Saying Goodbye - feature

Saying Goodbye, Again

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“What language do they speak in Wisconsin?” asked Grace, my seven-year-old niece, when I proposed that she come with us on our next adventure.

“English, sweetie,” I responded, “It’s not that far. Wisconsin is in the United States.” She snuggled in closer and we went back to watching Toopy and Binoo.

It wasn’t long before we were set to leave again. And I desperately wanted to steal her away.


When we got home from our first year of travel around South America, Avery and Grace ran to me with open arms and excited squeals. There was no question that Avery would, thanks to the close bond we’ve always had, even if he was fourteen at the time. Grace, only five years of age, surely remembered me, but likely just ran screaming because her idolized big brother did.

Katie, only two and a half, hung back. She shyly let me hug her, but not with an all-encompassing squeeze as the others did. She stared as if a bit perplexed and wary. After the first few minutes, she finally approached me and posed a statement as question: “But Auntie Dade, you were in the computer?

At least I got that much. Thank goodness for the modern wonder of Skype.


On our second visit home, a quick swoop in after Honduras and before Ireland, we were greeted enthusiastically. They all understood that our time together was precious and that we weren’t a permanent fixture (their parents had told them that we were Explorers on great adventures). Grace delivered another one of her great one-liners: “I want you to stop exploring and stay here for 99 sleeps,” and swiftly broke my heart in two.

On this, our third visit home since beginning our vagabonding ways, we stayed a little longer. We jetted around the province a bit but most of the time we were nearby and visited often. Although beset with their busy lives, we snuck in as much time as we could. We got to know them better, to witness their maturity in our absence over the past fourteen months.

Katie, Dalene and Avery


My nephew is clearly in those uncomfortable teenage years, but with a penchant for drama and the arts. I want to walk him through it all, holding his hand, and sit front row at every performance. I want to tell him that yes, high school sucks, that the next couple of years probably will. But that soon we will take him somewhere to see tigers, like we promised, as celebration for getting through it.

My nieces just took all I gave them. The kiss attacks, the tickle attacks, my constant desire to braid their hair. Katie, now 5, constantly asked to lay across my lap so that I could draw on her back and she could guess the shapes, numbers or words. Grace constantly amazed me with the pure agility of her body and mind.

Grace, Dalene and Katie


Crazy Grace


I savoured every minute, and I hope they did as well. I want desperately for them to remember me for more than just being a face on the computer.


“Your flight is on Monday?” Katie asked, “So you can come over on Tuesday?”

“No honey, sorry, we’ll be gone for awhile.”

This goodbye part has become infinitely harder.

My only hope, and the thought that keeps me warm and tells me it’s okay to be away from them, is that they will grow up talking about their cool aunt and uncle who traveled. That they’ll remember our tales about playing with monkeys in Ecuador, watching the sunrise in the Sahara, and of the magic within the country of Jordan (which they instinctively recollect because they also have a cousin named Jordan).

And that they will reap enlightenment from it: that they will know their dreams are worth chasing, and just as importantly, that the world is worth exploring.

I agonize as the travel-addicted relative who only has this to offer instead of being there to watch them grow up. But hopefully they’ll understand sacrifice, too.


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  1. It is always so tough to say goodbye especially when you have had a great time. The pictures tell a story, all happy!! But saying goodbye enables you to savor the memories and look forward to your next meeting 🙂

  2. I still remember tales from my “traveling uncle”. In the 80’s he backpacked around Asia for over a year, on multiple occasions. This was before emails, Skype, ATM’s and smart phones, so we didn’t see him very much. But I’m convinced that his journey has played a role in shaping my curiousity about the world. I’m pretty sure your nieces and nephew will feel the same way 😉

    1. Very cool about your uncle Cam, and I really hope that the kids do feel that way. I had no close relatives who traveled like this, so I have nothing to compare it to.

  3. I WISH I would have had an auntie like you when I was growing up, Dalene! They may miss you now and not understand why you’re not around more (at least, the younger ones), but they are lucky to have you in their lives as that “Explorer” aunt.

  4. Aw, the sweetest. Distance doesn’t change that you’re there for them and love them. I can only imagine how hard it is to say goodbye, though. Especially since they’re all so cute! 🙂

  5. They will love you when you are gone and they can dream about where you are and what you are doing and imagine themselves on their own adventures. It is nice to have a place like that to go to.

  6. When I was young, my great aunt showed me pictures from her travels, and I heard stories of other relatives who had gone far away, the the travel bug was planted. I’m sure you’re contributing to a couple of future world explorers. Stiff upper lip!

    1. Well, we’ve promised to take my nephew traveling after he graduates, and I’m sure we’ll do the same with my nieces. So, I can *force* them to love it, if the pictures aren’t enough. 🙂

  7. It must be so hard but they will remember you teaching them that there is a huge world out there. I always remember the adults in my life from when I was a kid who had actually seen the world! They are adorable.

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