And then the excitement wears off…

Two summers ago, my wife and I sat together one night on the couch talking about “what if we just traveled?”  It had started with a conversation about possibly moving to Ireland for work, but had morphed into “how can we make it happen?”  The idea of world schooling was new to us and the thought of being completely nomadic was just starting to grow in our brains.  But we started to get excited, and it spawned into us making plans and doing more research.

Our excitement grew as we dug into more about it.  We started getting serious and taking real steps to make this dream a reality.  The whole family loved to spent hours talking about the places we wanted to go, what we would see, how amazing it would all be.  We got our passports.  We told our families.  We put our house on the market.  I told my employer.  And then in April, it all happened.  The house sold and, like that, we were boarding a plane to a new adventure.

That adventure has seen us…

  • Successfully selling our house and a large portion of our belongings in Seattle.
  • Embarking on an adventure around the globe that has so far included 8 countries, 45,970 miles in the air and another 4619 miles on the ground.
  • We celebrated birthdays in Australia, Greece and Mexico.
  • We had our first Christmas away from all our family.
  • We’ve dipped our toes in the Pacific, Southern, and Indian Ocean.  Not to mention the Mediterranean and Caribbean Sea.
  • We’ve seen orangutans, proboscis monkeys, macaques, kangaroos, koalas, emus, wallabies, sea lions, seals, and wedge-tailed eagles in the wild.
  • We’ve found that lemonade means something different everywhere you go.
  • We’ve gotten sick on 4 continents.
  • We circled the globe in 202 days…which means we didn’t break any records.

That excitement we had in planning our nomadic world adventure carried us through several months of travels.  Mostly because you’re just amazed you pulled it off! You’re in a new country, seeing amazing things.  You share pictures of your adventures and everyone tells you how amazing it all looks.  But then life sets in.

You don’t leave life behind. You’re not running away from it, you’re just living it a different way.  And so, after that glow of excitement wears off and you find yourself in a place that isn’t as exciting, suddenly you come face to face with life again.  It is at this point that you question every decision you made and wonder if you’ve just screwed everything up.  How do you regain that excitement or at least that drive you had when you made it all a reality?

That was where we found ourselves while we were in Kuala Lumpur and Athens.  Wondering what we were doing and if we had made a big mistake. I think most families that choose this life have this debate at some point.  But how do you get passed that?

Find what you really love about this life, and embrace that.  Whatever part of it makes your family happy, focus your travels and plans around that.  For us, it was people.  Meeting and bonding with other families has been our favorite part of our travels.  And it was that realization that gave our travels new life.

Instead of plotting courses to places we felt “we should see,” or “ we planned to see,” we started plotting our course to places that we could connect with current or future friends.  Whether it’s staying for six weeks in a world schooling hot bed or sharing a house in Wales with a family we met in Bali, we have prioritized people over places.  The places still do matter, but they are secondary to how we use them to connect with others.

We are also focusing on Spanish speaking countries, as we all want to become bilingual, and Spanish seems like the most logical first step.  We have fallen in love with a lot about Mexico, and each time we have a successful Spanish interaction there is an excitement about learning the language.

We went from a low point, where we were doubting everything, to a place where we are excited about what lays ahead and the many people we will get to connect with in the coming year.

You’re not from around here: Australian Coffee

Living the last fifteen years in Seattle, the center of coffee snobbery in the States, I was intrigued to hear that the Aussies had a similar love affair with coffee. Coffee is a way of life in Seattle. The beans, the brewing method, the vessel, the additions: everything is scrutinized. It goes beyond what you get from the barista, it’s what you brew at home. “Oh, you use a Mr. Coffee? Well, I guess that works, but my French press makes a perfect cup.”  Espresso is one thing, but Seattleites love their drip coffee as well.

While Seattle is the height of coffee snobbery, everywhere you travel in the States you know you can get a cup of coffee.  Every hotel has a coffee pot, and every restaurant has drip coffee.  Believe me, I’ve had some horrible cups of coffee over the years, the topper being the Worcestershire sauce posing as coffee at a Huddle House in Olive Branch, Mississippi.  But through good and bad, I’ve remained a black coffee drinker.  Don’t get me wrong; I love a latte, but the norm is just a cup of black coffee.

My first inkling that I was going to have a problem was on the flight to Sydney.  The flight attendant asked if I wanted coffee.  Being that I was up at 5am and needed to function, I said yes.  He asked how much cream and sugar I wanted.  I said, “just black.”  To which he laughed, and said something along the lines of, “Ah yes, you’re American.  You’re used to bitter coffee.”  I chuckled back, and drank the passable cup of coffee, not knowing that this was just the start.

The my first Australian coffee shop, the menu board said “Coffee – $4.”  I went up and ordered a coffee.  The barista looked at me, waiting.  With a heavy sigh, she said, “What type of coffee?” and then proceeded to rattle off several drink options quickly.  Getting a little flustered, and not yet in complete sync with the accent, I just stared dumbly at her.  She just looked and me and said, “How about a flat white?  Yeah, let’s go with a flat white.”  After another silent moment, “Sure, that sounds great.”  I paid, and meekly joined my daughter at our table to wait for our drinks.

I don’t like feeling like an idiot. This was one of those moments when it happened and it was all because I assumed that coffee was the same every where.  Coffee is a drink. You drip some water through ground beans, and this magical black liquid comes out.  However, coffee in Australia is a category; it means nothing without clarification of what type of coffee you want.

Our first apartment in Sydney, a lovely Airbnb in Kennsington, had a Nespresso machine.  This was a nice break-in period for me, as I continued to have brewed coffee every morning, ignorant to what a luxury this was.

Once on the road, it turns out drip coffee is not really a thing here.  This isn’t to say it is non-existent, but it is far from the norm.  What was more perplexing was that while the typical Aussie enjoys their espresso, if they have coffee at home, it’s INSTANT!  Really?  But it’s there in every hotel, and on all the TV ads: instant coffee.

The real question for all you coffee drinkers out there, when faced with the reality of drinking instant coffee every morning, what would you do?

My answer?  I have a flat white when I’m out, but in the mornings, I have tea.  And just to really blend in, I have it with milk.  And you know what?  I like it.

Things I Learned After One Week of Travel

Okay, it’s early. There are many more adventures, problems, mix ups, flights, meals and joy to be had. However, after a week on the road, I have already learned (or re-learned in some cases) a lot about myself and how to do this all better.

Family Dynamics Exist on the Road

This should go without saying, but when you plan a big undertaking like this, you tend to forget that the things that drive you nuts at home still apply when you’re traveling the world.

The fact that my son talks non-stop, enjoys pushing people’s buttons and like to do things that scare his mom doesn’t change when we travel. The fact that my daughter tends to find a way to become a complete grump and loves to boss her brother around isn’t going to change just by going to Hawaii. And the fact that I tend to default to “no” on things and complain or get negative quickly is something that isn’t going away with just a Mai Tai on the beach.  My wife is perfect though. She has no issues. Nope, nothing to see here.

The good news is, with the way our travel sets up, we have time to work through these things, and we have four people willing to work together. Well, three people for sure, Little Man is stubborn about this stuff, but he’s easy to lead in the right direction.

Hawaiian Food is Perfect

How can you go wrong with pork…pork…pork…fresh seafood…pork…Mac Salad…pork…fried rice for breakfast…pork…spam musubi…pork…did I mention pork?  I’m sure I will encounter more culinary delights…but right now, this is heaven.

Be More Willing to Say “Yes”

This applies directly to myself and my little girl. We both tend to get into a funk where we can be surly and negative. I don’t know where she gets it. Must be from her mother.

The key is allowing yourself to default to happy and be willing to say yes. Part of this is being better at letting go of whatever it is that pissed you off in the first place; let it disappear into the past like it should and then move forward.

I have a feeling there will be more updates and learning on this one.

Hotels Suck

We aren’t staying in or planning to stay in many hotels, and thank god, because they suck. Oh, they have their place. If you’re on a road trip and need a pit stop, hotels are perfect. If you and the wife are doing a weekend away, a hotel could work. But if you’re staying somewhere for more than a couple days with a family of four? Hotels suck.

They are expensive, they trap you in with food options, the rooms never live up to the pictures, and they are never a good way to experience the place you’re staying. However, they often have nice pools.

However, the dynamic changes if you go all out for the right hotel.  The Royal Hawaiian is worth every penny.

Use the Time Changes to Your Advantage

When we planned to fly from Seattle to Hawaii to Australia, one thing we didn’t really consider was the time change.  The good news is it worked to our advantage. Seattle being three hours ahead of Hawaii, we’re getting up and moving by 7:30am and we’re all wiped out by 8:30pm.  It has meant more sleep for all of us and more time during the day to do things.  Just today, we were coming back from a late breakfast and my daughter saw that it wasn’t 11:00am yet, got all excited and said, “Wow, I thought it was a LOT later than that!  We still have the whole day!”

It’s one of those things that we tend to forget when traveling: plan for the time changes, and use them to your advantage.  When we went to Disney World, many years ago, we had the opposite issue, since Orlando is four hours ahead of Seattle. Still, we made it work.  Instead of trying to wake up early and “beat the lines,” we slept in and hit things later, when all early risers have exhausted kids and are ready to head home.

My Son Can Swim Until I Can’t See Straight

Seriously, I think the boy is part seal.  Whether it’s in the pool or the beach, he just keeps going. He is fearless in the water, but also not quite fully swimming, which means that we have to stay on high alert with him.  It’s tiring, and he never stops.  This might drive me to my grave.

It’s Always Better to Tweak Than Force

Listen, with any family travel, there are multiple people invested in having a good time; they all have different ideas of what they want to do, and they all have different limits on things.  When you set out with a plan, always be willing to adjust it.  This doesn’t mean skipping things, or canceling plans, but it means adjusting.  We’ve had several days where we set out with one plan, and changed on the fly due to opportunity, exhaustion levels, or forgotten bug spray (it turns out it was in the car the whole time, but it still worked out).

Forcing the original plan or sticking to a plan that is obviously not working is a bad idea in most arenas, but is especially harmful when traveling with a family.  Learn to go with the flow.

This is just the start, I’m sure more pearls of wisdom (or obvious things that I just realized) will come up as we go.

What’s the Point?

As we prepared to sell all our belongings and set off on a world adventure, the reaction people had was pretty similar.  Everyone asked the easy question: “Where?”

Juliana or I would explain our current plans, where those plans might lead, and where might be next.  If they asked more about a specific location, we would divulge more info about our plans there, and the next reaction was usually along the lines of…

“Wow, that’s so cool!”

“I don’t think I could do that, you guys are really brave!”

“That is going to be so cool for your kids!  What a great experience for them.”

Very few ever asked the underlying question, the one that really had more soul searching to it: “Why?”

The fact is, that question would of been a lot harder for either of us to answer completely, and, honestly, likely would of varied in response by who was asking and who was being asked.  But the why is what has been on my mind for a long time, and now that we’ve embarked on the first part of the journey, it has bubbled up to the surface even more.

When I roll this question around in my mind, there are four goals that keep filtering to the top.  Of those, one is the clear overarching theme, but all of them are worthy of launching this undertaking.

Truly experience the world and become a global citizen

The level of fear and hatred of different countries, races, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations and beer preference has been on a steep rise over the last several years.  While there isn’t a way to truly escape this, as every country has some form of it, we wanted to get out and experience for ourselves that the world is a beautiful, friendly and amazing place.  We wanted to step beyond our limited world exposure, trapped in the bubble of Seattle, and experience the world for what it is.  We know it won’t be perfect, but we also know that there is a lot more than what we’ve seen.  The fact that we get to expose our kids to this are such an impressionable time is just icing on the cake.

Take the idea of “home schooling” to the extreme

We have been home schooling our kids for the last year or two.  The exact reasons are enough for another post, but we have enjoyed the process of teaching the kids in a very individualized manner, and focusing on topics they really care about.  As a friend of mine said when I told him about our plans, “it’s like the coolest field trip ever!”  Yes, yes it is, and it will allow us to not only approach home schooling from a new angle, but in a new way.  The fact that we both get to be much more involved in it makes it even more exciting.

Regret sucks

This one is more about me than the family, at least from a conscious prospective.  As I hit forty, I looked back and regretted a lot of decisions and missed opportunities in my life,  one of which was not going to Australia right after college like I had planned.  I regretted not taking a bigger chance on some of the career options that came my way, not fighting harder to do the things I really wanted to do.  I sat there, being overwhelmed with regret, and said “No more.”

This adventure is the first step in the process.  I don’t want to turn fifty and think, “Man, it would of been great to travel with the kids and make that happen…too bad we missed that chance.”  And even more, I don’t want to look back and think, “Well, I haven’t enjoyed my career in the last ten years, but at least I had a job.”  And so, as this plan was spawned, I saw the chance to…put right what once went wrong. You know, with out the time travel aspect.

Charting a new course for our lives

By all accounts, we have had a comfortable life.  We owned a home, I had a good job, we are all in good health, the kids had a neighborhood with friends to play with, and all was right with the world.  But the thing is, something was missing.  When we looked around at things, everything we did was for comfort.  Comfort is, by definition, comfortable, but it’s not really fulfilling.  Choosing comfort over a challenge is easy in the short term, but done over long stretches, it slowly breaks your spirit.

We knew that based on who we each are, the only way to truly break out of that rut, out of our search for comfort, was to make a big change.  And while we considered others, the choice to sell it all and travel checked all the right boxes.  We have broken away from all the things that consume our time.  We have removed the comfort of a home to return to and retreat in.  We have left behind the definitions of our selves that are held in the mind of those that we love.  This whole plan might turn out to be a complete cluster fuck, but we are for once picking the challenge over comfort, and it feels really good.

That’s the real point with this trip;everything can be boiled down to needing a challenge that we all wanted to be a part of – to help us all learn, grow, and push ourselves to new heights.  This is not an escape from life, or running away from responsibility. It’s a challenge that we now have no choice but to face and conquer.

And for the first time in a long time, I feel excited and panicked about the direction we chose.

Saying Goodbye

There’s a cherry tree in our front yard that we planted the first spring we lived here; now, after eight years living here, we gather bowls of Rainier cherries from it in the summer. Our son celebrated his first birthday two months after we moved in, our daughter turned four, and this neighborhood provided our kids a place to grow up playing out in the streets with a whole band of kids. All day on the weekends and summers they bike, run, play, and imagine together. The garden we planted that first year is mature now, with huge lavender, sage, and rosemary bushes. In the spring and summer, hummingbirds flit back and forth between the purple flowers. Neighbors often stop to talk as I work out in the garden or walk the dog around the block. It’s a comfortable, familiar place.

When we first made the decision to sell our house, most of what we own, and head out to travel the world, everything about the idea was exhilarating. I researched country after country, read travel novels, and began planning an itinerary. I became enamored with southeast Asia, especially Thailand, while Josh wanted to fulfill a lifelong dream to see Australia. My son would talk about seeing volcanoes in Hawaii and lemurs in Madagascar, while my daughter focused more on seeing Paris and southern Spain. We would play geography games at night and talk about where we wanted to go.

As we get closer to leaving, the excitement has given way to the sadness of saying goodbye. There is, of course, what I think of as the normal sadness of moving – saying goodbye to friends and family and a place you have called home for so long. But this move is different. We are not just saying goodbye to this home, but to having any home at all. It’s human to crave the comfort of home and of the familiar; I drink my coffee from the same mug every morning and sit on the same spot on my couch every night before going to sleep on the same side of the bed. I shop at the same grocery store every week. I hang the same Christmas decorations year after year. These habits that I thought of as monotonous, these traditions I have been joyfully planning to leave behind, suddenly have more importance as I do them for the last time. I know that this time, I will not be moving to another home, another routine, and another set of familiar places.

Our cherry tree is just beginning to bloom, and I know that we will not be here to pick cherries this summer. We are leaving roots behind. As we go, I embrace both the sadness that brings and the adventure ahead.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.
– “Travel,” Edna St. Vincent Millay