I believe that we never travel alone…despite my fervent attempts to do so as a teenager and young adult. Yes, you may technically be alone, but we always travel with an assortment of lived history, family, language, culture, and communities.
I will be traveling with the fears and anxieties of my parents, who are uncertain about what this trip means about our relationship or their role as my parents. I will be traveling with thoughts of my extended Scandinavian-Italian-German-Russian family, and pondering the ways in which families from around the world have been linked together through my birth. I will be traveling with other adoptees–both those who are participating on this particular trip as well as those who may not yet have made the journey, but think about doing so, like my sister.
I travel with all of these people in my heart and mind.
Mostly, though, I travel with the support of a beautiful community of chosen family–friends and loved ones who see me for who I am. One of the most important aspects of making this trip was establishing a foundation of support for myself, so that I would always feel like I had someone to turn to when I needed it. Some of these folks are fellow adoptees. But many are not.
What these travel companions bring to the table is a willingness to simply be present and witness. They didn’t ask for souvenirs or trinkets (most of which are probably made in China anyway). They didn’t even ask for tons of pictures or postcards. Instead, they offered space for my story to unfold. Some offered a sweet knowing and understanding of the complexities of living as an adoptee and this journey back to “homeland”. They gave me permission to feel everything and not have any expectations. They offered a shoulder to cry on if I need it. Most generously, they offered the comfort of not having to say anything if I don’t feel like it.
I’ve finally strung together my beads, and have added a few other talismans to the collection. Among the treasured is a little box from a fellow adoptee who recently reunited with her birth mother. It was given to her by a friend before she departed on her journey.
:: three worry dolls, one each to represent my birth parents and myself.
:: a mama hippo…a reference to the mama hippo from this lovely children’s book who loses her baby in a tsunami and searches for her little one
:: a hermit crab…to symbolize the fact that as an adoptee, I create my home wherever I am, and I carry my home and community with me on this journey.
:: a dinosaur. Which, in addition to being fun, is also a symbol of the wisdom I carry with me. I know who I am, even if pieces of my history are blank. My knowing of myself has deep roots…and even though I have never met them, I am inextricably linked to my ancestors.
These little companions won’t take up much space in my luggage…but they are a powerful reminder of the community I travel with, a reminder that I am home wherever I am in the world.