The Path that Led to the Road Less Travelled

Up until now I’ve been hesitant to discuss some of the more personal motivations I had for setting out on a long-term journey, but I think it’s time to touch on a topic that is very important to me.

Back in 2010 I was a pretty average 20-something living in New York City, enjoying the fast-paced city lifestyle. One morning I got a phone call from my dad that my mother was in the hospital after having seizures overnight, and that they had found multiple tumors in her brain.

That’s the only time I’ve experienced words hitting me like a physical object, it was like someone punched me in the stomach. My mother was my best friend, we spoke every day on the phone, and she was my one true confidant. I knew she had been having some back pain and lethargy recently, but this diagnosis was a total shock.

That moment completely changed the course of my life. I think of myself as two different people: Brittany before that phone call and Brittany after that phone call.

Within days (literally in 72 hours) I had quit my job in the city, packed everything I owned, and moved to my parent’s home. It was important I got to Florida before my mother went under for brain surgery as there was no guarantee she would survive it.

She did survive the surgery, and we got the news that she had stage four lung cancer that had spread to her brain, bones, and lymph nodes. She could no longer walk, and she had permanent brain damage from the tumors that left her in a perpetual childlike mental state.

 Me at age 3 with my mom.
Me at age 3 with my mom.

The next 2 years were a blurry mish-mosh of emotional devastation as we watched my mother slowly waste away. 

After she died it was hard to know what to do with myself. I had abandoned my professional life in order to care for her, and during her illness my world revolved around her. I had to figure out who I was now, and what was next for me.

My mother always wanted to travel, to spend more time in nature. She talked about taking up her painting and photography again. She planned to do these things “later”, “when she had more time”. But time ran out, and she missed out on so many things because she put them off.

All my life my mother worked hard to make sure that her children had more than she had growing up: more love, more attention, more kindness, and more courage. I know that she would want me to walk away from her illness, her death, with a sense of MORE not less. It took time to get here, but I know that in leaving me at such a young age my mother gave me the greatest gift of my life- the courage to live differently, the experience to see that life is short, and the strength to not just dream my dreams, but to live them.

My mother’s death taught me so much about what is important, and about what I really want. I’ve completely restructured my life to reflect my new priorities, and now I have a life that I love, shared with a person who sees the world the way I do.

Life truly is short, we never know when it will end, and we all have so much less control than we think we do. Waiting to do the things that excite us is a huge risk, a risk I am no longer willing to take.

When I’m drawn to an experience I make it happen, I don’t put it off. Our travels are the result of us choosing to live, not just exist, but really live our lives. Travel has been a huge dream for both Tom and me, so we decided to make that dream a reality.

I challenge you to ask yourself, what does really living look like for you?

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