Mark and Wendy’s Excellent Adventure: Starting the journey home

Editor’s note: Mark Bradford is contributing occasional posts from his diary on traveling the country with his wife Wendy while they rent out their Mishawaka home for more than six months.

January 21, 2024 — Miami Beach

Tomorrow is the day we start heading north. It will be a slow journey, but from here on out, the path leads to our Mishawaka home.

I think I am ready. But to be honest, it is not something I feel is imperative. I am not “excited” to return, although it will be a source of comfort. 

When we took off on this, it was a period of great anticipation, followed by plan changes, followed by surprises and excitement, and it was all surrounded by friends, new and old.

Writing the blog has been a tremendous help in keeping me focused and has served as a wonderful way to sort of open the doors to my soul. At times, each day was a brand new experience.

Being in Canada was perhaps the experience of a lifetime because we had to create our own agenda with zero limitations. Most of the time we had NO idea what was just beyond the bend. Everything we discovered in Halifax and Prince Edward Island was like tasting a new food without being told what the ingredients were. As long as we had credit cards and car keys, we were pretty much unstoppable and that became a fairly profound reality.

As we arrive in Mishawaka, I think we will look at our house differently, as well as all the accumulated clutter inside the house. There were times on the trip when we needed a screwdriver or maybe a hammer, but we never needed our high school yearbooks, my boxes of old sportswriting clippings, or anything in that huge brown cabinet that we somehow inherited from Wendy’s grandmother.

Those things have served their purposes, but is it possible that now they have become liabilities? Wendy has a habit of keeping Panera bread cups, McDonalds’s plastic forks and knives, and sugar and salt packs from the family restaurants we frequent. Those free things serve just as well as the 100-year old coffee cups that reside in the huge brown cabinet.

The same thing applies to an out-of-tune piano that we were given when I actually thought I might want to play again. The weird thing is, that piano became a liability because every time I look at it, it is like looking at a faded picture of myself. When I was a teenager, I was a decent pianist, but playing it always felt like a penalty. I do not have the music in me. I do have words in me, but those words are more prose than lyrics. So, the piano is a burden, something meaningless..

The same applies to all the outdoor Christmas decorations we have stored under the staircase. The same can be said for so much of the “stuff” we have. Its meaning has disappeared.

For seven months, we have lived off of our credit cards (and the ability to pay them off on time, of course), our automobile, the ability to find a place to sleep at night and our electronics. We have discovered that the rest of it is just burdensome. After we pass on, or after we move, all this stuff becomes just meaningless. 

So, that renders all  those “valuable assets” less valuable. In fact valueless.

What does not become meaningless is the friendship and love we have felt throughout our travel. Dickens is only half right when he declared “Mankind is our business.” The other side of that is that we are the Business of Mankind. Whenever we needed something (a dead battery, a flat tire, a place to stay), Mankind has stepped forward to help us. The end result of that exchange is that my person-confidence level has increased dramatically. Our investment in being a “nice couple” has come back to us 10-fold in very dramatic and profound ways. 

And that was possibly the biggest lesson of the sojourn. The more we relied on others, the more they came through for us. I hope that the opposite is true as well. We strive to not view people who need something from us as problems. Rather, we view them as opportunities to serve. Our lives are one BIG gift from (in my opinion) God (or the Universe). Why would we not share what we have, once we have reached a certain level of sustainability?

So, as we return, it will be interesting to see how we handle the “same-old same-old” that made up our life for the last 40 years. 

Having experienced an extended road trip, relying on the kindness of others, and waking up many days having no idea what will happen has been added to our life experience.

And I wonder how that will impact who we have become when February 1 arrives.