My youngest daughter Kaden spent last summer in Europe on what I lovingly dubbed her globetrotting, backpacking- through-Europe Find Yourself tour. What I didn’t realize is that I’d find myself as well.
I stayed updated through her texts, FaceTime calls, and Facebook posts. She visited Paris, Rome, and Venice and I got to see the photos and hear the descriptions along the way. It was incredible to experience places I’d only read about in books, even if it was just vicariously through my child.
It was exciting.
But it was the lesson she learned that meant the most. A lesson I learned through her.
After graduating from high school, Kaden wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do. A good student, I encouraged college. “I’m not that smart,” she’d tell me.
I was not only her mother but her 7th grade teacher. I knew better. But I also knew that going to college when you weren’t ready left you with a GPA that was hard to raise once you were. So I didn’t push it.
A few minimum wage jobs later, she knew that life held something more for her and jumped at the chance to visit her friend Begona in Spain. BB, as we loving called her, spent a year in America when the girls were in high school and they became fast friends. Post-graduation, BB returned to the United States for a fun sightseeing visit and they began planning Kaden’s trip to do the same in her country.
A trip to Spain became an entire European excursion and she visited France, Austria, Italy, and Hungary as well. They spent their days seeing popular tourist destinations as well as little-known local favorites. Her oldest sister was even able to join her for a couple of weeks getting some amazing photos, like the ones featured here. Callie is a professional photographer and graphic designer and she captured the very essence of Kaden’s journey: finding joy in life.
Because, in Europe, she learned what very few Americans do. You work to live; you don’t live to work. Europeans go to work, as we as all do, but when they get off…they’re off. They get out and do things. They see things.
And they WALK. Everywhere.
Kaden’s two biggest complaints were the walking and the lack of red meat. She couldn’t wait to come back home for a giant cheeseburger! So, of course, we all had to eat steak and burgers when she’d FaceTime. After all, what are families for?!
But the trade-off was worth it. She felt healthy. She felt happy. And she found out that every moment of life didn’t have to be scheduled to be lived. In fact, it COULDN’T be planned to live fully.
That realization hit ME the hardest.
I am a planner. I have a calendar on my desk, in my phone, and in my head. To-do lists take up valuable head space and a trip is never planned last-minute.
The latter caused some trouble early in my marriage.
My husband thought packing was all one needed to do prior to taking a trip. You drive until you get tired, get a room, leave out the next morning.
I needed to have a map, decide how far we’d get on the first day, and reserve the room for that night, preferably somewhere with breakfast but if not, somewhere near a restaurant. The thought of not being able to find a room bothered me.
The thought of stopping and losing drive time before he was ready bothered him as much as having to drive tired just to get to a reserved room bothered him.
Years later we still approach trips in a similar way though traveling without kids has made me more flexible and getting older has made him appreciate dependability.
But I still forget sometimes to live.
I do, I go, I work…I’m a 100% give-it-your-all kind of gal. It’s the passionate force that breeds success in my life, I firmly believe. But is it…hurting me?
Based on my daughter’s trip to Europe, I knew it wasn’t helping. I looked around at all the people I’d begun neglecting as I ironically tried to help others. I even had to look at how my relationship with the Lord was on the back burner as I was telling others about Him.
I wasn’t living my life fully. I was… doing. I wasn’t… being. I was a Martha when I needed to be a Mary. (Luke 10:41-42)
In true Gigi fashion, I initially tried to “schedule” some downtime. Eventually, though, I just played it by ear. I’ve gone to a lot more movies, taken trips to the parks, walked on the beach, visited with friends…
I’ve listened to my daughter and really learned how to just LIVE…