It was chilly in Greece when we arrived, the last week of April. Walking the cobblestone lanes, scarf tied around my neck, holding my husband’s hand, cheeks rosy from the brisk pace and the pleasant feeling of breathing cold air. It’s sunny and beautiful, and we walk like this for a few hours, breaking to order coffee with milk at a cafe on the harbor. We talk about the sailboat we want to buy, the length and style it’ll be, how we’ll learn to sail in Cape Town or perhaps somewhere else. The baby is sleeping in his stroller and I think, “I love this man.”
It was a moment in Greece that was so similar to a moment in 2002 that it connected the intervening years like a single silver note threaded through everything we have done since.
It was the day before Valentine’s Day 2002 and my husband knew that I knew that he was going to propose. I had, after all, helped him pick out the ring — at that point we were already like a married couple — and now with the most cliched proposal date of all time approaching, he had to act quick. On February 13th, 2002, he cleaned the house, bought a bottle of wine and asked me to marry him. I said yes immediately, I didn’t want to worry him by teasing it out. That weekend we drove from our apartment in Seattle up to Vancouver, BC for the first time. It was unseasonably sunny and briskly cold like Greece was now and we spent an entire four-day weekend walking around, glowing, giddy, dropping into cafes and feeling like we were in Europe, in love and traveling.
There’s a memory from that weekend that has cut through all the clutter and hazy impressions of my mind and stands out in clarity. The sun breaks through the clouds and is blinding. Everything is washed out in the bright light. We cross the street, half-seeing, a car jerks towards us and we jump up onto the curb. We’re laughing. Or smiling. Or I just feel very happy and we collapse into oversized leather chairs, by the window and order cafe lattes that are delivered in giant yellow mugs. I don’t know what we talked about, but it was my small introduction to traveling outside the US, seeing a city that looked like Europe and spending a few days dedicated to maintaining the buzz of endorphins from walking, caffeine, Vitamin D, the joy of seeing a new place and the simple happiness of experiencing it with the person you love.
I’m trying to describe this single sensation, it’s called happiness, but one that’s so profound and easy, that I feel like it needs further description. Perhaps it doesn’t. I was happy. It felt really good.
Since then, we got married (October of 2003), we traveled from Seattle to Texas to Boston for various career moves (mine) and in 2008, I quit my job at a big company, in order to become a writer at the ripe old age of 31. We’ve traveled to many places, but it’s always those Vancouver moments that stand out for me: riding a vespa in Bermuda, hiking the waterfalls in Jamaica, getting drunk on really good tequila in Cozumel, our entire time in Madrid, apple picking season in Vermont, surfing in Costa Rica, semi-serious house hunting in Granada, walking to the doctor to find out if I was pregnant in Guatemala, getting pregnant in New England, driving to the Yukon through the Canadian Rockies, giving birth to Cole, the Colombian waitress who sat with us through our meal and talked softly to our son in Spanish, surviving Burning Man, riding a moto in Thailand, driving through the rice paddies in Bali, dipping in the Ganges in India, and now, walking on a briskly cold morning in Greece, pushing our son in his lime green stroller and talking about the future.
It doesn’t happen everywhere. It comes and it goes. A new place, some physical act — walking or driving or surfing — plus natural beauty and just the right mood and we’re blissed out. We’re drunk on it. And in our own way, my husband Drew and I, we’re total addicts.
We have sacrificed stability, normalcy, friends, family, belongings, money, careers and so much more to get it. It’s the A+ moments, the great weekend, the amazing lunch, the intense conversation and instead of waiting for it to find us we run around the world, searching it out.
It was only now, in 2011, over nine years later from that original moment, that I realized it. We’ve been chasing Vancouver.