16 Month Update: How is Everyone Doing?
I’m sitting in a salon in Rome getting my usual 6-week highlights. We, Lucy and I, arrived about 20 minutes late in an Uber, driven by a smooth-talking, flirty Italian man. Lucy tagged along to her her beautiful blonde trusses a much-needed trim. I think the last trim she had may have been in Singapore. It all feels so normal to me, but when I say it out loud to myself, it’s really kind of crazy that I’m here. That it isn’t a big deal to me anymore to navigate these new cities around the world.
So how are we doing, really? I figure it’s time for a good update.
We are approaching 18 months of full-time travel. One-and-a-half years of our lives since we left it all. For everyone but me, that means 1.5 years since they have seen anyone they know but the grandparents that have come to visit! I was lucky enough to head to UT a couple of months ago and see old friends and haunts. The rest of the family is a little mad that, technically, I am the only one who has done an actual 360 of the globe. They will get it soon I imagine- we plan to visit the US for the first time next summer at the latest.
It’s weird to think, but even this crazy, tumultuous life has become so common place to us that it feels comfortable. I wouldn’t go to say it is boring, because that is one thing it never is. How can it be when nothing is ever familiar for more than a week or two?
We no longer stress about much at all. Ok, everyone ELSE doesn’t stress much :) . I still do, a lot, about getting places and getting there on time. But relatively very little for what we are doing on a grand scale. None of us stress about going to a new country anymore. We don’t stress about the language barriers. We don’t worry about finding food or how we will get there. We know a few things for certain when it come to travel:
People live everywhere. That means they buy groceries, cook, see doctors, get haircuts, have their nails done, have kids that play, buy clothes, go out to eat, need transportation and have entertainment. Those things exist everywhere! The forms are slightly different, but not as different as you might think. Taxis are the same, cars are the same, traffic is about the same. Groceries vary for sure, but there are still all the basic items and I know I can feed my family in any culture on something (although the ease of figuring out what to buy and make does vary a great deal).
Travel days can be hard, but we will make it, even if we miss a flight or something is delayed. We haven’t missed a flight yet, thankfully, and because we are usually only booking one way with no connections, we have little chance of missing flights. There are always taxis at every airport in every city in the world. We even figured out how to lease a car in Europe short term and just ended our first least with Renault. We will start out next in about six weeks.
Chances are we can always find somewhere to sleep. Even if our Airbnb or hotel isn’t going to work, we can find something. When we showed up to Lisbon from Tokyo, Chris had accidentally booked two rooms in a hostel. We were two rooms of about eight. We show up around 1 am with luggage and kids on a different time zone. The kids were so exhausted they were wired and they start running through this house of sleeping people. I was mortified as I was trying to handle them alone while Chris parked our new rental car in a public lot far away. Other sleepers started poking their heads out and sushing us as I tried desperately to get toddlers to stay in bed and not cry. We pulled out every bribe in the book- candy, tv shows, our apple watches, emptying out my purse for fun, anything. Grace slept between Chris and I all of 3 hours, from 2-5 am. The other kids, tahnks to some Dramamine, put in a good 7 hours. Chris and I were so exhausted we just kept alternating who would wake for 15 seconds to bribe Grace with something new. Our other kids eventually woke and were running through the hostel like it was our own house. We were, politely, kicked out an hour later. No refunds issues either.
We had two more nights to fill in and managed to secure some rooms at an airport hotel in Lisbon in a total of about 10 minutes of searching. Our family was split between three rooms on 2 different floors of the hotel. BUT, we did it! We found somewhere, last minute, and we still had a great time. It was horrifically stressful and embarrassing in the moment, but now just a funny story.
So travel is no longer a stress. We throw around ideas of places around the world like it’s no big deal. To us, it is no big deal anymore. We know we can take our family of seven anywhere and make it.
How are the kids?
They are pretty dang happy. The boys are in heaven. They have bonded like thieves and become best friends. Mostly Lincoln and Grant, but Harrison is included when he wants to be and can fit their mold. He’s still young enough (4 years old) to be a bit independent and he’s cool with that.
Grace couldn’t be happier. Seriously. She has the three most important people in her life: mom, dad and Lucy, pretty much 24/7. She’s cool if some of that trio leave for a while. She knows we will come back. She’s NOT cool if all three of those leave, but she deals with it on the rare occasion it happens.
Lucy…. our sweet Lucy. She is our current stressor. She is happy. She loves the travel. She is just is growing up! She was our impetus to leave as we knew the time would come when our family alone would not be enough for her growing spirit and mind. And we are close to not being enough. She needs some friend input, but sadly, has no real close friends. The friends she had before were boys and those friendships have fizzled out (as they likely would have even if we had stayed). Any girl friendships are not strong enough to be long distance and that’s hard.
When we talk to her, she doesn’t want to stop yet. But we all know the day is soon coming. We are brainstorming and praying for how to get more of the right interaction in her life (shameless plug…. we are welcoming any and all families with pre-teen girls to come visit and be our new BFFs!!). Our family dynamics have shifted since we left…. where Lucy and Grant used to be close, she has outgrown the little-boy dynamic. Lincoln has grown to fill that to a maximum level. Grace is too young to be much of a playmate to anyone, so Lucy is in a new, lonely place. As parents, we are doing our best to fill that void, but there is only so much we can do. We are old farts, after all, to a preteen girl :) . We take her on frequent one-on-one time, we are finding new and fun hobbies she can do while we travel and I’m trying to introduce her to a whole new world of friends: books.
This is hard. We wish she was a bit more fulfilled in the friend department. We are scheming ways to maybe stay longer in one spot, or to connect with more girls next summer. Or even start to settle somewhere next summer for a longer stint, a few months at least, to give Lucy time to make some friends.
We constantly ask ourselves: how important are friends right now? Every woman knows, instinctively, friends are crucial. But they also come with the downsides: comparing, bullying, hurt, feeling left out or inadequate. Lucy is totally shielded from so much of this. Where her peers at home are starting to wonder if they should shave her legs, she is blissfully and totally unaware of this even being a possibility. She doesn’t feel left out or uninvited to outings, shunned at the lunch table or embarrassed about her looks or outfit. And so much of me IS NOT SAD this is missing from her life at this moment. It will come, of course it will come. It still manages to sneak in as she watches those around us, even in our sheltered bubble.
So can we put off the positive parts of friend interactions for her for a little while and relish what we aren’t having her deal with? I don’t really know. It’s a matter of great prayer and constant thought for us.
How are mom and dad?
I can only speak for Chris to a certain point, of course, but I think Chris is doing great. He loves the travel and as long as those he loves are with him and happy also, his world is wonderful. Our business is strong and if anything, he just brainstorms about how to have even more time with the family.
As for myself, I have hit a bit of a wall this week. It’s been brewing for a while. I can’t tell if it is fatigue or a bit of depression. Maybe a bit of both. We are able to take things quite slow last month in Croatia. which was lovely. I was hoping it would get me filled back up for Rome, but I didn’t quite get there. When we arrived in Rome a week ago, I was taken with the worst illness I’ve had in a decade at least. I was bed-ridden for nearly four straight days with a stomach flu and was so sick I couldn’t even sit up straight, let alone think or stay awake for more than an hour or so (at the worst point). This really knocked out the last of my reserves.
I’m depleted. Worn out. Emotionally drained.
I have almost no excitement at all to see Rome, which is uncharacteristic of me. I still feel a drive to get the kids out of our little city apartment, so we are getting out, but I just haven’t got the drive I usually do or want. We wandered around last night and found some amazing things downtown Rome as I was, well, a bit apathetic to it all. It made me so sad.
How do I get the fervor back? How do I get excited again to travel? Am I homesick? I can tell you, in the thick of my worst days of the flu, I wanted nothing more than to be back somewhere comfortable and easy. I got horribly homesick. Not for a specific place, since there really isn’t a place, but for a state of being different than my current one. One where life has a sameness and predictability and isn’t so darn exhausting.
I’ve dealt with very little, if any, depression in my life before. I’m hoping this is a quick spell. I’m trying to be patient with myself. If we end up not seeing much of Rome in the meantime, that’s OK. The rest of the family is quite content to just be at home together…. I’m the one who is always pushing us to get out and about. So I’ll push a little less and rest a little more for a while. I’ll keep praying, keep renewing my spirit through scripture study and seek out God’s help.
So much of the battle is sometimes just admitting it is there. So I’m on my way.
What do we love about our life?
Outside of the obvious, seeing such amazing things around the world, what are the upsides we are reaping? Mostly, it is just how close our family is. We spend so much time together and it has gotten to be the most comfortable place to be for all of us. Sure, we bicker a bit and Chris and I sometimes lose out tempers and get out of line with the kids. However, we are quick to make up and try to get back in line. It’s just so much happier that way and where we all genuinely want to be.
Just yesterday we took a lazy approach to school and mostly all hung out on mom and dad’s bed. I was helping two boys with school, reading with Harrison, tickling Grace. Lucy was making a project on the floor. Dad made a quick snack and we all watched a documentary about the Roman Colosseum on our bed. It was such a simple, happy moment and we were all so content. Eventually, we made our way out of the house (at nearly 5 pm) to ride the bus downtown and wander. We found dinner, watched some street performers and headed back home.
We love the distraction-free time we get as a family. It is rich and rewarding. It is pure and unadulterated family joy. I KNOW, more and more with each passing week, how much I will miss this period of our lives when it is gone. How I will ache for this togetherness again. We know our kids will grow up, will settle, find friends, get busy and then eventually leave us. We know it, but we push it to the back of our minds and say to ourselves, “Just a bit longer.” We are selfish parents.
We also love the freedom from things. We miss them, we do. We miss our own space. We miss pets. Oh, how the kids miss pets. They daydream about the pets they will have as much as they daydream about anything in our future. I miss hosting parties. I miss gatherings with people I know. I miss it deeply. However, we love the freedom of having so little. It’s refreshing to pack up all you own (or at least, all that you have to worry about right now) and leave.
We love taking a little bit of the places we go and storing away what we loved the most. The parks of Japan, the fresh food and fun atmosphere of Thailand, the genuine love of people in Portugal, the perfection of France. The vibrancy of Rome. The pace of Europe. I hope that in small ways, at least, we are taking little pieces of these and making them part of who we are and what we want in our future. That is a goal of our, as we search for our new life. I know we won’t ever fit in again into a “normal” mold, if such a thing does exist. I know we won’t be able to relate to many people in the future because of our experiences. However, in some ways that’s OK. We want to create something new. We are making a new mold for our family and our future. We are shaping and unfolding our children in a way that isn’t often done and is totally unique to our family alone. We are creating bonds that I hope last through all the business and heaviness of a “regular life” that will come again someday.