A number of people have suggested that the blog should become a book. Is our story really extraordinary enough for that? I don’t know. On the other hand, perhaps it’s at least as extraordinary as Elizabeth Gilbert’s year abroad, as chronicled in her book, Eat, Pray, Love (though she sets the bar sky high – her writing is amazing.) But, what would ours be called? Bumble, Bicker, Bond?
I’m being facetious, of course. But there are, indeed, big differences between a single woman exploring both the world and her own inner workings vs. a family of four traveling together nonstop for a year.
Unlike her carefully planned four-month stints in specific parts of the world for specific objectives (Eat in Italy, then Pray in India, then Love in Bali), we used a planned itinerary only as a loose guide and, from there, have fumbled and bumbled our way along, often not knowing where we’ll be the next night or what we’ll be doing the next day.
Unlike her romantic and idyllic solo trip, we have been a family of four, including two tweenage girls, with plenty of bickering and stressful moments woven in amongst the fabulous, jaw-droppingly amazing experiences and loving interactions. But being in close quarters 24/7, it has at times been anything but romantic and idyllic. How does a marriage handle that, much less an entire family?
We probably evenly divide our time between hanging out, sharing experiences, talking about the trivial and non-trivial, laughing, annoying/being annoyed, and altogether ignoring each other in a quest for some solitude among company. There have been many beautiful interactions and spectacular experiences, and there has also been lots of drama. Like when we’re struggling through homeschooling, which none of us were built for. Or struggling through the massive developmental changes that occur at this stage of childhood, which blindside both the child and the parent, no matter how much you try to prepare. Or struggling through adapting to new countries, cultures, and homes every few days or, at best, weeks. And then the biggest struggle for two adolescent girls – not being able to spend significant swaths of time (or any time at all, really) with friends.
And then unlike Elizabeth Gilbert’s romantic final chapter in her trip, when she fell madly in love, we are a family that is already madly in love, even if the emphasis is sometimes on the madly. What does a trip like this do to that dynamic? We are a very close family, and our hope is that this year will have been an even deeper bonding experience in the long run. But who knows? With two parents working full-time but mostly from home throughout their childhoods before the trip, the kids have always had us as a constant presence. But this has taken it to a whole new level. To a tween, that’s a bug, not a feature.
The friends who traveled with us in Norway said that after a vacation together, they often go off in their own directions for a couple of weeks upon returning home. If that holds for us, we may not see each other for a lonnnnng, long time. I hope that doesn’t happen!
I think the aftermath of our trip will be potentially as interesting, if not more interesting, to observe as the trip itself. Will we each be different individuals upon our return? Will we be different as a family? How much, if at all, will the kids pull away in order to establish their own identities in ways that aren’t possible while traveling? Will my husband and I go off in our own directions for awhile or will we want to continue to be around each other all of the time? At home, he and I were together almost every day all day long, even if we were in our separate offices working away and only crossing paths in the kitchen here and there. Will the trip change anything about how we want to live when we get back?
And how, if at all, will the trip have changed our values, priorities and desires? Does living out of one suitcase per person for a year forever change our relationship with “stuff,” or will we simply drop right back into former habits when home again? Will we never want to see another airport, or will we be itching to hit the road again? Will the world seem larger or smaller? And the questions go on from there.
It’s like watching a movie about our own lives and wondering what’s coming in the next act. We’re in the midst of an extraordinary adventure that not many people get to experience. What permanent, life-changing impact is it having on us? I don’t think we know quite yet…maybe we’ll never really know. It will be interesting to watch it unfold.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep chugging along, sharing our stories in hopes that some of you out there get inspired to embark on your own adventures and see what unfolds in your own lives as a result.