J.R. Tolkien said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” That’s good to know as we went wandering a lot this year and only got truly lost once – that for a couple of hours in the Italian Alps. Yea, I know. Your thumb-sized violin is playing for me as there’s definitely worse places than the Italian Alps in which to get lost, particularly since around every hairpin turn is a view more breathtaking than the last.
The Year of Wandering kicked off on Valentine’s Day when my valentine and I arrived in Paris. What a time we had! We spent two months in the City of Light essentially running a B&B for family and friends out of a three-bedroom apartment we rented in the 10th arrondisment. Twenty people, including all of our kids except the oldest who was in Afghanistan, came to visit. It was exhausting, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it! We had an amazing time and created some wonderful memories.
We returned to the Gulch in April only to strike out in May for a road trip headed south. An early morning paddling expedition in The Okefenokee Swamp was our first stop. I’m happy to report the big gators remained out of sight, bellowing from a distance. Leaving the primordial landscape, we made a beeline for Universal Studios where my stomach discovered its daily roller coaster limit was two. Nausea aside, the Harry Potter ride is the most incredible amusement park experience on the planet. I left my equilibrium in Orlando to journey west across the Sunshine State to visit the Longino Ranch and two of my favorite Longinos, Buster and Jane, and then stopped in Vero Beach for lunch with another family member before heading home.
The summer found us wandering around Canton delivering lunches to children for MUST Ministries. I squeezed in a week at a writer’s conference in Atlanta where I pitched my historical/contemporary romance to a publisher and agent, both of whom asked to review the first 50 pages. While the agent has no interest, the publisher is still reviewing. Hope springs eternal! Regardless, finishing the book was the culmination of a 44-year-old dream — a real life-lesson in persistence and the generosity of love, the latter being my husband’s for gifting me with the time needed to write. Next year brings the start of my next endeavor. Book No. 2 will be set against the backdrop of Georgia’s gold rush and its precipitating role in the tragic Trail of Tears. Let’s hope I bang this one out more quickly.
To celebrate our August birthdays, John and I ventured up the Inside Channel on an Alaskan cruise. Amazingly, the Captain (aka my husband) enjoyed being a passenger as much as I did.
But sailing is in his blood, so I wasn’t surprised when we became the happy owners of an old, in-need-of-a-paint-job-and-a-few-other-things sail boat which can be hauled behind The Clampett Mobile (our camper) on a trailer. Our first excursion on Lake Carter resulted in me losing a hat and John almost losing a motor. Pray we fare better when we set sail in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys come January.
While visiting us in Paris, our British friends, Dorothy and Robert Hinton, suggested we swap houses later in the year. So, in September, we arrived in Woolpit, Surrey, England for The Great House Swap. After two weeks in the Hinton’s lovely, Elizabethan farm house, I felt quite sure we got the better end of the deal!
I could have explored England – particularly the Lake District – for a couple of more weeks, but we wandered over to Italy. Our home base was a one-bedroom apartment in Florence and from there we explored central and northern Italy. We also managed a brief visit to Austria before crossing the border back into Italy and getting lost on that roller coaster ride in the Alps.
The highlight of our travels this year, hands down, was the day we spent with the Selva family in Maiolo, Italy. In 1944, Jimmy Longino (John’s first cousin once removed) was shot down while bombing Bologna. The Selvas kept the 24-year-old co-pilot safely hidden from the Germans and the Fascists for three-and-a-half months until they could see him safely back to Allied forces. For the details, read my previous blog post: When History Gets Personal. It was an unforgettable experience!
After visiting us in Paris, the kids stayed home, busy in their own lives. Shannon and Grey re-enrolled to complete their college degrees while Rollin leaves KSU this semester with sheepskin in hand. James remains hard at work at KSU as does Megan at GSU. Tiana joined the college ranks in 2013, surviving her freshman year and living with her brothers again! We are grateful that John made it safely back to the U.S. after a couple of years working for a defense contractor in Afghanistan. We feel blessed that we saw Trevor and Eleanor multiple times this year, managing to sync our travels with their busy schedules.
This year wasn’t all happy wanderings. Our life journey saw the loss of family, John’s beloved Uncle Pat, and our friend, George Crosson. Their missions here done, they journeyed home. We, like they, stand firm in our faith and take comfort in the knowledge that we will see them both again one day.
As we prepare for the coming year, it looks like the Longinos will keep wandering and wondering. Over the next hill, around the next bend – we’re always amazed at the beauty of His Creation and so grateful for the opportunity to experience it. Paul Theroux says it best in Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: “Travel is at its most rewarding when it ceases to be about your reaching a destination and becomes indistinguishable from living your life.”
Here’s hoping you and yours get lost in 2014 in a wandering of your own making. Happy holidays!