When people learn of our travel plans you usually get the same questions; Where are you going? How are you funding it? What will you do when you get back? The question no one ever seems to ask is why. I guess it seems like a really stupid question and the answer would be “why not?” For Peter this is pretty much a valid answer too. Alas, not for me. My answer, for anyone that does want to know, is that I’m trying to escape.
There are many smaller aspects of life that I am trying to break free of such as the fear of settling down into the rat race so completely that I fail to see the expectations as something to battle against anymore. Or the continual responsibilities of adulthood that slowly weigh you down until you loose all your exuberance for life. Or even just the frustrations of staying stagnant for too long. But what I’m really running from is the pain of loss.
As a zookeeper, when an animal dies you try to prepare for it if you can. You try to keep that small amount of detachment for when the time comes and then bury your sadness in the fact that you have done everything you could and that the animal is no longer suffering. Maybe you believe it’s gone to a better place or maybe you even just consider the practicalities of the next step. You start to consider how to manage the rest of the group without that individual, how much to adjust the diets by or how to tell the regular visitors that that animal is no longer there. Keepers are very well versed in this. But it never gets any easier. There are always reminders of what once was. And sometimes for a second you can look back and be grateful for what you experienced and learned alongside that animal. But then the pain of remembering that you won’t see them, feed them, train them again always comes back.
But what if a loss is so great that you need to run from it. You need to escape from every reminder that torments you on a daily basis. What if life becomes something to endure rather than enjoy? What if you know that however much time passes you will carry that scar, so deep that it nearly killed you, with you for the rest of your life? That is when you decide to force yourself out of your comfort zone, force yourself to experience something so different that your demons can’t follow you there. And if they do then you are changed enough to face them, look them in the eye and show them that you are no longer scared, you are not only surviving, but you are living.
So if anyone does question the motive for packing in a job I love and leaving a country where I am blessed with incredible friends and family then consider that some things may chase you to the ends of the earth, but at least you still have the hope to outrun them.