Three Frustrations and a Miracle: Week 1 Abroad

Three Frustrations and a Miracle: Week 1 Abroad

We carefully mapped our route. I packed and re-packed our bags. We had all of our favorite travel snacks. We even made the perfect road trip playlist.

I was prepared to drive out of Utah and start our 2 years abroad.

And, just as I was wiping away my last tears from saying goodbye to loved ones and starting to feel excited about our adventure, we got a huge rock chip smack in the middle of our windshield.

I was not prepared to spend over an hour at a mechanic’s shop on our first day out of town.

Despite all the best intentions, sometimes plans just don’t work out as expected!

…Is what I told myself that day.

Three days later we found ourselves spending one of our precious days in Calgary, Canada between tire shops trying to figure out why we needed two new tires on our previously perfectly aligned car!

$400 for 2 tires? Seriously? We’ll be selling this car at the end of the month when we leave Canada, for crying out loud! How important are tires, again?

The day after that the bleach monster attacked half of our carefully determined wardrobe (which was supposed to last us the next two years.) I’ve never used bleach before and have no idea how, of all times, our first laundry batch abroad ended up with stains All. Over. It.

That same week I had a work crises, we had trouble scheduling a nanny for both Calgary and our upcoming trip to Vancouver, some well-scheduled travel plans fell through, and other unexpected complications threatened our daily activities.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the universe was trying to tell us we’d made a mistake. None of those things had ever happened before! Were they signs we shouldn’t be making this journey?


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I tried to rally my attitude to enjoy our last couple of days in Calgary and Banff National Park, but those thoughts kept coursing through my mind. Although Calgary is a beautiful city and we found some incredibly fun and unique things to do, it’s still just across the border from the United States and very similar in lots of ways.

If we were running into work, lifestyle, travel, and practical issues in Canada then what could we expect from the rest of our trip abroad to more exotic places?

Hello. My name is Susannah and I’m an overthinker.

10 days into our trip we made the 7-hour drive from Jasper National Park to Vancouver. Ben offered to drive (thankfully) and I did my best to distract myself with work and naps.

Until Ben called out in alarm that we were almost out of gas and the next service station was 50 km in either direction. That’s it, I thought. We’re going home. 

I knew I needed to be supportive for his sake, but I felt like crying. How could things be going so wrong?

Ben pulled off onto a side road and we talked about some options.

Should we turn around and try to get to a closer gas station that was uphill? Should we try to coast as much as possible to a farther gas station that was downhill? Do any of our credit cards have roadside assistance to bring us gas? How long would it take Ben to use his mountain bike to bring back gas once we run out? Could we trust Canadian drivers if he decided to hitch hike while I stayed with Whit in the car? 

Deciding on option 2 we got back onto the road. Ben hoped to turn the car off (manual transmission) as often as possible on downhill portions to reserve our gas for uphill sections. Although our route was supposed to lose a lot of elevation overall, the first section we had to drive was actually uphill. Talk about discouraging!

Just as Ben started to get visibly frustrated we saw a construction crew up ahead. I was bothered thinking that slow traffic which has been relegated to just one lane would slow us down more, but Ben was inspired.

As soon as the orange cones came into view Ben swerved inside  them instead of staying in the lane beside them. What is he doing?

He parked our car between two work trucks and got out. I’m afraid of authority, so I stayed in the car and just imagined how much trouble civilians could get into by infiltrating a construction zone. Probably not jail time. Deportation?

A few minutes later we were pulling out of the construction zone and weaving into the single line of cars.

Ben explained to me that he was struck with the idea that construction crews have to carry extra gas for their trucks. Genious! When we pulled over he talked to the first worked he found and asked about getting some gas from them. The worked called over to the crew foreman and told Ben where we could meet someone to help us.

Oh. My. Word. Construction crews have extra gas. I never thought about that.

We pulled over at the other end of the construction zone a couple of miles later and a worker met us with a gas can. Ben got out to explain our situation and thank him, and they filled up our tank.

We only had American money with us, so when Ben offered to pay this man he waved the money away and told Ben to just pay it forward.


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I offered to say a prayer of thanks for our family as we got back on the road, and was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. Every day we pray that we’ll be kept safe and that we’ll have the inspiration we need to make good decisions.

Today our prayers were answered.

In our time of need Ben did  have the inspiration to ask the right person for help and we were kept safe. Who knows what could have happened to us if we had run out of gas?

Ben could have been hurt while riding his bike looking for gas to bring us, our car could have been hit while on the side of the road, Whit and I could have met with criminals while waiting with the car… and that’s only physical damage.

Who knows how that experience would have set me back emotionally?  

What we’re doing is hard, and I need to be strong. I can not doubt our adventure already!

Not only did that construction crew address our physical and emotional need for help, it also taught me a powerful lesson about the kindness of strangers.

Y’all, the world is GOOD. People area KIND. There is love EVERYWHERE.

When we needed help the Very. First. Person. we asked was willing to give it us. And in exchange? Asked us to be kind to others. Wow. He didn’t know about our journey abroad. He didn’t know about the frustrations and doubts we’d been having. He didn’t know how much we needed a win. And still he helped.

I’m a religious person and I believe God inspired Ben with the idea to ask the construction crew for gas. He also inspired the crew to help us. That doesn’t just mean that He took care of us in one singular moment of need, it means God is willing to help us on our journey. He approves. We’re doing the right thing!

If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.