The Great Wall
6500 miles from home
Do you want to go on an adventure?
It started with a yellow flyer I found in my daughter’s backpack, I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

“Oh I just grabbed that but you don’t have to go, it’s just a thing, a trip with orchestra… I mean I know we can’t really, um…” She was 12, I had been waiting for the other shoe to drop for awhile, for the slamming of doors, the eye rolls, all the tween girl nightmares I’d heard about from the other moms. She had always been a content child, never nagging in the grocery line, over accommodating really.

“you know that won’t last right?” my friends would say “she’ll be a nasty teenager soon enough”.

As her only parent we had a tight bond and I held out hope that she would not succumb to makeup, i-phones and boys anytime soon. That I had a time before that inevitable chasm would form between us. I knew her well enough that when she brought that flyer home that she too was holding out hope. Hope for some far-off adventure like the ones she read about in her books.

An opportunity, a miracle.

“A trip to China huh, that seems pretty out there dude” I said as she set our table for two.

“Yeah, I know, I was thinking we could just listen to the presentation maybe, I don’t know.”

“I guess it couldn’t hurt to see what it’s about, but I have to be real with you, we probably can’t afford it this time” a piece of me broke every time I uttered those words, which was all too often. I was already working two jobs just to pay for the rental on her violin.

“It would be good to know what we’d need for next time though?” I said

Naturally as a mom I was a worrier, I worried about everything, crazy irrational fear. Kidnappers, natural disasters and school shootings.

I worried so much that I named my worry, Wilma. Wilma the worrier.

“what are you crazy, you can’t even entertain this idea” Wilma started in, “its not safe, there’s so much that can go wrong, you definitely can’t afford”

“Mom, mom… time to eat” her sweet voice cutting Wilma off and bringing me back to our tiny kitchen.

“Oh yeah, sorry” I blinked “so it’s after your concert next week, we’ll just stay and hear what they have to say cool?”

“Cool” She said and took a spoonful of noodles.

Over the course of the next week Wilma and I played tug of war with the idea, “You have no clue what something like this even costs” Wilma would shout and I would muster “maybe they offer scholarships” “travel isn’t safe since 911” Wilma would interject “but it’s with the school, I’m sure they know what they are doing” I’d justify.

I watched her that Tuesday up on stage playing her violin, I couldn’t even read music and here was my daughter playing violin, first chair clarinet and already singing jazz. Music came to her with such ease, like an old friend. After the concert we shuffled into the cafeteria, most the other kids stayed in the hallway doing homework. I half wanted her to do the same, then she wouldn’t have to feel the disappoint right away. We listened to the presentation, the students will stay with a host family, we will need parents to chaperone, we will have a liaison with us at all times… Wilma must have been napping because before I knew it my shoulders started to relax, was that excitement I was feeling or anxiety? My daughter next to me on the edge of her seat, listening intently. I flipped through the brochure, The Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, The Great Wall! I looked up just in time to hear the orchestra director, “and the students will all perform a concert for Chinese dignitaries with students from our sister school, it’s all quite a magical experience”. I saw the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes, I restrained Wilma,”just give me this moment” I said in my head. 

We left, brochures in hand and got into our beat up Mazda.

“Did you hear the part about the scholarships mom?” “and we have a sister school in China, who knew?” “and it really seems pretty safe you know” “they need parent chaperones”

“Yes, who knew?China!”

She must have sensed Wilma was encroaching on my excitement.

“I mean it’s good we went you know” she said “I mean at least we know now for next time, maybe they’ll offer it again in high school?”

“I’m glad we went too dude, it’s a lot to think about, can we think about it?”

“yeah mom, of course, thanks so much for going tonight” she has always been so grateful.

“Wouldn’t miss it! Great concert, you guys sounded amazing, I can’t believe you’ve only been practicing those songs like a month” our conversation trailed off into homework and where we should grab a quick bite, but our minds were both running with the possibility.

A chance for an adventure, to show her the world.

The next day I was sitting in my bosses office when he arrived…

“Good morning?” he said and gave me a puzzled look “everything ok?”

“Yes, everything is great, except, I need to borrow $8000 from my retirement fund”

So began our life of travel adventure, all because of a little yellow flyer I found in her backpack.

In the 5 years that followed we would hop a train from our middle America to both coasts, get lost on countless Midwest roadtrips, drive to the Florida Keys, and scout out colleges in the Pacific Northwest.

If we can do it SO CAN YOU! Maybe even without borrowing from your retirement fund.

Join me, the Dude, and Wilma as we reminisce on our past travels and plan some new adventures!

Happy Travels,

Miss Adventure