I See Butterflies
My story isn’t so different from a number of travel bloggers I’ve met although I’m surprised by this. A loved one dies and we turn to travel like hitting the eject button on plane going down. To escape a normal life that isn’t normal anymore. The club that I’ve been a member of these past four years is actually rather large.
In my case, I lost my mother. She was 54. She was gentle and kind and patient. She loved books, knitting and playing bingo. I never saw her laugh as much as when she was with her friends or her siblings. Everyone says I look just like her. She used to get nervous when I would ride the subway alone in Toronto. She wanted to go to Vegas but never got the chance because a heart condition took her too soon.
Now I see butterflies wherever I travel.
Folklore exists that says butterflies are the souls of those we’ve loved who’ve passed on. On every trip I’ve taken in the last four years I’ve seen one. From Chicago to Tokyo, Costa Rica to Spain. They’ve been red, yellow, brown, and orange. I was in San Francisco when I had my first colourful winged visitor. I was waiting for the streetcar when a yellow butterfly floated right on by me at eye level. The encounter left me with an unexpected calm feeling. Do I really believe that it was my mom’s spirit watching over me? Who really knows, but I do know that when I see a butterfly abroad I feel like the universe is saying “Hi, just checking in on you. I’ve got your back. You’re not alone.” I smile, think of Mom, and go on.
We’re always told how short life is but when you’re a teenager or in your twenties you feel like you have all the time in the world. Losing my Mom knocked that notion out of my head. “Hey babe, you never know how much time you have so let’s make it all count, ok?” I’ve always wanted to see more of the world and I’d seen a bit before 2010. We’d spend 3 weeks every year in Newfoundland and made a few trips to Toronto to see family. There were cross-border weekend shopping trips to Maine and a week spent in Texas.
In 2004 I made my first trans-Atlantic trip, visiting England with my roommate to see her family. It was eye-opening. Even though it’s obvious to me now, it really only occurred to me then that with just the purchase of a plane ticket, I could go anywhere. The world was not closed off to me. I started dabbling with a few trips to New York and when I won two plane tickets in 2009 to anywhere in Canada I took Mom to Vancouver.
Plane tickets are now my drug of choice. I get antsy when there’s nothing in the pipeline. Vacation days are carefully hoarded, to be doled out for just the right occasion. Take a day off to just stay home and watch Netflix? Unthinkable. I could use that day to spend more time somewhere else. Seeing more of this beautiful Earth.
I haven’t gone completely reckless. I still sock away 10% of my income into RSPs and I’m terrified of credit card debt but, despite my financial advisor’s pleadings, I probably spend 15% on travel each year. I’m saving for tomorrow but I’m living for today baby.
Just like a butterfly, I feel as if I’ve been going through my own transformation these past four years. I’ve seen and done some amazing things. I ate sushi for breakfast at the fish market in Tokyo. Sang noraebang in South Korea. Saw amazing works of art in Paris. Partied in Ibiza. Learned to surf in Costa Rica and hung off the CN Tower in Toronto. Travel, especially solo, has made me more confident and shown me that I can handle myself in all kinds of situations. People tell me that I’m brave but I don’t feel that way. I’ve just decided that if there’s something I want, I won’t let small things stop me.
I have no intention of stopping any time soon. There are just so many crazy, wonderful things to see in this world. And, on every trip, I will see butterflies.
If you dream of seeing the world but find yourself saying things like “Once I have [X] I’ll go.” or “Once [Y] happens I can go.” do me a favour, don’t wait anymore. Pick a place. Book a plane ticket. Don’t wait for [X] like I did. Life is short and moves fast. Find a way to make it happen.
And as for this butterfly, she isn’t done transforming yet. Just you wait, it’s going to be beautiful.