It Could All End Today

As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.

Last week I got the dreadful news that someone I deeply respect and admire, a woman who was a very active member of our community, died while scuba diving off the island of Bonaire, a tiny little island deep in the southern Caribbean near the coast of Venezuela. She was with her wife, the love of her life, doing things she enjoyed most: relaxing, basking in the sunshine, scuba diving, meeting people, enjoying life to the fullest with the one she loved best. I didn’t know Jolie well, but I had spent timeIMG_0559 at a couple of small, intimate parties at their home.

Her death has shaken my little community to its core. Why does this happen? How? While I don’t know the details of her passing, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jolie was living life to its fullest, holding nothing back. And it got me to thinking about my upcoming world travel. What if something happens to me when I’m far, far away from friends, family, and those who love me? Do I really want to risk my life the way I am setting myself up to do?

The short answer is yes. Yes, I am willing to risk my life doing something I have always dreamed of doing. Oh, not by making bad decisions and doing stupid things and getting drunk with strangers. No, I’m way past that. (I just had my 58th birthday, for Pete’s sake.) But I’m willing to risk being in foreign countries where I don’t know the language or my way around or where to go or what food is safe to eat. I’m willing to be comfortable in my discomfort, to remind myself that the world is not the big, bad, scary place we are told it is.

It’s true that my 83-year-old mom tries hard not to panic when she thinks about me “gallivanting around the world.” She won’t even discuss my plans with me. She pretends it’s not really going to happen. It’s also true that my darling great-niece and great-nephews, who are 17, 14, and 11 and who I am very close to (along with their parents), will miss me, especially since we’ve grown much closer as I’ve spent the last several months in California to escape the Oregon winter, staying at my mom’s just two miles up the road from the kids. And while I certainly don’t want to hurt my family, I can’t live my life for them.

It sounds so terribly cliche to say my friend died doing what she loved, but it is true. Since we all will die, wouldn’t we rather die knowing we are doing what we truly want to do, the things we do so we can say, at the end, “I have no regrets”? Planning this trip around the world, making traveling a lifestyle, is hugely scary for me. It’s also thrilling and adventurous and exciting, the very emotions that make me feel alive. Not for me just sitting on my porch, quiet, safe, comfortable, aging gracefully with everyone around me doing the same as we watch each other grow old. No. I’m not done fully experiencing all that life has to offer, not by a long shot.

Bad things can happen anywhere. People can die in uncountable ways at the most unexpected times. It’s part of the deal we get with this thing we call life. We just don’t get the choice of when or how. So this is my reminder to myself: should I die on the road in some far-off land, I will be doing something I want to be doing with every fiber of my being. Should I make it back in one piece, I will be able to say “I have no regrets.”

What dreams do you have? What makes you feel alive? I would really love to hear from you. Please leave a comment by clicking the “Comments” link just below the title of this post. Then go live life to its fullest, whatever that means for you.