March 25 would have been our daughter Zama’s fourth birthday. She passed away when we were traveling in Ecuador in March 2015, just a few days before she would have turned two. Losing a child is any parent’s worst nightmare, and like everyone, we never could have imagined that it would happen to us. Zama’s death was an incredibly intense experience, one that has shaped who we are as a family and our decision to change our lifestyle completely to travel full time.
It’s been important for us to keep Zama’s memory alive. Since we decided to travel and have an online blog, we wanted to be authentic by being open about our experience having and losing our second daughter, and how that has affected our life. We’re aware that learning about Zama’s death sometimes brings up a lot of emotion in people who meet us or who read our website. But it’s the truth. And it’s okay to feel a lot. But you don’t need to feel sorry for us. And you don’t need to feel uncomfortable or be afraid to bring it up. We love talking about Zama! She was, and still is, very much a part of our family. The intensity of our love for her and the joy we experience when we remember her is so much stronger than any sorrow we feel as a result of her death.
We have photos of Zama taped to the fridge in our Eathroamer so we can see her every day. Arjuna has the ability to close his eyes and tell us what Zama is doing in “Angel Land” at any given moment. When we’re doing something fun like making pancakes, playing at the beach, or going on a hike, we always talk about what Zama would be doing if she were with us. “I bet Zama would be sneaking chocolate chips right now,” or “Do you think Zama would be learning to surf yet?” or “I think Zama would be mischievous and climb up that tree!” Even Lux knows to point to the photos on our fridge when we ask her to show us Zama and she often gives the pictures kisses.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how Zama inspired us to travel. Josh and I actually made the decision that we wanted to sell our home and business to travel full time before Zama died. When we owned our yoga studio, we had our kids at work with us a lot, we made sure to take regular road trips to BC, and we traveled to a foreign country for 3-4 weeks with our kids at least once each year. For us, traveling was our happy place because of the time we got to spend with our kids, and we were always trying to figure out how to do it more. Losing Zama forced our hearts to open and accelerated the process of us changing our lifestyle completely. We fully realized the finite nature of life and the importance of living in the moment. But more important for us was the conscious choice not to retreat into sorrow and fear (although we do experience these emotions) but to go even deeper into love and trust.
We felt confident to move quickly in the direction of our dreams because we didn't allow ourselves to get bogged down by the fear of all the what ifs. What if we sell everything and we have no job, no house, and no money? What if we’re traveling and the truck breaks down or we got lost or get sick or get robbed? What if people think we're crazy!? So what. In the grand scheme of our experience, these fears all seem trivial. There was no way for us to predict or stop the accident that killed Zama. We choose to believe that things happen for a reason and we consciously create our reality. Even when things get intense, we know that we can handle any challenge that comes our way. What matters most to us is being together as family and doing our best to live joyfully.
The most important lesson Zama taught us is to do what makes us happy. Zama was always pure love, light and joy. She had a smile for every person who came into our yoga studio. She loved to sing and dance and make others laugh. She had a lightness in her step so when she moved it was like her feet barely touched the ground. For us, being together on the road gives us simplicity and joy. We feel that connected to her and honour who she is by doing what we love to do the most.
It’s not that we never feel sad and shed tears. We miss Zama every day. But most of the time we smile as we imagine what a big four-year-old girl she’d be today. As time passes, it’s getting harder to imagine exactly what she would look like or how her voice would sound. But we know she would be full of smiles and laughter and attract even more people to us on our journey than our Earthroamer does! We’re sure she’d be wonderful playmate for Arjuna and that she’d try to mother little Lux.
To honour Zama on her birthday we’ll light a candle for her and send her blessings. We’ll look at our photos, watch our Zama videos and remember our favourite Zama stories. We also have a tradition of throwing flowers into the water in honour of her – we did this in the Red Deer River in 2015, in the ocean in Victoria in 2016, and this year it will be in the Pacific ocean in Sayulita, Mexico. And of course it’s a birthday party! Arjuna has already made decorations for our camp site, we’ll bake chocolate cake, sing happy birthday and let our kids blow out four birthday candles for their sister.
We’re not traveling for Zama or because of Zama. We’re just living the way we want to live right now, trying to find joy each day, and raise happy kids with a balanced perspective. Zama inspired us to be fearless enough to go for our dreams.
Thank you Zama. Happy Birthday Angel.