Welcome to the official launch day of Postcards from the Second Act. I had been thinking about starting a blog for a few years. Last summer I decided to finally make it happen. It’s taken me eight months to get it up and running (with huge thanks to Adam, my computer guy, without whom I’d still be crying at my desk.)
I wrote this story for another project but I thought it perfectly summed up how Postcards came to be. Turns out I’ve actually been working on this blog my whole life.
Today is my also my 48th birthday. I can’t think of a better gift to give myself. Please enjoy.
My dad was a high school guidance counsellor and football coach; my mom babysat teachers’ kids. That meant they had two weeks off at Christmas, one week at March Break and nine weeks during the summer. With a shared desire to explore the world beyond the small Southern Ontario town where they had both grown up, my parents took full advantage of the time off.
With two small children in tow, Mom and Dad started out with trips around the province and an annual Christmas vacation in Florida. By the summer of 1979 when I was 10, and my sister, eight, we’d graduated to bigger adventures. Our ‘76 two-tone gold Econoline van, tricked out with a battery-run mini fridge and a double bed in the back, was our home as we explored Canada’s east coast. The next summer our family travelled through the Prairie provinces out to Vancouver Island, then south to Los Angeles, east to the Grand Canyon then home. The following year we headed back down east, this time with a stop in Newfoundland.
Then the Wrights were ready for greater challenges. The next three summers we camped our way across the United Kingdom and Europe. My folks were a team. Dad steered our rented Westphalia camper van through narrow roads, on the alert for drivers with little command of international “road rules”. Mom rode shotgun, maps spread out on her lap and a well-thumbed Let’s Go Europe in her hand.
Our international trips continued when my dad took groups of students abroad on the March Break. I joined them in Grade 10. During the next five years we visited London and Paris, Italy, Greece and Egypt twice. They were the kind of trips only the young could survive (my parents, in their mid-thirties at the time, qualified). One night in Sorrento we drank copious green Blue Hawaiians and danced to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” video until the bar closed. Still, everyone made it to the bus on time for the early morning Pompeii and Herculaneum tour the next day.
I wrote about these adventures in my journal, mixing travelogue with personal anecdotes and took pictures with my Pentax K1000 camera. So it just made sense that I would become a travel writer or a photojournalist.
Except that I didn’t.
To my friends, I appeared worldly and sophisticated but the truth was something much different. In reality I was a scared young girl who craved the safety and familiarity of home. I loved the idea of studying at a far-off university but instead chose my local school to be close to my boyfriend. I believed a three-month, post-graduation backpacking trek with my best friend, from Greece to Portugal, would give me the confidence to be more independent. Instead it turned into one long anxiety ridden cry-fest because I missed my guy and my family.
Time after time I chose the safe route. I graduated university in 1992, married the guy in 1994 and then earned a diploma in Magazine Journalism. An entry-level job at TV GUIDE led to a career in corporate communications. Once my twins were born in 2002, I gave up my job and went back to school at night to become an interior decorator, eventually employed at my husband’s construction firm.
I fully expected my story to end there. Sure I might live to old age, but I’d get there doing the predictable things ̶ raising my kids and working for the family business. We might vacation in Cuba. Maybe we would retire to Florida. Deep inside I knew this was not the life I wanted, but staying in it was much less scary than leaving it.
Mother’s Day, 2012 the choice was made for me when my husband left. The fear that I had been running from since my teen years swallowed me up. For three months I couldn’t get out of bed. I believed my life was over. The truth, however, was just the opposite. Real life finally forced me out of complacency. I had to find a job, help my kids through the trauma, pay my mortgage and fight though a gruelling divorce. After a year on my own I found my courage, my voice and a brand new life.
I also found new love when I received a Facebook message from a man I had met in Daytona Beach when I was 15. Back then he was an 18-year-old, dark-haired, blue-eyed Frenchman from Montreal. We began a friendship that continued for several years. But at that age and time, Montreal might as well have been Mongolia. Taking the relationship forward would have meant moving six hours from my family to a place that didn’t share my language. That was not an option for me. He had tried to reconnect over the years but the timing was never right. Decades later, still based in Montreal, he flew to Toronto to meet me for dinner. The moment he stepped out of the cab I knew we would be together forever. We were married November 14, 2015 in Florida, exactly 30 years after we first met.
Turns out my husband isn’t the only thing I have reconnected with. I’m travelling again after a twenty-year dry spell. I love it just as much as I did then. My husband shares that love wholeheartedly. Since we’ve been together we have travelled to over 20 countries including Tanzania where I took a sunrise balloon-ride over the Serengeti and spotted rare Black rhinos in the Ngorongoro crater.
For so long I settled for an unfulfilling, okay life. Then fate handed me a do-over — a chance to change my destiny. I took it and have never looked back. Fully ensconced in my second act, I’m following my passions and pursuing those youthful dreams that never died. I’m not afraid anymore.