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100 Days to Departure. It’s like a countdown to a due date.

Here it is…a marker many look to as progress towards or away from an event. We have reached our 100 days to departure date. Since we grew this idea of living overseas, we have been wrestling with the possibilities of whether it would happen or not. Like most people, we like to wax poetically about the things we could do as parents or as adults. 

Taking the step to make a plan actually started a couple of years ago. With my background of internationally living which had accumulated to five years by the time I married Kelvin it has always been perculating in the back of my mind. We had originally had the idea to live overseas in another country for a year. To live, work and learn in that community. We were heavily looking at Belgium as our place of destination. In December of 2015, when Kelvin got the news of his upcoming walking papers for his job  we really started the wheels in our heads.

Last year after attending the World Domination Summit (again, I would highly recommend it), where I attended an academy on long-term travel with your family by Tsh Oxenrider who pens The Art of Simple and  Stephanie Entre who has traveled around the world with their FIVE children. You can follow their current trip in Central America on Instagram.Gurr(small)_20090620_034 This academy opened the world of possibilities for us to repackage our trip, ideas and come up with an alternative plan (note: not to be confused with alternative facts).

So, last summer the round the world plan was born. We have been carefully tinkering away with the plans for this journey for nearly 10 months. Like a long overdue pregnancy. Currently, we are not setting a set schedule of designations and what we are doing on ground in where we are going. We have a basic start and have about the first month set up.

A lot of our work has been in wrapping up our life as we know it in here in Portland, Oregon. Gurr(small)_016_20090823Changing jobs, leaving schools, packing up, preparing goodbyes and selling belongings. We still have a lot to do but, we have a couple of Homeland style planning boards with tasks that we are following up on.

So today, Mother’s day, is our 100 day to go mark. I am enjoying a homemade breakfast from my sons, pondering where we will be next year and if where we are even celebrates Mother’s Day!

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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Holding onto Memories from Travel

Last week we got our passport applications in for the boys. A unique experience of paperwork, official documents, checks and the execution of a right-handed pledge to a post office employee in the middle of the postoffice to state that our children are, indeed, our children.

Valid for five years I wonder what their pages will be filled with. In my expired passports I thumb through the stamps from the DDR, Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Britain, an EU work permit for the Netherlands, student visas to NL and UK, many over they years to and from NL, US and the UK as well as an unused visa for Pakistan.IMG_0676 I have memories attached to all these stamps.

Those who know me cite my weird penchant for being able to remember fine details about a day in the past. I don’t have a photographic memory but, I do have a rich memory attached to dates. I can recall events to days decades past. It is my party trick. I admit this skill faded some as I’ve gotten older, became a parent and was more sleep deprived but, it is still somewhat there.

So, with my memories, I look to our seven and nine-year olds and wonder what they remember. I can show them photos and videos from years past and they will remember some of those events and others, nothing. Today, most of us have this odd IMG_0677arsenal of event evidence in our phones, let alone our computers. In a minute I can pull up a 1000 video snippets from the last years.

When I was kid, it took a bit of organization to find the tapes, films or slides from years past and then plug them into the appropriate mechanism to show them. We don’t have the documentation from our childhood we do have of todays events. With that information I wonder what our kids will remember.

I know I have memories that are really memories of being told about certain memories. Then these memories slowly became ‘my’ own memories but, are they? So, again, I look at our boys as we prepare for this year-long adventure in the wide world and I wonder, “what will they truly remember?”.

Part of our purpose of our journey is to impress upon them the diversity of the world around us and the exploration of new cultures in ways that would not be possible at home in Oregon.IMG_0675 Our boys have now folded our plans into their everyday discussions. “So, next year at Christmas time, where will we be?” or “How will we celebrate Thanksgiving when we are not in America?”.

My hope and dream is that we create a rich year full of adventures and life long memories for them to refer back to forever. My worry is that they won’t remember what we experience and it gets filed away in a dusty box. Then again, I do know my travels experiences impressed upon me urges to make various life choices that led me to go overseas again and again. I find more value in travel than in trinkets.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the comforts of a secure life; house, access to transportation, technology, clothing and the odd thing to explore but, I get more excited from the promise of a ticket to travel than I do a new gadget. I find my excitement grows when I know change, adventure and travel is coming up. Anticipation is a very good drug for me.

I have discovered my dream is to instill the hope, love and adventure of travel into our boys. I hope their memories fuel them for decades to come. We are passing on our values. So, that pledge that Kelvin and I made in the middle of that crowded post office seems even more important now. A small memory of hope and anticipation. We pledged to help them create amazing memories and a lust for life. The travel life.

 

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The Cat is Out of the Bag!

Last week we revealed our plans to my mother in law and our kids. Different reveals with different reactions. Just to get you up to speed, we are planning a round the world trip with our boys starting in the summer of 2017. My husband will lose his job of the last 12 years and we are taking advantage of the timing and age of our boys to plan a trip away. A long time away and many long distances away.

Travel has been a part of my life since I was a teenager and my husband found his own travels through work in his 20s and together we have found some new paths and memories. Since our kids were born we have not traveled interationally together. This trip holds a lot of excitement as well as trepidation. I feel very soothed when planning trips even if for an overnight getaway.

Travel is a big part of my life and a ‘must’ that I need to feel sated. There are a lot of travel stories in my head that I want to share with our boys but, even more so, I want to create travel experiences with them so they too will be shaped by exposure and immersion in new cultures.

So, our plan. In August 2017 we will take off heading to Southeast Asia and soon thereafter Australia. We have dreams of going to destinations in Eastern Africa as well as South Africa, Israel, Croatia, several Western European countries where I have previously left footprints and have friends. Many of these freinds have kids in a similar age range of our boys. images-20The idea of connecting cross cultures for all of us in these ways feels exciting and a little bit nerve-racking. A bit like the night before Christmas or our wedding day.

In the spirit of this blog, we are trying to figure out how to set our expectations in reasonable and achievable ways. As I have written about before, I see that we all struggle with setting some expectations too high and feeling a crash of disappointment and resentment many times in our lives.

I am trying to consider how to define expectations in three areas. Minimum, Reasonable and Achievable and Dream Scenario (also known as the lottery, bonus, gravy, pie in the sky expectations). Many of us set Dream Scenarios and are let down and stunned when they don’t turn out that way. We forget what we can and cannot control in the grand scheme of things and are deeply disappointed when we pin our happiness on the actions of others.

We all do it. I am not one that knows how to not to do it, however, I am trying to re-adjust those expectations so, that I can safeguard my wellbeing at least a bit. These travel plans will be a lesson and challenge in planning, awareness and life experience.

We have to plan timing, budgeting, where to go, how to school our boys as we go along, flights, places to stay, how long to spend places, how to keep in touch and document, how to adjust ourselves to another’s ‘regular’, how to pack, how to leave our comfortable and predictable life at home and return to it after our time abroad. These are not small tasks and not a comprehensive list of those tasks. unknown-3My husband and I have set up bi-weekly meetings with each other to tackle some of these areas and to process ideas.

I will note here how things are going, however, I really want to hear from others. I am putting the call out to folks to give us feedback on places you think we ought to consider, gems hidden or otherwise to unwrap and explore. Helpful suggestions and thoughts of our plan are welcome. Be in touch and please leave comments here to spark more conversation.

More soon. Be well now.

Audrianna Joy

 

 

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Parenting, Marriage and Hopes and Dreams

As my husband and I approach our 14th wedding anniversary, I pause and look around me at the changes that have transpired and where we are today. I am struck at the difference of our family of four from the two of us, with our hopeful and shiny faces of yore. I was 33 when I got married and thus, look at my life in thirds.

The first third, infancy, childhood and young adult time. The next was the era of the single girl to woman phase with earning degrees, traveling and a host of poor decision making and the lessons that followed. Then to the last third, learning to create a life with another person with intentions of making the ‘right choices’ together, growing in our careers, succeeding in making a family and moving forward with parenting highs and lows.

I am struck, with a bit of fear, when I look forward to the next 15 year block. What choices will we or I make that have a ripple effect on the future. I am 47 now and in 15 years, I ‘ll be 62. The age my mom was when she died. A tiny piece of me worries that this may be my last series of chapters so, I better make them good ones. Every day I struggle with choices  that effect me; what I eat, what I drink and what I say. Questions of, Did I exercise? How much sleep did I get? How am I handling stressful situations so, they don’t bite me in the backside later?

With clients we talk about the HALTS; Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and Stressed/Sad. These are things that we can control, in some measure, in our life. We often feel overwhelmed by events happening around us and we try, frequently, with all our might to control things we can’t: other people’s thoughts, feelings, actions, desires, words. In HALTS we can look at a situation and see what areas that we may be able to make some changes or at least, gain some leverage.

When I look at the next 15 years, I feel I do have a better understanding of what I can and cannot control. I also need to remember that when I am in a mood, I don’t always remember this helpful information but, perhaps I am more likely to access it having had some years practice. Read: we are all imperfect! So, coming back to that block of time. How do I want it turn out? Am I okay with the choices I making, big and small? I make mistakes but, do I feel okay about that as well?

I was struck by a review of a new book by Maria Semple called Today Will Be Different. This character, a mom, wife and professional tries to find ‘A Basic Amount of Dignity’. I love that sentiment. 9780316403436_custom-6f05dbe55c3c89ca57eaf0d25423b88bc014eade-s300-c85That the small choices we make everyday can have small but, longer effects. We often look around us in exasperation and think, “How did we get here?” and think of the roads or choices not taken. We think big change only comes from big changes.

Well, I’d like to think that small changes can have a ripple effect as well. If I have a green drink this morning, my body will feel a little bit better and I will feel that I’ve gotten a start on one of the many ‘shoulds’ that come up for me (eating enough fruits and vegetables every day). But, more I feel, at that moment, that I have made a small difference. I can be a tiny bit happy and satisfied that I made a healthy choice. Also, challenging the first of the HALTS – Hunger.

So, here is to change, the anniversary and next 15 year block (one of many, I hope). Also, here’s to green smoothies.