I wrote this post in June of 2011 before we were set to leave the USA…
We were quite happy in Seattle. We lived in a beautiful city, surrounded by great friends and loving family. Our decision to move abroad had very little to do with wanting to escape our current life. It was more about a vision we have for our family and experiences we hope to offer our children. I know first-hand, that visiting other parts of the world will open the eyes of a child. Brett caught on to this quickly, once he started traveling as an adult. Of course, we realize that people who don’t travel outside of their home country can become well-rounded, intelligent, caring human beings. Yet we also know, without a doubt, that the places we have been, the things we have seen and the people we have met along the way, have given us a broader view of this world. It is this kind of compassion and global understanding that we wish for our kids.
When we were in India in 2003, we wrote emails to friends and family back home, describing some of the poverty and devastation we were seeing (along with some of the beautiful things we saw as well). When we returned, we realized that many people assumed that we didn’t enjoy our time in India, when really it couldn’t have been farther from the truth. There is no denying that it’s a much different experience to walk the streets of Old Delhi than it is to be lounging on a relaxing beach and given a choice, many would choose the latter. But I am certain that the places that have offered challenges & opportunities to step farther outside of our comfort-zone have left much greater impressions on us. It’s not about feeling sorry for people or even about being thankful for what we have (although that is important). It is more about viewing a different way of life. We have seen people with very little be immensely happy. And that is a lesson in-and-of-itself.
A move abroad is just a stepping stone. We may be moving to a another first world country, but none-the-less it will be a different culture. People will speak English, yet their little ears will hear many other languages murmured through the streets of their every-day-lives. The decision to go was less about “where” and more about a conscious choice to make traveling with our kids a bigger part of our lives.
The issue of finances often comes up, so it deserves a mention. When we were in Thailand, we told an American traveler that we were from Seattle and were in the middle of a 7 month trip around the world. His reaction was, “So, did you win-it-big in Microsoft stock, or what?” Hardly. Don’t get me wrong…the airfare was expensive and we spent about 2 years living frugally to save money for this trip. At the time in our lives when most people are putting a down-payment on their first home, we bought airfare instead. It’s that simple. We made a different choice. Sure, a trip around the world sounds “luxurious”, but you wouldn’t have thought so if you had seen us sitting in a park eating canned corn for dinner in Oslo. We stayed in hostels and some were a bit sketchy. Of course, this was before we had kids. Things are different now. We take more care in finding comfortable, safe accommodations. A growing family means growing travel expenses (something we are still getting use to). The fact of the matter is, if you want to travel cheap, you will probably need to travel fairly “rough”. Not just forgoing luxurious hotels, but traveling to poorer countries is a huge money saver. By doing this, you are not only helping your wallet, but the economy of that struggling country as well. For us, the philosophy that experiences are worth much more than things, is helpful. Not everyone feels that way perhaps, but the moments we have shared while traveling, mean more to us than any tangible, luxury item ever could.
So here we go…ready to embrace a beautiful new chapter in our lives. We are hoping the transition goes smoothly for our littlest travelers. Of course we are sad to leave loved ones. We hope they will visit…often. Yet, we are full of excitement as well. We know that this experience will create a bond that our family would not otherwise share. We hope to meet new friends, but we also plan to savor those first few weeks, when it is just the four of us, finding our way together. We will have moments of chaos and disorder as we get settled and then eventually, life will go on, just as it did before. Only different.