Epic, bittersweet year on 4 continents

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

What an epic year! We vagabonded over a decent portion of Earth in 2018: four continents, 13 countries, 32 Airbnb rentals, more than 75 cities, towns, and villages.

From the Sahara to Siena, San Francisco to Singapore, Algeciras to Zagreb — and all points in between — wow. Just wow.

Some of the places we lived: Moroccan riads; apartments in Venice, Barcelona, Athens; concrete communist accommodations in former Yugoslavia; a Sarajevo neighborhood still riddled with sniper scars; a London flat; a modern tower on the Kuala Lumpur skyline; a home with a breathtaking view of Kotor Bay; a simple camp in the desert.

Our adventures included: stunning night skies in the Sahara Desert; island living in the Ionian Sea; World Cup soccer celebrations in Zagreb, Croatia (for Tedly); a five-day satsang intensive with Mooji in Lisbon (for me); walking on medieval perimeter walls and streets; our first a high-speed train ride; a tour of nuclear bunkers in the formerly closed Albania; masterpieces of art and architecture in Greece and Italy; a wave from the Pope.

Pope Francis waves “hello” from the pope-mobile in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, May 2018.

We met so many incredible, kind people this year – many helped us through some tough times during our travels:

  • Amazing doctors and nurses in Croatia and Malaysia helped treat my breast cancer and follow ups with the utmost care and compassion
  • A linguistically gifted security guard translated from Croatian to English for me when I desperately needed help in a hospital (he was mostly self-taught from movie subtitles!)
  • A new friend helped us when we were in an accommodations jam in Barcelona
  • A spiritual friend helped me bear a long wait for biopsy results in a foreign country
  • An incredibly kind young woman who – like me – was diagnosed with breast cancer while traveling; she helped me navigate through initial diagnosis emotions as she herself was dying from the disease

We had the privilege to spend quality time with my sister-in-law and her daughter in Europe. We were so lucky to explore and discover Barcelona and La Sagrada Familia together.

We laughed with and learned from a lot of people, including: a special momma in Montenegro who called Tedly “my American”; young, energetic Bosnians; hopeful Albanians; kind Serbians; free-spirited Moroccan Berber nomads; fellow travelers — like the Irish guy who’s always looking for cheap beer or those lovely ladies who take a yearly ‘girls only’ trip; Airbnb hosts who spent time with us talking about their cultures; two young men from Yemen who – just like the rest of us – are trying to find their way in the world; refugees from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and other countries who live at a camp in Greece.

I want to share something with you about the refugees we met at Camp Eleonas in Athens, Greece: they were the kindest, most resourceful, patient, open-minded people I have ever met. Isn’t it ironic that people who have the least are the most willing to share what little they have? I was invited into homes and served food and drink for no reason other than I happened to be there, and I found that hauntingly humane.

The refugees who treated me so well are Arabs – the same group so many Americans view as “the danger.” Ahmed, Abdul, Mohamed, and so many others, are loving fathers, sons, husbands who are filled with dreams, who simply want to live their best lives — no different from you or me.

Did we live our best lives in 2018?

Will I live better in the next year? Will I commit to experience the present more fully? Will I keep traveling all year? What new life lessons are headed my way? Will the cancer come back? What have I learned in 2018 that might help me in the next year? What new people will I meet? Will my family and friends have easy times in the year ahead? Will the Eleonas refugees go home – or find new ones? What is God’s will for me?

I cannot answer, or control the answers, to most of those questions. However, I can claim increased comprehension on some concepts I confronted in 2018: how lucky I am to travel the world with relative ease as an American; my true “self” is not my body; pure hearts are not tragically recherche, once I turn away from noisy media propaganda.

I created my own media this year, and I want to share a video I made.

The images are snapshots I took of Tedly as he took photos on four continents, in 13 countries and 75-plus cities, towns, and villages. He often had no idea I was taking his picture. I so enjoyed watching him discover new places in 2018. I have so many images – I couldn’t possibly use them all in the video because the song I chose was too short. The song is ‘Ascendance’ – an instrumental by Lindsey Stirling.

The song sounds how my year felt: a bittersweet lesson to let go of what I cannot control, so that I might truly soar above challenges in this beautiful life.

The images show what I need to be retaught: I know only a little about this world but new discoveries can reawaken my wonder with being alive on this planet.



Happy New Year to all, and peace on Earth everywhere, for every one, always.


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