Thursday, August 19, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For

by Wenda Dottridge

You know that old saying, be careful what you wish for.... Well, I can relate.

Remember that first week back to school when your jeans and sneakers were still stiff and new and the kids, save a few shy, scared souls, were the same old, same old. And the teacher would always announce the first writing assignment of the year. Altogether now, "What did you do on your summer vacation?"

Other kids went to camp and slept in cabins with real live bats or shared their first kiss behind that same cabin. Other kids went to Hawaii. Or to the PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) in Vancouver and regaled us with stories of monster roller-coasters. Or they drove in a motorhome to Prince Edward Island. And every year, year-in, year-out, I went to visit my grandparents in Saskatchewan.

Don't get me wrong. I treasure the memories I have of endless blue skies and shimmering air dancing atop fields of golden wheat. Of drawing fairy rings in the dirt road as my cousin and I scoured ditches for bottles to sell to the corner store. Of long days roaming the prairie, hunting gophers (mostly unsuccessfuly), dodging bulls, searching for litters of kittens in hay stacks, and inspecting the gravestones of Osterholds who'd come from Germany via Nebraska and found their final home in the fertile soil of "the breadbasket of the world."

But the thing is, to me Saskatchewan wasn't exciting. And above all I craved excitement. I had this burning desire, even as a child, to see the world.

And I did.

As soon as I was old enough for my first oversees school trip I saved for a year to go to Europe. The next year, I was an exchange student to Japan. I lived in Nebraska and then forced myself back to Saskatchewan to gain an education. I took a summer job in the Canadian arctic (as a lifeguard, no lie) and organized a work permit for England. Was recruited to South Africa by my now husband, and lived there for two years before, you guessed it, we moved to Saskatchewan.

And so this year, while other families went to Vancouver (for the PNE? I don't know if that still happens!!) or to Saskatchewan, our family trekked to Holland and South Africa for most of July.

See what I mean. All my life I craved travel, and now, because of family ties that matter, I get to travel overseas every two years or so. How great is that?

Except now that I'm a grown up the lustre of travel is less fun than I imagined. Forget about cost and just deal with moving five people to the opposite side of the world. It's no small undertaking, let me tell you.

And as wonderful and worthwhile it is to see family and friends, travel to South Africa is tiring. Exhausting, really. Don't get me started on horror stories of doing this trip with toddlers. I still burst into tears just thinking about it. And just when you've acclimatized, it is time to turn around and do the whole trip the other direction. Gulp.

One day I was driving my son and a friend home from a basketball game. The friend said to my son, "When I grow up I'm going to Australia. And then I'm going to live in England. And then I'm going to live in South Africa." My son asked, "Why?" Friend: "Because I've never been anywhere and I want to see the world." Son: "Yeah,. I've been those places and I'd rather stay home."

And here we'd spent a small fortune taking our children around the world and exposing them to other cultures and societies, and he wanted to stay home!!

So, when our long-planned 2010 trip to South Africa finally arrived, five pretty jaded travellers packed their bags and set off for the airport.

We looked forward to the reunion with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends. But travel, well, it mostly just...[insert word my teens are not allowed to say around me].

In all our preparations, we hadn't counted on the FIFA factor.

Instead of just visiting people, we arrived in a nation rejoicing in its accomplishment of hosting the world. We saw more of the pillars of Apartheid crumble as black and asian and white South Africans came together to celebrate...well, just celebrate their success against all odds as a nation.

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the miracle of the 1994 elections. When we arrived in South Africa just five weeks after that crucial triumph of democracy it felt like the country was taking its first full breath after holding it for a decade or longer. This time, it was like South Africa was laughing out loud.

To say we had a fantastic vacation is an understatement. We had a blast! Travel rocks! I'm so glad I got what I wished for.
On morning game walk - iMflozi, KZN

African dawn - Hluhluwe, Kwa-Zulu Natal

Vulture hovering over elephant carcass - Hluhluwe, KZN
Grumpy bull mock charges our car. Hluhluwe, KZN
World cup fever, even in the grocery store!


  1. Isn't it funny how people seem to crave what they're not used to? I was one who always wanted to travel to, Wenda. I've been so blessed to be able to see much of the world. Now I'm ready to see the rest!

  2. Glad you had an awesome time, Wenda. My main gripes with travel are time changes and cramped airplane seats. My legs are too long for coach.

    At this point I usually only want to travel if there's something really enticing on the other side. Last overseas trip was to Paris. Couldn't pass up that opportunity.

  3. Isn't it funny how things we have made big in our minds turn small and the small things become our treasure. I still hope to see more of the world someday, but I know it will be more difficult with age and having Rheumatoid Arthritis. It's all in the perspective. You've had some great times - awesome!

  4. What flat, cardboard people we'd be if we didn't want more of something or less of something else. Goldilocks--always looking for the 'just right'. And just right seems to change all the time, too! As Dan's post mentioned yesterday, our satisfaction is hard to come by, because we are always dreaming of the "better".

    I managed to see most of your vacation photos on FB awhile back and I was captivated by the beauty of Africa and Holland. I'm so glad this turned out to be so much more than you expected this time!

    thanks Wenda!

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Watch out world!! I'm so glad your thirst for adventure and desire to share the gospel isn't diminished.

  6. Oh Dina,

    I can so relate to the size of economy seats. I'm sure they're designed for pygmies. Although, I changed my attitude this time round after watching a youtube clip of a comedian on Connan O'Brien ranting about how spoiled we are. Google 'everything's wonderful, nobody's happy.'

    I'd definitely take eight hours as a pretzel to go to Paris, too.

  7. Hi Jan,

    You said: "Isn't it funny how things we have made big in our minds turn small and the small things become our treasure."

    I'd like to frame those words and hang them over my desk. Wise. Wise words.

    My sister-in-law's sister is a polio survivor and walks with difficulty on crutches. When she was in her late fifties, our mutual niece travelled with her from South Africa to Idaho to visit an old school friend. Not an easy undertaking, but she made it despite her challenges.

    I pray you will have a chance to travel, too, despite the rheumatoid.

  8. Hi Deb,

    You said: As Dan's post mentioned yesterday, our satisfaction is hard to come by, because we are always dreaming of the "better".

    And what a blessing it is to realize that what we have is the "better" or even better than we dreamed.

  9. Wenda, what an enjoyable post. I loved the pics, too. Your trip was such a rich, wonderful experience!

    I love to travel. But when I do travel, I remember how weary I get, how my body goes out of whack, and how much I yearn for my own bed!

    Deb's words about the grass being greener struck a chord. Funny how it's part of the human condition for so many of us to be disatisfied. I think working toward contentment is going to become a new spiritual discipline for me!

  10. Hi Susanne,

    Yes! Like Paul writing he'd learned to be content in all circumstances. I do believe that is a spiritual discipline, something that isn't natural to us and yet available if we seek it.

  11. Great post, Wenda. I've always enjoyed travel although I've never travelled across the ocean.

    My son just returned from a mission trip to Australia, though and after 30 hrs of travel from their billet, to Sydney, to LA, to Denver, to Regina, they were bushed! Nick stayed awake for the hour-long drive home from the airport because he said he'd slept on the way, but it was difficult to wake him the next morning. Then, he had a nap that afternoon, went to bed early, and still had a tough time getting up the morning after.

    Loved the photos. :D

    Anita Mae.

  12. Hey Anita,

    Nothing like jetlag to compound sleep deprivation, especially in a teenage boy! One of the things we enjoyed about returning from SA was seeing our teenagers before noon for the first week back.

    You'll have to tell us more about your son's trip, or better yet get him to guest blog about it sometime.

  13. I am such a free spirited person that I think travel is really awesome. My dream job would be to travel the world over and over again.


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