Posts Tagged ‘preparation’

What A Long, Strange Homecoming It’s Been

Monday, July 12th, 2010

“Let’s sleep with the kids,” I said on our first night back in our house, which echoed from emptiness because our belongings remained in storage. Morgan agreed, and with relief I unrolled my sleeping bag on my daughter’s floor, putting her and Kyle on one side of me and Morgan on the other.

I wanted to hear their breathing and feel their closeness one more night before everything changed back to our non-traveling life — before the movers came and filled our house with so much of the furniture and boxes of stuff that I now feel ambivalent about owning, and before my kids moved back into their own rooms and we all established our separate domains in this house that feels too big and fancy. I wanted to curl up in my sleeping bag and fantasize we were camping the way we did on the banks of the Colorado River or on the beach of New Zealand’s Abel Tasman Park.

Everyone has been asking how it feels to return home. The short answer is: weird, and tiring! I haven’t felt this conflicted and unsettled since … well, since we pulled out of our driveway to start the trip on August 15, 2009.

The penultimate stop: We drove through Yosemite on our last day and arrived home about four hours later.

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83 Places, 5 Continents, 10 Months

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Less than 24 hours after our plane from Heathrow landed in Los Angeles, the four of us walked into a Noah’s Bagels on Sunset Boulevard for an early lunch. Our sense of time and place were thoroughly out of whack from jet lag and from the strangeness of waking up in Southern California, drinking Peet’s Coffee and tuning into the Disney Channel as though we’d never been away.

As we stood ordering bagels, we suddenly remembered we had eaten lunch at the same Noah’s on the day before we flew to Buenos Aires in early October. “I feels like we were just here,” Colly said, and I agreed while my chest hiccuped with anxiety.

It felt as though all those months abroad — which had stretched so elastically and netted so much in a single week, so that on the first of every month I’d express disbelief at how much we had experienced — had snapped back and condensed into a blip to make mental space for the task of reorganizing our lives and getting ready to move back into the house.

Checking out of a hotel in Marlow, England, on our last morning before flying back to California.

I’m feeling profoundly mixed emotions upon our return and need to think more about the transition before trying to write much about it. I got weepy on our last night in Marlow, a lovely town outside of London, as we checked out of a hotel a final time and toasted our trip; then, I got teary with joy as we approached my hometown of Ojai last weekend for a reunion. I also am in the process of thinking through the next phase of this blog, so stay tuned and thanks to all of you who’ve read it regularly!

In the meantime, I’m publishing the following list as proof and as a reminder to myself that we really went to all of these places. We called this our “sleepover list” and had fun updating it as we traveled. Most are linked to previous blog posts if we wrote about that destination. Three places are listed twice since we visited there twice, so the number of places totals 83, but the bottom line is that we moved and unpacked 86 times!

The Sleepover List: August 15, 2009 – June 15, 2010: (more…)

So Long, Sedona and SoCal

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Lots o' packing yesterday and today ... we had to put a bunch of stuff in storage, give away outgrown kids' clothes and pare down to the true essentials.

Lots o' packing yesterday and today ... we had to put a bunch of stuff in storage, give away outgrown kids' clothes and pare down to the true essentials.

I’m rushing to write this blog post while packing for tomorrow’s departure to Argentina. We traveled through Arizona less than a week ago, yet it feels more like a month has passed. We arrived in LA for a few days to take care of some business, reorganize all our belongings and — most difficult of all — say goodbye to our dog Teddy, who will spend the next ten months in the care of my in-laws. Teddy will be in very good and generous hands, but oh, it’s hard to leave him!

Our journey is shifting to a more challenging and exciting phase as we go abroad, and I’d like to say we’re ready but I don’t think I’d ever feel completely prepared. We realized today, at the eleventh hour, that some travel logistics have not been arranged or confirmed, so Morgan and I found ourselves scrambling and then consciously taking deep breaths, concluding, “Oh well, it’ll work out, or we’ll figure it out when we get there.” I have spent the weekend trying to adopt a true traveler’s mind — i.e., embracing rather than fearing the unknown — and doing my best to maintain an outwardly positive attitude for the kids’ sake. Their tears started to flow last night as the prospect of missing Teddy magnified a bout of homesickness (or rather, “friendsickness”). Thankfully, a trip to the beach with their grandparents today made everything feel better.

I had a lump in my throat all weekend because we have to say goodbye to Teddy. He is a fantastic dog, and we loved road-tripping with him the past six weeks.

I had a lump in my throat all weekend because we have to say goodbye to Teddy. He is a fantastic dog, and we loved road-tripping with him the past six weeks.

Before the memories of the past week grow more distant, I want to document our last special destination: Sedona. Funny thing is, when I paused to reflect on it this morning, an image of Kyle on a Colorado trail a couple of weeks earlier crossed my mind. He had randomly picked up a small rock and discovered a quartz crystal under the dusty surface. His eyes grew large and a smile broke out on his face, and as he clutched his little treasure, he headed down the trail with new energy.

Like Kyle bending down to pick up that rock, we made an unexpected and enchanting discovery on our way to Sedona that renewed our energy. I should be careful when talking about “energy” in the context of Sedona, however, because I don’t want to be mistaken for one of the New Age crystal-gazers who are drawn to Sedona’s red rocks and attest to the power of  “energy vortexes,” which supposedly spiral around certain points on the landscape and resonate good vibes. Then again, I did feel particularly good while there, so who knows whether I felt the vibes of a vortex or a placebo effect or just a buzz from a beer?

We met the Flintstones and had a yaba-daba-do-dah time.

We met the Flintstones and had a yabba-dabba-doo-dah time.

Certainly our slightly addled states of mind upon entering Sedona primed us for fun and come-what-may adventure. We had no expectations, no plans, save for a last-minute booking at a hotel. We had decided only about a week prior to go there for a couple of nights in lieu of a detour to Vegas, our forethought limited to, “It’s only 30 miles south of Flagstaff? Might as well check it out, I heard it’s nice.” We had spent the night outside the Grand Canyon in the fleabag Red Feather Lodge, which is notable for its very un-P.C. retro Indian Brave motto and its inedible breakfast buffet offerings. (But, they take dogs — the only motel in the area to do so.) I was disoriented from insomnia and the belated discovery that we had crossed a time zone and gained an hour. Plus, we all felt punchy from a brief stop at the Flintstone Bedrock RV Park, where a two-story-high Fred Flintstone appears like a bad-trip hallucination in an armpit corner of the desert.  At that point, we didn’t know what to expect next. (more…)

The Sappy Departure

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

All packed up and ready to go. Goodbye, home!

All packed up and ready to go. Goodbye, home!

“Why are you crying, Mom?” Kyle asked this morning as I pulled away from my next-door neighbor’s hug. “Are you sad or happy?”

I thought about what had unleashed the tears: the final walk through our bedroom, where the hardwood floors echoed from emptiness because nearly everything is in storage. Then the last good-byes. It hit me that I will miss our home and neighborhood terribly. It also hit me that everything we had planned during the past six months had come down to this moment, and all the work and difficult decisions had made us ready to go — and we really, finally were ready to go — so I was crying tears of relief. And also, I was indeed happy that at this crossroads in our lives, when a great deal is transitioning personally and professionally, we had chosen to go in a direction that Morgan and I believe will keep changing us for the better even after the trip is over.

“Both,” I finally answered.

“Well,” Kyle said, “if you’re sad and happy, that makes you sappy.”

I am sappy, so much so that the family began mocking my sentimentality last week. “This is the last time we’re going to Crogan’s,” I said the other night as we approached a favorite pub. “Awww,” said Colly, her voice dripping with pity, “and this is the last time we’re touching this crosswalk button!”

“The last time” became a running joke until Morgan got the last word on our final morning at home. He marched to the bathroom after coffee and Cheerios and proclaimed, “This is the last dump!” (more…)

“Back to School” Becomes “Leave to Learn”

Friday, August 7th, 2009

People keep asking (somewhat skeptically), “What about school during your trip — are you homeschooling?” I keep answering (somewhat defensively), “No; our kids will do the same work as they would do in school, with real teachers assigned to help them, so they won’t fall behind.” I expound on the educational benefits of the trip and explain that we’re taking the year off largely for the kids’ sake. But inwardly I’m less confident, and all summer I have worried about “back to school” — about the transition to schooling our kids on the road.

My "roads scholars" pictured earlier this summer near Tahoe.

My "roads scholars" pictured earlier this summer near Tahoe.

I know it’s kind of crazy, because we’ll encounter extraordinary educational opportunities at every turn. Plus, most wise people recognize that learning takes place all the time and is more apt to blossom outside the confines of a classroom. So why the worry and resistance to the idea of homeschooling? (more…)

Packing It In

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

One of the reasons we’re going away for a year is to learn to live more simply, with less stuff. I’m in the process of dealing with our stuff — that is, deciding what to bring and how to carry it, and what to leave behind and where to store it — and discovering why packing is so complicated: It forces one to take stock of one’s life. Past, present and future collide while standing before an open closet. Each piece of stuff stirs memories from when it was acquired and the feelings attached, while questioning whether we need it triggers deliberations about priorities and daydreams about where we may go.

Every day I try to pack a little and end up making a mess. Take the bathroom cabinet, for example.

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