With about two weeks to go before we return to New York, I’ve been thinking back over our past year’s adventures with an eye toward finding some sort of internal closure. I honestly can’t believe how quickly time has moved and I also genuinely understand how people take time to travel and then just never stop. Living on the road for multiple years with small children would definitely be a challenge, but there’s something completely addictive about repeatedly planning for somewhere and something new and different and then heading there and taking it all in.
With no more near term planning needed, I’m already mentally contemplating future travel destinations (Iceland, Vietnam, Cambodia, the American northwest, anywhere and everywhere is South America), albeit with a school holiday timescale. And as the children get older, I’d be open to having discussions with them about taking school on the road for a year – even if I know this is likely a pipedream travel withdrawal coping mechanism!
There’s little I’d change about our year. While it was so tempting to aim to visit many countries, I’m happy we decided to focus on fewer locations for longer. It’s a luxury we likely won’t get again (dreams of future school-on-the-road aside) and it enabled life to feel fairly leisurely (a spirit I hope to embrace when possible when we’re back in NY). The one thing I would have changed is to have added a little more time in Asia – a month-long exploration of Vietnam and Cambodia perhaps. And I would have liked to travel around Australia with more of a “theme” or focus – Aboriginal art by region, for example. But on the whole, this year has been a very very good one and I’m thankful.
Beyond the general loveliness of time with Carl, Grace, and Max and the adventure of moving beyond our home base and exploring other parts of the world, here are some of the highlights:
Family hikes in New Zealand. Some of my absolute favorite memories of times together as a family of four were on the trail – walking, talking, singing, looking, listening, and feeling our bodies carry us through so many gorgeous landscapes. I hope we keep it up when we get back home, even if the views aren’t quite as epic or diverse as New Zealand’s.
Living in a super small space and the minimalism it required. I embraced the concept, philosophy, and reality of living with less. I don’t think I’d want camper van family bunk beds or toilets you have to manually empty forever, but having less stuff means spending less time dealing with and thinking about stuff, which leaves more time for doing, pondering, and interacting. Also, there’s less to tidy up!
Feeling like I really got to know and love Carl’s sister and brother-in-law after many years of extremely quick international hellos-in-passing. Having family in different parts of the world reduces the opportunity for sharing day-to-day life, and I’m grateful for the chance to have broken through that geographical barrier.
Art projects and birthday celebrations on the magical turquoise deck in Melbourne. It really is a magical place and we’ll always have the messy, colorful, and creative memories to make us smile.
Getting back into the habit and joy of reading. I may need stronger glasses due to all the screen time, but my Kindle was like a fifth member of the family on this trip and it felt good. I also loved continuing the tradition of reading classics with Grace. Visits to English-language bookstores, and the excitement they generated, were a highlight of every country we visited.
Dinners for two in Fiji. Traveling as four with no school or babysitters or even closed doors meant that despite having much more time together, Carl and I ultimately had less time for the two of us. In Fiji there was a kids club and evening entertainment for the little ones, which meant Carl and I enjoyed conversations without little people interruptions and it was most excellent.
The architectural and structural organization and peacefulness of Japan, reinforcing my belief that space and aesthetics impact mood and emotions. Japan just makes me feel calm (even Disney!!); I also like the stationary products.
Realizing that the text on the lithograph we purchased in Tokyo wasn’t actually a philosophical commentary on the meaning of home but simply “I am nearly home and am drunk.” This may seem an odd and extremely micro highlight, but it’s more about the reality of embracing and finding humor and a little bit of joy in the things that get lost in translation. In our global, translatable, commoditized world I’m happy there are still things that aren’t always immediately understood.
Watching Max master swimming and chatting and sleeping beyond 4:30am. Go Max, go!
Sri Lankan curry and Sri Lankan temples and Sri Lankan smiles. We can’t wait to return!
Enjoying extended time in France with family and friends who feel like family. We can’t wait for more in summer 2016!