So some of you may have noticed we’ve been ridonkulously (no this is not a typo) behind with our blog for a number of reasons. Laziness and procrastination? Yes, partly! Trying to cut down our screen time dramatically, being too busy seeing, doing, working and schooling and deciding in the end to do it retrospectively and enjoy looking back and making the vlog to document and share the memories.
However it’s now suddenly come to the last night of our trip and I feel it only fitting to share a few words about this mammoth undertaking as I sit here in bed in a Bangkok airport hotel , alarm set for 5AM awaiting our flight home early tomorrow morning.
HOW DID IT START?
A few of you have asked us this. It all started back in early 2017 with Josh saying how much he’d love to visit his colleagues in the Dominican Republic (who he had never met face to face, only online). I am very ashamed to say I didn’t even know where the DR was and didn’t think much of it. However a quick google search sold me very quickly on the idea (if you are like me and are unaware do a quick google search and you will see white sanded postcard-like Caribbean beaches)!
We thought about taking a term off school to go. We thought about Air-bnb-ing our house and looked at flights. Then we saw that around the world flights were the same price as to the DR. We thought if we rented our house through an agent it would make the long term travel viable (as many of your know this tenancy turned out to be what can only be likened to something in a horror movie….but that’s a story for another time!).
Our plans grew. We wanted to show our kids the world, outside of our little bubble. We wanted to take advantage of the incredible blessing of Josh’s ability to work 100% remotely (thanks X-Team!). We wanted to expand the kids’ horizons and particularly show them how crazily blessed we are living in suburban Melbourne and that our first world problems are such a small drop in the big scheme of things. We wanted to visit more colleagues, more friends, more family. That was 19 months ago.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Fast forward to 15 countries later and we here are on our 288th and final night of our trip and we can say it’s been the most marvelous and surprising year of our life. We met the people we planned on visiting and also people who were complete strangers – all of who will be life long friends. We visited friends who became family and family who became friends. We had family and friends visit us and seeing them was a precious taste of home and that came with that wonderful feeling of waking up on Christmas morning. Yes, I got electrocuted, but even more shocking was the realisation that everything we needed was each other and what could fit in a suitcase (well maybe 3 suitcases and 3 backpacks).
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
Although there have been PLENTY of tantrums and meltdowns (some even from the kids 😉) that the picture perfect travel photos don’t show, there has been so much growth for us as a family.
Dream vs. reality
Norah’s regular question in a casual sing song voice of “where are we going to sleep tonight Mumma?” (which when said in public combined with Josh’s rugged looks and my often unbrushed hair immediately makes us feel and appear homeless and attracts awkward glances from onlookers) really shows how flexible she and Eve have become. They are now seasoned travelers and adventurers, ready to board any bus, train, plane, Uber or tuk tuk that comes their way and to sleep in any combination thrown at them. Their relationship growth with each other has been incredible. The bond of sister has become the bond of dearest friend and though they still have their moments they are wonderful at helping and encouraging each other when needed.
Some of the things I’ve learned personally:
Don’t be a tourist with check lists of what to do and see. Be an enjoyer of whatever comes your way. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t see and do everything. The very best memories have not been the days we dragged to the “must see” attractions. They have been encounters with locals. Laughing at our language skills. Enjoying a meal at a local cafe. Taking crazy tuk tuk rides at night. Meeting non English speaking hosts who become like surrogate grandparents.
Be grateful. Even when all plans have failed there is always time to talk and in our case pray about the things we are thankful for. Even if it’s a working air conditioner, a non squat toilet (my balance and core strength is not what it used to be!) soft bed or that we have each other. Nothing brings more joy to heart than overhearing the girls tell each other “Aren’t we lucky”. Don’t get me wrong we all there has been plenty of complaints here and there and areas we need to work on but it’s been lovely to see these steps.
Travel is good for your health. At least my health anyway. After two major surgeries in two years and subsequent pain etc it’s been a long time since I’ve had a better year health wise (at least not since my 20s!). For those like me with long term health issues, don’t let it hold you back, it might even be a remedy.
Tablets (of the screen variety). Now I know this has become my hobby horse of late and there is absolutely zero judgement here about others’ choice of what is right for their family, but I’m including this for those that like me want to cut down screen time (specifically ipads for their kids). I can’t speak for all kids but in my experience our kids simply don’t need ipads. Do they make life easier? Without a doubt. Do they make life better? In my experience a resounding no. If you are looking to cut down or cut out screen time, please don’t buy the lie that you or the kids couldn’t cope without it or that everyone has one so they must (that’s how all 3 year olds end up with their own iPhone in 2020). We were so close to taking the trip without one, but after many people (including Eve’s former teacher) telling me I was crazy I believed there was no way I could get through the year of travel and homeschooling without an iPad so we bought one at our first stop in LA. The kids LOVED it. In September however, we decided to stop using it almost all together, when we found ourselves in a cottage in Cornwall and our Enid Blyton like surroundings prompted us to go old school. We never looked back. Even on 7 hour train trips and even not for home schooling. After just two slightly challenging days, the change we saw was incredible. Better sleep, behaviour, growth of creativity, better concentration and memorisation in terms of home schooling. If you never give your kid the regular opportunity to go without one you’ll never see what they are capable of without one and they might totally suprise you! Audiobooks became a great substitute when downtime was needed and the girls have loved listening to and imagining the characters in their many wonderful audiobooks. Don’t get me wrong we LOVE watching movies and shows together and on international flights are an absolute free-for-all but the quality of our time has been greatly enhanced sans iPad.
– THE VALUE OF TRAVEL. A trip doesn’t have to be year long around the world to be of value. Visits to Springvale to try some authentic Cambodian food, day trips to places never visited. All these things are great way of expanding the horizon. Kids are never too young to travel. Many people have asked us what is the point of taking a 3 year old (Norah’s age when we left) on an international trip. We are fully aware she’ll remeber little of the actual sights, but what she has learnt in rescillience, flexibility, interacting with others who speak a different language are invaluable life lessons that will never be forgotten. You don’t read to babies and toddlers thinking they will memorise the book, you read to them because it builds their language skills for life.
How good we have it. Apart from Cornwall (where I would have already immigrated to by now if it were possible!), we are abundantly blessed in Australia. We have such easy access to food, water, great schools. We have universal health care. We don’t have guns. We have checkout assistants at Woolies who will ask how your day was. It’s so easy to get caught up especially at this time of year in small details but one thing we want and take away is looking in the mirror of our lives and seeing the reality, an abundantly blessed life.
I am so grateful for my family – parents, siblings, in laws, my friends (especially my 3 best girlfriends who keep me sane who I chat with almost every day wherever I am), for my daughters who I think teach me more than I teach them, for Eve’s best friend Eva who we’ve Skyped regularly, for a steadfast God, and for a marriage which has only gotten stronger with an ongoing ability to make each laugh until we cry which has gotten us through many strenuous travel moments!
We don’t know yet. We know are looking forward to being in our house and celebrating Christmas (it will seem strange as the longest we’ve been in one place this year is just under 3 weeks). We can’t wait to see friends and family and church. Eve is super excited to go back her beloved local school and Norah is looking forward to starting kinder next year.
We have enjoyed reconnecting with friends and family overseas so much that we are determined to make more of an effort to see and reconnect with the ones that live just an hour away. We also want to visit our friends and family in other parts of Australia. We look forward to sharing the rest of our video blogs in the coming months but for now it’s over and out. These eight feet are stepping onto a plane x