love the candids!
love the candids!

Been awhile since my last post. You’d think with this adopted ‘holiday’ lifestyle I’d be cranking out more updates, pictures, and detailed stories. Primarily for my mom, who really starts to worry if she doesn’t hear from me after about 4 days. It’s a lot better than her not caring, so I’ll take the urgent “where are you and is everything OK ????” emails, any day.

Funny how time really does fly by. How cliché. Of course there’s those moments when I’d love to fast forward time, 16-hour flights, tedious workday stuff, brutal traffic, the usual. While in Cape Town the second time around, I so badly wished for a freeze frame button. This time around with Rama, we quickly put on the tourista hats and wore them out, taking day tours on double decker buses -I made fun of at first- train trips down the coast, and a mountain bike ride through the renowned wine country. With the days packed full busily checking of our list of ‘things we wanted to do,’ I didn’t feel ready as it crept closer to our departure date.

Motivation was my sister’s wedding in Grenada looming on the horizon as the next leg of this journey. I could hardly imagine it. The idea of seeing my family in a tropical location and celebrating her (long awaited) wedding, was a hard concept to wrap my head around. As a family we had never taken a ‘vacation,’ besides our mini-road trips from Illinois to Wisconsin or camping as kids. When I mentioned this to my mom recently, she made a face that basically said, “let’s not go there.” Sore subject maybe… but between her, my sister and I, we’ve had our share of exotic getaways that just somehow never coincided with each other. Maybe we were more of the norm back then, and living in Marin painted an unrealistic picture of the typical family vacation; African safari’s, Hawaii multiple times a year, or sailing in the Mediterranean.

As the days grew closer to leave for the Caribbean, I felt both the rush of excitement and a little nervous for my responsibilities as the Maid of Honor. What I primarily mean - the speech. As mentioned before I have a fear of public speaking, especially where it involves something emotional. When in my early teens at my mom’s wedding, I read a poem during the ceremony and all I remember is crying uncontrollably. This is what I pictured would happen.

After 37 hours of traveling from the southern most tip of Africa to a tiny Caribbean island called Grenada, adrenaline kept me alert for the welcome party I anticipated at the airport. As we trickled out past customs into the night air, the heat hit us hard in the face. Now entering a climate where bathing suits replace underwear and only beach sarongs are tolerable. Seeing my family, freshly sunburned from their first day there, was such a great moment. The 2 ½ months away somehow felt much longer, and we had so much catching up to do I could barely stop talking. As I apologized for my run on sentences, my mom laughed and said I was now around ‘my people’ again, and not to worry.

In the days that followed we spent time at Brett’s parent’s home, a place that has been in conversation for the 9 years my sister has been part of their family. Set in a remote village miles away from the main city and with a stunning ocean view, I was overwhelmed with it’s beauty and serenity. I kept thinking out loud, why have we not been coming here on vacation?! We would cook meals together, sit outside in the warm night air, trek down to the beach, drink coffee on the terrace after a swim in the pool, chop coconuts, and just relax. The days mostly unfolded in this way, aside from the wedding hustle and prep, which my sister and Brett were busy with in the week leading up to the big day.

I woke up one morning and had this huge wave of almost panic, as if I was going to blink and the entire experience would be over -in a flash – much too soon. I wanted so badly to stop time. And several moments throughout the trip I would get this warm feeling of total contentment.

The wedding itself played out in the most perfect way from beginning to end, which was at 3am after we all jumped in the pool. Even though I give my sister a hard time about dating for almost 10 years, and “what’s the point you’re practically married anyway,” I do see the value in having a celebration to honor the union. I now have even more adoration for destination weddings, bringing family and friends together for a time they will hopefully never forget.

Several months leading up to the wedding I worked on putting together a video to play at the reception. Not just your average slideshow, it was to include videos of family members who couldn’t make it, which was all the aunts, uncles, and cousins on our side. A way to ‘virtually’ incorporate them into the experience, as Brett’s entire side of the family would be attending. Last minute, and to avoid the crying uncontrollably scenario, I filmed my speech on the beach. Now she’ll have it forever. It surely was a labor of love, and my end goal was achieved -- have Shannon in tears!

Random travel tip: This may seem obvious, but it’s important to share experiences with family and loved ones outside of daily life, if you are lucky to live close to them. Not that you have to go on an exotic excursion or someone has to have a destination wedding, a road trip to Wisconsin is just fine. Making the effort to create memories in a new place together is muy importante!