Home Sweet Retirement Home

Asia, Family & Kid Travel, Leaving & Coming Home, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, North America — By on April 22, 2007 at 3:47 am

Being away from home for as long as we have, there are certain things I wish I could have tucked in my backpack to save for a rainy day, while there are others that I was happy to have left behind in The Big Apple. Items stacked high on the “Don’t Miss Pile”…Overpriced apartment (my rent alone was more than my current monthly trip budget), eating lunch and dinner at my desk, dirty sidewalk sludge in winter, cable/utility/internet/cell phone bills and random freaks strolling the subway trains. A few trinkets on my “Do Miss List”…Guaranteed hot showers, grocery shopping on FreshDirect.com, wearing different (and clean) outfits every day of the week, 24 hour diners, BYO wine nights with the girls at Ivo & Lulus and impromptu Sex and the City marathons on lazy (a.k.a. hung over) Sunday afternoons. But despite occasional flashes of nostalgia for these silly little creature comforts, what I really wanted, more than anything else, was a long visit with the people I loved the most – my parents.

It had been almost 8 months since Amanda, Holly and I first kicked off our round-the-world journey in Peru – and the longest time I’d ever spend away from my family. At this point, I just couldn’t let my separation anxiety continue any longer. Something had to be done. Luckily for me, my parents’ sentiment mirrored my own, so we began to toss around possible locations for a big reunion. The original plan was to tour Vietnam together, but then we thought it might be better to meet half way somewhere in Europe…then again, maybe Vietnam would be easier…or maybe England or Germany or Spain…Ooh, or Greece is supposed to be gorgeous this time of year. Ok, so clearly decisiveness isn’t a dominant Baggett Family trait! In the end, we decided it would make the most sense for me to fly back to the U.S. from Bangkok – – The Lost Girls’ unofficial SE Asia hub city and the departure point for our next destination, Bali. Amanda and Holly were going to be on assignment for 10 days in Myanmar anyway, plus my Grandpa was about to celebrate his 80th birthday, so it was the perfect time for me to take a little solo journey back home. Well actually, it turned out to be more like a retirement home…

Although my Dad had recently retired and he and my Mom did make the traditional migration South to sunny Florida, my parents were way too young to settle down in a senior citizens community. I mean, they practically still looked like newlyweds! (Hey, subtle flattery may have worked to put a little extra cash in my pocket as a kid, but at my age, blatant buttering up is the only way to increase my odds. And it’s never too early to start planting the seed for a little welcome home check, right? Hint! Hint! :)). But despite my parents’ youthful appearance (I know, I am good), they were presently living in my Great Uncle’s place, which just so happened to be in a 55+ community, until their new house in St. Augustine was ready. But since their temporary digs would be mine during my brief stint in the States, I felt I had to prepare both mentally and physically to become a retiree. Hey, don’t laugh! Competing with the neighborhood shuffle board league, learning complex water aerobics routines and perfecting a four-point turn in a golf cart are not activities for the faint of heart. In fact, my new responsibilities were so draining that I had to break every hour to raid the fridge, watch old episodes of 24, Ugly Betty, Lost and Grey’s Anatomy (although catching up on 8 months of missed TV can also be quite strenuous), flip through magazines on the couch and attend family happy hours on the back porch. Geez, unemployment certainly is hard work!

But since tough challenges, wacky situations and unusual settings were merely par for the course on our round-the-world trip, I had evolved into a highly adaptable species of Lost Girl. So after a few short days, I was as comfortable and settled in my new surroundings as the resident alligator that sunbathes daily on the grassy banks of the community pond (Note to Mom: Gators smell fear, so you’re doomed! But, if you remember to run away in a zigzag pattern like I taught you, there’s a slight chance you’ll escape! :)).

All jokes aside, I could not have asked for a better vacation away from my year-long vacation. Not only was I able to do all the “normal” things that I couldn’t do on the road – like driving a car to the grocery store and packing the trunk full of food bags or sleeping in as late as I wanted to in the morning (a huge luxury as 1 noisy hostel + 2 more a.m.-oriented Lost Girls usually equaled 1 very tired Jen) – but I finally got the chance to spend some much needed, quality time with my parents without any distractions. Like a scene from my childhood, we were three peas in a pod once again. Our days were filled with long bike rides through the park, leisurely walks around the neighborhood and trips to the mall, while our nights were spent watching movies and eating popcorn, dining in cute, local restaurants and grabbing drinks downtown (OK, I didn’t do this as a kid, but you get the point).

To add the perfect ending to my already fantastic two weeks home, we threw a big bash for my Grandpa’s 80th birthday, which gave me the chance to visit with him and to see my Aunts, Uncles and cousin. I mean, how can you not have fun packed around a flaming hibachi grill with ten family members and an over-enthusiast chef who throws diced meat and veggies in the air and catches them in his hat? A delicious dinner followed by homemade chocolate cheesecake back at the house and a post dessert snooze on a comfy couch…what more could I ask for? Actually, the only thing I could think of was more time with everyone, but unfortunately my Florida visa was about to expire and I would soon be boarding a plane back to Thailand. Although it would be a little sad to say goodbye to my family, it was comforting to know that I’d see them again in a few months. Plus, the second half of my round-the-world ticket was starting to burn a hole in my backpack pocket and I was getting eager to rejoin my Lost Girls to continue our adventures together.

That said, I am forever grateful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to take a much needed breather from life on the road and for allowing me the privilege of hanging out with the coolest “retirees” at Schalamar Creeks!

– – – Jen

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