My Facebook newsfeed of late is chock-full of photos and status updates from my Backroads colleagues residing in far-flung locations. I see gorgeous sunsets in Costa Rica. The hustle and bustle of city life in India. Tumbling Hawaiian waterfalls and spectacular New Zealand landscapes. Me? I spend my winters living in a boys' dorm in snow-covered Wisconsin. I find this rather humorous. In place of gregarious co-leaders, my building-mates are 120 teenage boys. They like to slide down the ramp outside our door creating a 20-foot patch of ice, rearrange their rooms at midnight, putt golf balls in the hallway above our living room and (from the current sounds of it) play laser tag in the first-floor lounge. I get to enjoy these delightful surroundings thanks to my husband, who is spending two years serving as "dorm parent" and religion teacher at a boarding high school. He is also a Lutheran minister, and in May, he will be assigned to a church and we will move somewhere yet unknown. When we got engaged, my mother told me, "Your grandma always thought you would marry a pastor!" Wow! I thought, standing up a little taller, a knowing smile on my face. Must be my friendly, welcoming and selfless demeanor! "Yes," continued Mom, "she thought you'd make a good pastor's wife because you write so well. You know, so you can help write bulletins." Thanks, Grandma.
Although I've always been quite religious, marrying a minister never crossed my mind. I (perhaps wrongly) assumed certain characteristics of a pastor's wife, none of which described me:
- Pastors' wives aren't world travelers, of course! (I've spent the majority of the past eight years flitting around the globe.)
- They wear white, squeaky, sensible shoes. (My shoes are sensible, if you ask me, but they're Merrell trail runners.)
- They stay at home, sew, knit and are in charge of Sunday school. (I started knitting a scarf nine years ago and haven't finished; can't sew to save my life--sorry, Mom--and have never taught Sunday school.)
- Their life goals are rooted in generosity and care for others. (I wish to be a contestant on Survivor, visit all 50 states, and snowboard without falling off the ski lift.)
- Pastors' wives always smile and are never grumpy. (I get extremely crabby when I'm tired.)
I am breaking my own stereotypes.
Guests are often surprised when they learn my husband is a minister. I suppose the stereotypes I held for so long are prevalent in society as well. Sometimes, when my guests find out about my "other" life, they want to discuss religion with me. Other times, entranced by their vacations, they forget. Or they choose to let their newfound insight into my life go unmentioned. However, at the end of a trip, the compliment that always means the most to me is, "I think you will be a great pastor's wife." Perhaps I don't teach Sunday school, but I can relate to a wide variety of people. Perhaps I have selfish ambitions, but I also love going above and beyond to create special experiences for others, something I get to do every day on a Backroads trip. Yes, I still get that pang of wanderlust deep in my belly when I hear or see of others' globetrotting adventures. Yes, I would love to escape the icy weather to hike in southeast Asia or make my way down the South American coast. But I've chosen a different path, and although I love my job with Backroads--and I really, really do--when winter is over and I'm back out leading again, part of me is always a little conflicted. Like many long term travelers, sometimes I miss home. Even if my home is a boys' dorm, for the moment.