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It seems to me that rather than being about opinion and insight, travel blogs are increasingly written as authoritative sources of information. If you have a travel question there are likely ten blogs trying to convince you they have the answer.
Not this one. The only authority I have is that we took the plunge, sold our stuff, and are out here in the world trying to make this family travel thing work. But the truth is that traveling as a family does not automatically equal happiness. Everyone reacts differently and I have a confession: I’ve been feeling uneasy for weeks.
Funny thing – just before posting this we just found out that another family who also sold everything to embark on their own adventure just after we did has decided to throw in the towel. They now realize that the life they had is the life they want after all. Fair enough.
I’m not writing this because I have it figured out like they have. I’m writing this because I don’t. I have more questions than answers but I’m putting this down now because I want this blog to be an honest reckoning of this experience.
In the beginning . . .
When we began everything was new and exciting. We were out most days seeing the sights, jamming as much in as possible. We knew it wasn’t sustainable, but we were busy and happy. The novelty of it all was intoxicating.
After a few weeks of that, we started to slow down. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Rather than spending three days in a location, we would book a week. We started sleeping better; buying ingredients we could keep and use for more than one meal; we went out less and stayed in more, reading, learning, playing games together.
But as things slowed down, I have felt more and more unsettled. There is this strange queasiness in my stomach and it makes me question what we’re doing. Before our departure we were so obsessed with just getting out here, there was just no way to know how being out here would actually work on a day to day basis.
To be fair, we did not assume it would be all rainbows and unicorns. But it’s one thing to say we expect a difficult adjustment period and another thing to experience it and not know what to do. Hence the uneasiness.
Perhaps we should start with what I know I don’t want. I don’t want to go back to our old life. At least that is settled.
So why am I feeling so uneasy
Am I insecure about not having a true home? Maybe.
Am I bothered because I am not working? I don’t think so.
Is it a sense of community that is missing? I still feel connected (largely thanks to you).
Is it because I simply don’t have enough to do? I’m never bored.
Is it that I am not feeling productive? What am I trying to produce if not kind, intelligent and well-adjusted kids? – and they are doing just fine!
I think my knee-jerk reaction to such uneasiness in the past has been to make myself busier. So I keep wondering if I would be happier writing more blog posts, making more videos, or even trying my hand at writing a book . . . Maybe. But the real reason we are out here is for the kids and that would take me away from them. I genuinely love doing things with the boys and they are happy and learning. This is good for them and they know it. Ditto for Linds. So, I’m the problem.
Perhaps rather than ask what’s wrong, I should be asking what’s right. When have I been happiest on this trip? Any time spent with the kids talking, learning, exercising, playing a game . . . Completing a good blog post or YouTube video . . . meeting and talking to new people, and hearing their stories . . . Hiking and exploring . . . pretty much any cultural or educational experience . . . sailing. I think there are some themes there that might be helpful.
Part of me wonders if the endless tasks and projects that used to be my norm simply distracted me from this underlying unease. Perhaps it was always there, simmering under layers of self-inflicted distraction, and now I am finally dealing with it.
Perhaps it’s all just a matter of perspective
Most people think we’re living the dream – and in a lot of ways we are. But it’s not a simple dream. Maybe that is what that other family discovered. Happiness is not automatic. It is the result of good decisions. So I guess I have some decisions to make.
Of course, Linds and I are engaged in a huge ongoing conversation about all this. Here is what we are going to try:
- We made a list of things we really want to do before this backpacking phase of our trip ends (whenever that is). Things like another sailing course for me and taking cooking classes for Linds. Rather than book our next destination based on cheapest flights, we need to plan our destinations based on things we want to do – or at least ensure we have a few exciting things planned for that destination once we get there.
- We’re going to slow down even more. Settling into a place will allow more quality time with the kids and perhaps I will try blocking off a few hours a day to dedicate to writing and making videos.
- Make more of an effort to connect with other traveling families or make local connections.
Like I said, I don’t have this all figured out. I wish I could tell you that the key to family bliss is full time travel, but of course it’s not that simple. I do believe that for us traveling as a family is probably the best path we can take to discover and explore what is most important to us. But that’s just it – traveling is a means, not an end.
As we explore the outside world the real work is done inside of ourselves – and it’s a lot more complicated than booking a plane ticket.