Please at no point would I ever want to give the impression that I know what I’m doing. That I have some sort of well-thought out, long-term plan with travelling. Most of the time it feels like we are living a complete experiment. And none more so than when we’re going home. Going home is a mixed bag.
We’ve done it three times so far since July 2015. Once for the still-surreal visit for Jack’s dad’s funeral. The second time, we sighed with relief. Now we’re doing it again. I know that returning feels a bigger deal for us than for the people at home, where life passes slow and steady. Don’t get me wrong, I like slow and steady. When I’m home, I feel split in two. Watching my friends makes me gulp. They’re working jobs, building resources, paying off mortgages. Am I missing something? Should I be doing it too? Or is this travelling life going to bite us on the ass in ten years?
And yet it’s becoming clear that this travelling life has begun to mould us for no ‘back to normal’ return. Work and school and life. Jack has come to understand that he can’t build his property business remotely. He can retain it but not build it. His business is his third and most intimately known child. The one HE breastfed. The girls have sacrificed their sense of teenage steadiness. If those two last words go together! Ha! Still, perhaps teenagers need steadiness more than even children do. So we’ve been exploring the kind of steadiness they need, like a family that sticks together.. lame, I know! Finally school and their friends they keep in touch with. And the sacrifice for me? Well, I guess it’s carving out my own career. Oh well. All these sacrifices have been for Quest. To travel and feel free.
With these feelings brewing in us like a micro-brewery for our return, Florida becomes a nice buffer between Quest and home. And the food is awesome. It makes you appreciate America at its best I think. In its most egalitarian way. Political upheaval aside, America is still the most magnificent of cultural melting pots. You see it most simply with the variety of foods on offer. Hummus huts, burrito bars, pierogi places. The list is endless. And all cultures come together to eat in America. And it’s good value. Ok, I’m not going to quibble about prices going up or down over the years. Just go to a supermarket in Barbados and you’ll never quibble again. Secondly, it’s fresh, readily available and even ingenious. To begin with, we had Uber deliver sushi to us on the first night in the motel. We didn’t need it. We were exhausted. But it was Lulu’s birthday. Jack wasn’t going to let this occasion pass without celebration. Super dad doesn’t cover it. I was already in bed when the sushi came.
Now, anyone who knows or just sees us near food knows that we.. ahem.. enjoy it. Ha! For me, food is about living. Ok, I could lose a couple of pounds right now, it’s true. Sliding into my mid-forties. But I feel healthy and this is too nice a feeling to ignore.
So, for now bring on the burritos in Chipotle. How can rice, beans, meat and salad not be healthy? Wait.. I don’t want to know the answer. This Mexican outlet is just across the road from the motel. Until the next day, when we discovered that it was shut. A Chipotle worker sat outside waiting for his lift home, amiably explaining to gutted customers there was an issue with the plumbing, turning away a steady stream of customers. Including a highway police man, guns clinging to his torso and us; the greedy yachties.
‘There’s another Chipotle about ten minutes away,’ he said helpfully.
We were off. Our Uber arrived. Uber; another amazing part of staying in Florida. We don’t have Uber in our part of Wales. None in the Caribbean that we’ve found. But in Florida, it’s indispensable. It gets us everywhere.. to each food venue accompanied by a large slice of the American dream. Everybody tells us their story. We’ve met a Venezuelan lady who joined her parents to escape Maduro. A legal secretary who retired, dyed her hair blue and now enjoys meeting people. A Middle-Eastern dad who times his Uber shifts to pick up his son, a pilot returning to Miami airport. The son might drive a plane but his dad will drive him home, thank you. If I could be, I would totally be an Uber driver too. Much too modern in Aberystwyth though. So, in anticipation of going back in time in Wales, we hit the other Chipotle and joined the ever-present queue. Afterwards, we walked ten yards and ended up in Starbucks. We sipped coffees and watched a woman in a mobility scooter make her way down the middle of the road. All the while, her pink phone was clutched to her ear.
The next day, a Peruvian lady picked us up. We were using Uber to check out a local store that specialised in underwater cameras.
‘If you like food, you need to go to this Peruvian restaurant. It’s called Bravo.’ she instructed.
Well, what could we do? After a morning of staring at complicated and expensive cameras, we walked in to the cool, darkened interior. ‘What’s ceviche?’ Lulu asked, looking at the menu.
‘A Peruvian speciality. Like South American sushi.’
Her eyebrows raised at the Incan-style graffiti paintings on the walls. ‘Can I have some?’
We stayed for hours. Lime-marinated ceviche, slow-cooked pork, barbecued chicken and rice. Passion-fruit juice and Cubana espressos; sweet and strong, the only espresso that’s worth drinking after years at spitting out the bitter stuff. Finally we had picarones, Peruvian doughnuts smothered in rich honey.
‘Can we have 40 nuggets tonight?’ Delphine asked as we got up to leave. No sign of a joke on her face.
Jack looked confused. I turned to him. ‘McDonalds next to the motel sells 40 nuggets as a single order.’
‘Not 40 nuggets!’ Lulu bemoaned. ‘It’s way too much, remember? Plus I’m stuffed now.’
Delphine and I looked at each other. We smiled.
‘Yeah, Delph,’ I said, ‘it’s way too much.’