After eight months in 11 countries, we’re finally home in Seattle. Our re-entry to a comfortable home and a structured life begs the question: “What did we learn?”
Family is Everything. I have a close knit loving extended family and I know my parents would drop everything to help me in a time of need…because they already have. But I’ve learned I could reciprocate more. I’ll never forget spending the night in the Rio Gallegos, Argentina airport to catch a 3:45AM flight. As planes arrived and departed, whole families were there to greet or send off their loved ones. In the middle of the night. These weren’t curb drop offs either…this was holding hands, hugs, waiting at security to catch the last glimpse, then standing pressed against the window watching the plane take off.
We get so busy — putting work and our needs at times ahead of those most important to us. The priority I’ve witnessed being given to family and friends in EVERY culture we’ve visited has made me reaffirm my commitment to be a better daughter, sister, friend, coworker.
But Time Apart is Healthy! The three people in my immediate family are my most favorite people in the world. But golly I am sick of them! And the feeling is mutual. It’s not normal to spend eight months attached at the hip. We’ve spent half of this trip sleeping in the same room. We’ve played more UNO and cribbage then I could possibly imagine. We are all looking forward to more balance and privacy.
I Need to Give Our Children More Credit. I am a firm believer that adversity makes for a better person. Before the trip, I felt the children wanted for naught and had no idea how lucky they were. Long term travel drives adversity. The kids have slept outdoors on a hard bench during a typhoon, they have hiked through knee deep mud while picking leeches off their skin, they have had conversations with so many people of different cultures, they’ve seen kids their age working the fields instead of in school, they’ve bravely tried foods far outside their normal repertoire, they’ve seen that people live without heat, hot water, technology, new clothes. They have learned it’s ok to be uncomfortable. They reluctantly came along but they rose to the challenge and I am grateful for who they are becoming.
But My Husband is a Flippin’ Rock Star! I don’t know many 45 year old men who would put their lives on hold to follow their wife’s dream when that dream included a backpack, youth hostels, and little access to a good IPA and your football team’s 1st Super Bowl win in a long time. Now obviously Kyle is deeper than all that but this was my dream, not his and he was 100% supportive in living this past year through my vision. Love that man.
Every Government is Flawed, Some More then Others. Every country is struggling in some way…corruption, poverty, too much power. There is no utopian approach. We live in a powerful and free country and that comes with both pride and shame. In every country we visited, there was a common thread of war and covert involvement by the U.S., particularly during the 1960s and 70s. In Laos and Cambodia, we saw young men missing limbs from U.S. cluster bombs. We also met with young students in these countries learning English because they see it as the ticket to success and harbor no ill will against the U.S. In fact, these kids dream of a Californian life but likely will never receive the financial support or visas to do so. We heard from SE Asia to South America, “our government is corrupt.” It actually made me appreciate my own government more, however flawed.
But it’s the People that Make a Country. Discussing politics with Dew and Juan over pizza in Urubamba, Peru. Enjoying fresh baked muffins with an Austrian grandmother in Reutte. Discussing dreams versus obligations with a Japanese innkeeper. Universally, it’s the people that have created our view of the countries we visited, not the government and we hope the feeling is mutual.
We Don’t Need to Reinvent our Life. When we started this trip, I was looking for something. I felt trapped by material gains and wanted to simplify. Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not a “keeping up with the Joneses” family. We don’t drive fancy cars, or spend money on anniversary gifts, or own vacation properties. But we have our electronic devices, a big screen TV and, yes, I have an occasional rampage through Nordstrom.
And I’m ok with that.
Do we need to strive to continue to be better people? Yes. Do we need to give back to the causes and people that grabbed our hearts both before and during our trip? Absolutely. But I am 100% grateful and satisfied with our life…and it only took 243 days and 26,863 air miles to realize that.
This will be our last blog post. I start back at work in two days and our heads are forward focused. Thank you for following our journey…we felt a lot of love while we were on the road. This blog now serves as a memory bank for my family and I hope a resource and inspiration for future traveling families. There’s a vast, amazing world out there full of wonderfully warm people…go get it!