Determining Success Amidst the Hardships of Travel

Last night when Paul and I took our late-afternoon bike ride with Maya here on Fakarava, we played a game exchanging our favourite memories from our trip so far. We had no shortage of snapshots to share, from moments that made our hearts soar to inside jokes that still make us laugh out loud. It was a good way to counter our recent frustrations – a soothing remedy for feeling a bit cursed on this trip.

Because sometimes it feels like we’re being punished for ever dreaming it up in the first place.

A storm looms over the lagoon off the shores of Fakarava. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
A storm looms over the lagoon off the shores of Fakarava. Photo Meghan J. Ward.

Trust me when I say we’ve worked very hard to keep our spirits as buoyant as possible. We have changed our plans and spent more money when required to make things easier on us, foregoing some of our original goals. Our mantra has always been things will get better, specifically with regards to the baby’s issues sleeping at night.

But the reality is that things got worse on the sleep front, culminating with nearly two weeks of constant waking at night. Paul pulled another Breaking Bad moment (here was the first one) around 5 a.m. the other day, walking back and forth on the dirt road in front of our bungalow, wailing babe in arms, clad only in his underwear and a headlamp.

But the sun always comes up. And once the dark underbelly of nighttime disappears, circumstances suddenly look upward. With packaged cappuccino number two consumed, playtime begins with dear Maya, who seems completely unfazed by the night’s events. Big brown eyes lighting up with excitement over the next piece of coral (of 10,386 played with so far), she squeals with delight and crouches curiously towards the ground, analyzing her latest find. I’m sure to bring some pieces along when we go biking. Turns out they are endlessly entertaining for her.

Despite the sleepless nights, I’m still smiling ear-to-ear as we cycle along the ocean, catching the breeze, saying Ia Orana to passing Polynesians.

Another early morning with the little one with shadows cast on the bug net by the rising sun. Photo Meghan J. Ward.
Another early morning with the little one with shadows cast on the bug net by the rising sun. Photo Meghan J. Ward.

When I say we’re feeling cursed, though, it’s because things keep happening that trump our plans, and it’s becoming rather comical. We decide we’ll splurge on a pizza for dinner. The pizza lady is in Tahiti. We decide Paul will go on a tour snorkelling in the South Pass of the atoll. The tour operators can’t take him because they are busy taking cruise ship people who have taken over the island for the day. Paul takes off on a bike to capture some photos, and ends up with a flat 10 kilometres from town. On and on it goes.

That’s travel for you.

I know that we’ll look back on this trip with a lot of fondness and that the investment we’re making now will continually pay off throughout our life as a family. The reality, however, is that our challenges really beat us up. We are not the types to go looking for things that aren’t going well. Quite the opposite. But with a baby in tow, circumstances became even more disappointing when we were also planning our days around baby’s needs. Our stars would finally align to do something – anything! – and quickly fall out of place.

I originally told you this whole trip was an experiment to see if we could find balance on a “working holiday”. By some measures, we have totally failed, and there was nothing we could have done about it except for giving up and going back home. And by other measures, we have succeeded. We have survived nearly 70 days in the South Pacific with our one-year old and made the most of each and every day despite major sleep deprivation. We have driven 4,000 kilometres through New Zealand, toured the coral uplift of Niue and hopped our way through the islands of French Polynesia, all while feeding Maya three square meals a day, creating time and space for her to nap and, if her smiles are any indication, keeping her very, very happy.

Our travels as a family have made us cry at times, laugh even more, and smile the most. In the end, success will simply be arriving at our doorstep in Banff and saying, “we did it.”

Author: Meghan J. Ward

Meghan J. Ward is an outdoor, travel and adventure writer based in Banff, Canada, and a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Meghan has written several books, as well as produced content for films, anthologies, blogs and some of North America’s top outdoor, fitness and adventure publications. She has a forthcoming travel memoir (Fall 2022), to published by Rocky Mountain Books.

15 thoughts

  1. Very heart felt Meg, thank you for sharing. In truth I’ve been getting a little beat up here in Banff lately so not only did your story resonate with me on a deeper level, it helped articulate life for me to. Clarity brings peace :).

    You guys are SUPER awesome by the way! Xxxxxx

  2. So proud of you Megs! In your honesty your love for each other and the people and places where you are comes through… beautiful. xx

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