Bonjour friends! Happy Monday! I hope you had an adventurous weekend. In anticipation of the WorldTowning launch (we are almost there folks) I will be sharing oldies, but goodies from the past several years of blogging.
I can’t wait to share our new adventure with you. If you want to get a jump on the WorldTowning launch you can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post. Early newsletter subscribers will get a special pre-launch goodie. Let’s just say that there will be a drawing (after launch) that will involve time in a country outside the US. And those of you who sign up pre-launch get your name entered three extra times.
Published March 22, 2016.
Hola, friends. I’ve had this post in my drafts folder for a long time. The title once read, “6 lessons I have learned in 12 months of travel.” I think it’s finally time to give this baby airtime. What do you think?
We’ve learned so many lessons both individually and as a family, I can’t possibly begin to identify all of them here. However, today I’ll share my top personal lessons from our 18 months of travel. I have grown, folks. Ten-fold. Big time! We don’t know what we don’t know, right? Just when we think we cannot possibly stretch ourselves anymore, we’re truly put to the test and enlightened on so many levels.
In no particular order, I introduce you to my lessons from 18 months of travel:
When I was created, a very crucial piece was left out: patience. I never really possessed patience in my younger years. Luckily, in my adulthood I was blessed with a very patient husband and two children who showed me how to develop patience rather quickly. I am not perfect; I still have room to grow. However, travel has forced me to develop patience when I might have otherwise given up or freaked out. It’s not going to do any of us any good if I freak out on the immigration lady because I have to return to their office over a dozen times (mostly due to their errors, not mine). Right? Actually, it could very well get my visa denied. It wouldn’t be fun to leave Ecuador under the cover of darkness. Ha!
I find that the areas in our travel life where patience is the most difficult are as follows: Waiting, being understood in a foreign language, and navigating a new city.
When traveling, you will end up waiting quite a lot in various scenarios. I’m an American and we’re used to having things operate quickly and efficiently. However, most of the rest of the world places priorities on other parts of life, which can be challenging if you are used to your way. No amount of huffing and puffing or confrontation is going to move the process along faster. Once I learned to breathe and roll with the waiting process, my experiences became much more enriching. I started to see the waiting game as part of the traveling process rather than as an encumbrance. I began to take this “waiting around” time as an opportunity to read to my children, play a game, have deep conversations, chat with my fellow travelers, or to just sit idle and reflect. 18 months into this journey, you can find me patiently waiting with a bag full of tricks, snacks, and a sense of peace that I rarely had when we started this journey.
I have developed patience in regards to being understood. So far we have done relatively well. Will is fluent in Spanish, the kids are close to fluent in French, and I can sort of get by. However, there are times when we all fail miserably. It’s humbling to struggle to be understood in a new language. It’s not the recipient’s fault, therefore we’re forced to use extreme patience when communicating our needs. I’ve often had to resort to charades and drawings, but I practice great patience when trying to be understood and miraculously the results are usually positive.
I have developed patience when navigating a new city. This is hard and exhausting. Think of any time you’ve moved house. Those first couple of weeks were really tough, weren’t they? Now imagine adding in a language you don’t understand, new schools, a different currency, unfamiliar food, a business and so much more. Sounds fun, right? Now do it every 9-12 months. Bonkers!
As most of you know, our first several months in Costa Rica were incredibly difficult. It’s no joke learning to navigate a new city and all of the aforementioned is also tough. It is often impossible to remain patient when you have a to-do list a mile long and you’ve spent most of your day waiting around or trying to be understood. Oh boy, do I know this well. Remember when I moved to Ecuador with the two kids, seven bags, six carry ons and NO hot Latino? Those two weeks were a true test of my patience in navigating a new city. The bright side is that it took considerably less time the second time around than the first, maybe because I had learned a thing or two about patience. The only way to survive navigating a new city is to breath and practice patience.
I don’t even know where to start with this one. I can honestly tell you that I wake up each day grateful to be alive, to have a healthy family, to still have all four of our parents with us, to be able to spend copious amounts of time with my children and Will, to be able to dream big and bring those dreams to fruition, to have friends that will go to the ends of the earth for us, to have the freedom to travel almost anyplace we want and so much more. I am grateful and I never, ever take my life for granted.
Even though I consider my home in the spiritual sense to be with Will, Avalon, and Largo, my physical home will always be the USA. I’m grateful for where I come from and the amazing freedoms we have as a country, even in the current state of affairs. I am grateful that I come from a country that fights for women’s rights, affords everyone an education, makes dreams come true and so much more. The more we travel and discover global perspectives, the more I become thankful for things I had never considered before. For example, the freedom to marry whomever I want. While in India, I learned about the caste system in great detail and the powerful role it plays in individuals’ lives. Many countries do not afford women the right to an education, to vote or to choose who they marry.
I am grateful to be able to step outside my comfort zone and continue to grow. Not everyone in this world is allowed the luxury of stepping outside their birth country to challenge themselves, returning whenever they feel necessary. In some parts of the world, when you make a decision to leave your extended family you are never welcomed back. In addition, many countries experience extreme poverty and the citizens have no means to leave the poverty behind. I feel for these people and their circumstances while at the same time I express gratitude for the circumstances I was born into. At the end of the day, it’s just luck that I was born into the family, country, and lifestyle that has afforded me many opportunities that are not enjoyed across the globe. For that I have extreme gratitude.
I love this one. I have always been a no-frills, simple-living kind of gal. However, once we had kids, “stuff” started to accumulate and life began to stray from simplicity. This “stuff” added chaos to our lives and reaped very few benefits. We went from a four bedroom house, to a two bedroom apartment to two suitcases and two carryons each. And guess what? We are all doing just fine. No one is wandering around pining for their stuff. We are still able to adventure, enjoy our time together and live fully. Plus, we don’t have to spend much time on organizing and cleaning all of our stuff. We now have copious amounts of time to focus on things that matter to each of us.
We have also simplified the “busy” in our lives. If you live in the US, you know about this constant glorification of busyness. We kicked that busy to the curb. Some of the busy we have to keep in regards to work, but overall we lead a very slow life compared to our over scheduled selves in the US. I love it. Although we work hard, I feel less stressed and overwhelmed on most days.
Simplicity also plays a role in the way we adventure. We know how to keep costs down, pack light, and take adventures that meet our simplicity needs, yet yield great rewards. We try to travel during off-season, avoid crowds, touristy adventures and much more. We find that taking a simple approach to our adventures keeps us all balanced, happy, and at peace.
Finally, we made a huge effort to streamline processes for our businesses, personal and investments. We automated as much of our life as possible, only keeping a US PO Box for emergencies (although the junk mail is slowly taking over). We never open a local bank account in the countries we reside, we walk instead of purchasing a car and insurance, buy local, make what we have work, seldom shop and much more. We are continually working on ways to further streamline our life to free up time that we had previously spent with inefficient systems. It feels so good.
The biggest area of growth I have experienced in regards to acceptance relates to other cultures. Traveling has greatly enhanced my ability to accept differences in opinion (unless, of course, someone is racist, then I have no tolerance), education choices, religious beliefs and so much more. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and must accept each others differences. There is a great education in understanding another culture and how it operates. If I have learned anything from acceptance, it is that people are generally genuinely good and helpful across the planet. Once you open yourself up to accepting differences, you can see the true beauty in our uniqueness. As a result, the realization that we are all doing our best to practice kindness prevails.
I have also learned acceptance where trying new adventures is concerned. We have a “say yes” policy in our home. This means that we accept new experiences and give them a shot before we judge them and say no. I can honestly count on one hand the number of times we’ve declined a new adventure and it’s usually because of money, safety, or logistics with Will’s work travel. We generally feel better about saying yes to a new adventure than we do about turning it down.
I have learned that I am stronger than I ever thought I was, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
If someone had told me two years ago that I would be moving to a new country where I did not speak the language with seven bags, six carry ons and two children, I would have laughed. But I did it. I packed up our life in Costa Rica and moved us to Ecuador without Will (who was in Asia for work). We do travel as light as possible, but it was still a task that took a great deal of energy, strength, and commitment, but I (we) did it. The kids were a tremendous help. It was a great lesson in strength that will stay with us forever.
Additionally, I’ve found the strength to adventure alone with my children. I know single parents are doing this every day. You are my heroes. I would never try to compare my life to yours, ever. However, when you’re used to adventuring with a partner and are then suddenly forced to make the decision to stay at home or go without them it can be challenging. The good news is that after the first time, I realized how feasible it was to do this on my own if need be. Of course, I don’t like adventuring without Will, but sometimes it’s necessary. Now I know I’m capable of it.
Dreams do come true:
I know, it sounds corny, but it’s true. Most of you know our story. This journey to a slow travel, digital nomad, worldschooling life took years. Actually, it took close to a decade. We started with a dream to be corporate expats on a cushy company-funded package which would yield little financial stress and risk. After seven years of near misses, we finally gave up. But then we spent a summer in Paris. When we returned we came to the realization that we would need to do this on our own if we really wanted it. We planned hard-core for an entire year. We are now on our second country with our third just around the corner in under 18 months. I am not going to pretend that this life came easily. I am not going to pretend that it is currently easy. We work hard each and every day to keep this dream our reality. Some days are harder than others. We are not one of those stories you read about on the internet where we’re working 20 hours a week. Obviously, we wouldn’t turn that down if it came our way, but presently we work hard for this lifestyle and never take it for granted. And… it has all been worth it.
If you work hard and commit to your dream, it is possible. Don’t let anyone tell you your dream is a joke or unobtainable. I have seen traveling families accomplish amazing goals because they committed and believed that their dream was possible.
Tell me, what lessons have you learned from travel?