“I planned and trained, and all the while gained more confidence each day for the adventure ahead. I will admit I did have butterflies the actual evening of my departure.”
When I was younger, I never wanted to travel, or so I told myself. I’m not sure if I was scared or indifferent. For most of those years, I was a small town girl with a large family and an even larger list of reasons to stick close to home. As life would have it, I remarried to a man who travelled his entire life, an Air Force officer.
He asked me on numerous occasions to join him on his travels to Europe and many other places. I always said no. Then I started to say yes a few times, only to give an excuse to cancel at the last minute. Then one day, he just said, “I bought your ticket; you are coming with me to Florida.” I experienced such anxiety before we left, but I managed to self-talk my way through it, and we had a lovely time.
My next trip was the same circumstance, but this time he bought us tickets to Spain. I was a complete wreck—I cried for days. Not only was I going with him, but I also had to attend official functions with him. I had no idea what to do, I didn’t have the right clothes, and what would I say to these people?
After Spain, something changed in me. I could travel, I could meet strangers, and I did have things to say. I still had anxiety right before a trip, but it was more about not forgetting anything, packing appropriately and managing family schedules.
Within a couple of years, we had travelled throughout the United States, Australia and many countries in Europe. I did not want to miss a trip with my husband. I loved it! I even began to teach him how to make the most of his work travel by incorporating extra visits and tours to nearby sights and countries.
I then realised all my travels were with my husband and it was time to step outside my comfort zone even more—so I jumped at a professional opportunity to work in Kandahar, Afghanistan! I applied and was eventually accepted after several months and scheduled to depart in January 2009.
Not only would I be on my own for a year, I would be going to a theatre of war and also one of the hottest places on earth. I hated the heat; I did not tolerate it well and suffered motion sickness. Was I crazy? My family sure thought I was. It was difficult to garner support from anyone: friends, family or colleagues—however, this somehow made me more determined than ever.
I planned and trained, and all the while gained more confidence each day for the adventure ahead. I will admit I did have butterflies the actual evening of my departure.
The year was everything and more than I anticipated and each day I challenged myself even more. On leave from work in Afghanistan, I travelled to many countries, this time coaxing my husband to join me.
My stay in Afghanistan was about to end, and my husband threw a curveball my way. He asked if I would be willing to leave my job and move to Southeast Asia for three years. I didn’t know how to react, but deep down I was giddy with excitement. I also knew that if I had not said yes to Afghanistan, I would not likely have said yes to this—it seemed to fit together.
Ironically, Asia was an even bigger challenge than a war zone as I was essentially unemployed and leaving my family behind yet again. By now, however, I was an avid traveller and prided myself on organising my husband’s work travel to the five countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines and Timor Leste. Travel now was second nature to me; I had more loyalty cards and points programs than you can imagine!
The three years were the best of times and the worst of times. I lost my mother and father-in-law during that period—that pain never goes away. I was now challenging my health and my very soul. I had as much family as possible come to visit, we went to see family in New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia, and we took numerous trips back to Canada. The highs and lows, lessons and learnings, joys and disappointments are far too many to share in this writing.
Through travel, I have grown in so many ways that it’s impossible to measure; it changed my life. Any advice I could offer to anyone who makes excuses for another day, another time—don’t listen to those voices! You will not regret challenging yourself, and perhaps like me, you’ll find someone inside you that you never knew existed.
Author - Gail Latouche
Gail Latouche is from Canada. She is a Corrections Manager at Stony Mountain Penitentiary and travels extensively in her free time.