In 2005 I studied abroad in Rome, Italy for what turned out to be 4 of the best months of my life. I fell head over heels in love with that country and miss it all the time. While I was there, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was having my family come and visit me. Not only did I want to share with them where I was living and all the amazing things I was experiencing, but I also missed them dearly, that being the longest amount of time I would be away from home.
I knew my Mom was having a few health issues and even had to go to the hospital at one point, but there wasn't much that was being disclosed to me, mostly out of protection for my sake and my family not wanting to worry me when I was so far from home. What I didn't know is how bad things really were until they called me to tell me they were going to have to cancel their trip to come see me - my Mom wasn't going to be able to endure the long flight and lots of traveling. I was devastated. Like top 5 worst moments of life. I sobbed for hours that night. I was scared for my Mom's sake and I was so sad I wouldn't get to share my beloved city of Rome with them. I vowed that someday we'd come back as a family and I would find a way to share this place together with them (my parents had already been to Italy, but I still wanted to experience it together).
Fast forward to today, 11 years later. That period in 2005 is actually what launched a whole host of health issues for my Mom that have really devastated our family. She has chronic pain and a nerve disorder, has had to have multiple surgeries and take more medication than anyone should ever have to, and it's kept her and my family from doing things that many people get to take for granted (long walks, trips, attending events, etc.). This is not to say there hasn't been good and small trips together and little miracles and lots of joy in this time. There have been all those things. And throughout this season, there have been several things I've prayed for consistently - one being that my Mom would have full healing of her pain and be able to get off her medications and live a healthy and active life. Another more specific one being that we'd get to take a big trip just the two of us together someday. We have never traveled just she and I and we had always talked about going to Prague (our motherland since my Mom is full Czech), and then of course I've dreamed about getting to take my Mom to Italy to show her where I lived, and experience that beautiful place with her.
The past few years I've had several plans for big trips with friends fall through. All for understandable reasons, but each time it's been so hard for me after looking forward to those experiences and adventures, and yearning to travel after many years of not going anywhere abroad (I've visited Italy one other time with my best friends in 2008, which was definitely a dream come true). My soul literally longs for the feeling of visiting a different place and the experience of soaking in another culture and the views and the food and all that comes along with it. That on top of desperately wanting to hit the refresh button on my life lately and intentionally step away from my day to day for a little bit to reflect and restore visions of my passions and purpose brought me to a place where I was ready to book a solo trip myself just to make it happen. I called my Mom while she was getting some treatments done that we were hopeful would have her feeling better. In the off chance she might actually be up for it, I threw out the possibility of us booking a trip together to see if she wanted to come with me (to anywhere really, I didn't care). She amazingly said her body felt like that was something she could actually do (praise God), but then immediately said that if she were to go somewhere big for the first time in 11 years, she wanted that to be with my Dad. I completely understood and wanted that for the two of them as well. I just let her know that if that were the case, perhaps her and I could go somewhere together the following year, but I was going to be planning a trip no matter what.
The next day she texted me saying she needed to talk and to call as soon as I could. So I called to learn the news that she had told my Dad about all of this and he had said to her that he thought she should go on this trip with me, and that that was fine with him. (Tears, I love you and your selfless heart so much, Daddy). I think I was in shock that this would actually be happening because I didn't even cry at the time and I just couldn't believe this might be a possibility. With each step of our planning I let my heart feel a little more hope and excitement over the fact that after all these years, and after all my Mom's been through, the two of us will get to have this incredible experience together.
It's with so much joy and so much gratitude for God's redemptive and healing story that I get to share that one month from today - September 22nd - my Mom and I will be taking off to the place I left my heart - Italy - where we will spend several nights in Lake Garda (Northern Italy), several nights in Rome (!!) and the rest of our time in swoon-city Positano on the Amalfi Coast. I am truly over the moon grateful and excited and can't wait for this once-in-a-lifetime experience with me and my Mama. I plan on sharing this trip here on my blog and on Instagram obviously if you'd like to follow along :) The pictures from this post are from when I studied abroad, and I can't wait to step back through these photos in real life again and drink in every moment.
It was actually an Instagram caption I read the day I called my Mom that ultimately pushed me over the edge to make me want to book this trip. From Carissa Jones who recently lost a dear friend and was traveling with her family to Zion and other places in the U.S. The caption said, "...we get one life...if there is someplace you want to travel to, don't wait any longer - you won't regret it, I promise." Which felt like it was written just for me. So if there is something that's been on your heart, tugging on your spirit that you can't seem to shake, may I encourage you to lean into that and just say "Yes." If it's taking that trip or sharing your feelings with someone or starting to write that book, find a way to make that happen. Because we are only given this one life, and because the fullest, most alive version of yourself is what you and all those around you need. Thank you for letting me share this story with you. Love you, sweet friends.