Tag Archives: traveling

Rituals for Leaving Home

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photographs her Havanese dog standing on top of her suitcase painted in a pre-travel leaving home ritual.When I leave home to go to Australia I will kiss the dog on her nose eighteen times. I will build a tiny campfire by the pond and ponder where I’m going. I’ll buy a new book. And pay all my bills.

Before setting off on a trip I always clean the house, and eat every last thing in the fridge, stashing away a frozen pizza so I shouldn’t return home hungry to a completely barren house. Other pre-travel practices involve weeks of packing and repacking my luggage, and painting or repainting the red and yellow dots on my bags to make My Bags look different from all the other black rolling suitcases.

These are simply rituals, small acts I do to make myself feel comfortable. Grounded. To give me strength, maybe. These are not things one HAS to take care of, like arranging for houseplants to be watered and the mail to be brought in. No, these practices are to reduce stress. And express my gratitude for having this home that hugs, and holds, and sometimes hides me.

As part of my farewell ritual, I try to have everything all packed and ready at least a day or two before my actual departure date so I can have the last day, or the last evening, to sit still and listen to the sounds of the house from my favorite spots inside and out. So that I have time to remind myself that this is where I belong, and this is the place I will return to.

The very last things I do before leaving: I stand before the life-size portrait of my daughter who died, and invite her to come with me (or at least to lend me her strength while I am gone). Then I look around the house like it might be the last time I ever see it.

My pre-travel leaving-home ritual enables me to face the world. Whatever happens next, whatever chaos or misfortunes I may encounter in my travels, I know I will find peace, order, balance, … my roots, right where I left them, when I return home.


What do you do as you get ready to travel away from home?

An Unexpected Moment of Joy

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, at peace, watches the sky and is grateful to be exactly where she isA feeling came over me like a brain wave. A flush of contentment, an inner spread of bliss. Like sweet fortified wine seeping through my entire system.

There was no reason for this. I’d traveled from Ithaca to Denver via Detroit. I should have been cranky. And I had been most of the day. But then, fifteen hours after boarding the early morning plane I found myself sitting on a folding chair on the lawn outside Temple Emanuel in Denver, with my sister and cousins and a hundred or more strangers hanging onto cellphones, children, and dogs. Under a graying evening sky we sat, listening as the temple’s cantor played her guitar and sang like an angel, and asked us to rise-if-able, and be seated, and rise-if-able again and greet those around us.

This was not a scene I’d usually find comfortable. But sitting there in the gentle breeze I forgot about how many hours I hadn’t slept. I forgot about the harsh descent into the dry brown desert surrounding Denver International, and the haze that hid any possible view of the nearby Rocky Mountains. My sore back and restless leg syndrome grew faint and almost disappeared. Soon it no longer mattered that I couldn’t see the mountains or any decent-sized body of water. Something in the music or in the air had squelched every ache and disappointment. I melted back into my chair and smiled at the kids playing quietly with dogs as the cantor continued her songs. At peace with the world, I watched the sky, grateful to be exactly where I was.

I even joined in some of the singing.

And even though the people were singing in praise of God, and even though I myself had not spoken to God in many years (or even checked in briefly to see if anything had changed in our relationship), I’m pretty sure if I lived anywhere near that mile-high-in-the-sky city of Denver, I’d be going back to the Friday evening services at the temple every week to recapture my moment of pure, perfect happiness.


When and where did your unexpected moment of joy happen?