort zone. Looking back, it no longer seems like such an epic adventure, but what we did not realize, is how pivotal that trip would be in our evolution both professionally and personally. As veterinarians, leaving a mixed animal practice for two months to travel, was not done and, in hindsight, it was the first nail in the coffin of our failing partnership. Leaving that prairie partnership, while terrifying, became the first step towards creating a life that was the right fit for us, rather than trying to make ourselves fit into the life we thought we should live. From crashing my bike on a winding, mountain road in the northern California redwoods to stripping down to our swim suits so we could wash ALL our clothes in a small town laundromat, while the locals laughed at the crazy gringos, that trip left me wanting more. it changed the way I viewed myself, how I viewed the world and the way I viewed travel.
Fast forward several years. We own our own practice, now have two small children and have finally managed to book a locum for a glorious two week holiday. We decide, it is time to have an adventure. The plan is for Rob to drive our Toyota truck, loaded with camping gear and supplies to San Diego. I will stay and work for a few extra days, then the kids and I will drive 2 1/2 hours to Spokane, Washington (the nearest major airport) and fly to join Rob. From San Diego we will head south to Baja to recreate that epic trip, this time with two children in tow. Finally the exciting day arrives. Rob has made it to San Diego, enjoying 2 days of driving and blissful solitude along the way. The kids and I are on our way to the airport. Suddenly a moment of inattention leaves me standing on the side of the road beside a crumpled car with two small, nicely shaken children. A short ambulance ride and set of X-rays later and we determined to be intact and are discharged from the hospital . We once again I find myself standing beside the side of the road, holding a small pack filled with snacks and activities for the airplane as well as the hands of two small, nicely shaken children. It is at this point my son, James looks at me and asks “Mom, what are we going to do now?”. I bend down, lean in and say in a cheery mom voice “Well, we are all okay and so we are going on this holiday. I guess we will just have to hitch hike “. Unknown to me, the driver who towed our car into town overheard us and quickly realized I was not kidding. He kindly took pity on us and offered a ride. It was an unfortunate start to what turned into an amazing trip. From learning to do the stingray shuffle on the beach at Baja Conception to petting gray whales in their calving grounds at the Bay of San Ignacio, it introduced us to the joys of traveling with children. Seeing the world through their eyes, sharing adventures as a family and expanding their world, was for me, worth every episode of “shit happens”.
The reasons for travel are as unique as the individuals who decide to take a journey. For us, travel was always a way to escape the pressures of our hectic life. To escape the internet, school pressures and just be together as a family. An opportunity to realize the world over, humans wants and needs are the same and happiness is not necessarily dependent on money or status. Then life moves along and the reasons change. Now there is no stress awaiting us upon return and the experience or journey becomes more important. We have discovered that having a community to connect with enriches the experience and working with organizations like the Maun Animal Welfare Society has allowed us to meet amazing people, interact with the local community and get a better sense of what life here is really like. Tomorrow we head to the community of Shakawe a village in the northwest corner of Botswana where we will do daily outreach clinics over the next week. It will be hot, dirty and hard work but also a fun adventure, a chance to make new connections, see a new part of this country and, of course, to see what “shit happens”!