When we heard a flight attendant greet us upon boarding our Hawaiian Airlines flight out of Tokyo, all five of us looked at each other in amazement. “Did you HEAR that?” one of our girls exclaimed… “An AMERICAN!”
For the next several days, we were continuously astounded by the simple conveniences of life back on U.S. soil: plugging a computer into a socket without using a giant adaptor, making a cell phone call without using wifi for Skype, having a washing machine and dryer (we did four loads of laundry in the first 24 hours), and the supermarket – so many options, all the labels in English, finally some allergy-friendly foods for Schuyler! We entered a virtual decompression chamber, relaxing in the ease and familiarity of being back in the States, delighting in things we once considered nothing short of mundane.
Along with some fun in the sun, our days in Hawaii have felt like the beginning of our transition out of travel mode and into “regular life mode.” This shift brings forth so many emotions and opportunities for reflection, and we are all facing re-entry with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, anxiety and relief, pride and gratitude.
It may take many months, perhaps years, to understand the myriad ways this trip has impacted each of us individually and our family unit as a whole. There are the many tangible effects that we can see and feel right now, and then there are the unforeseen effects of this type of travel that will undoubtedly surface in the future. For now, a few reflections from each of us in an effort to bring closure.
To be honest, it is hard to know how to end this 40-post blog, which has unexpectedly (but thankfully) become a comprehensive written and photographic record of our year. We could gush about how much we’ve experienced, learned, grown, changed, bickered, laughed, cried, and all the rest. We could extoll the virtues of extended travel abroad, of experiencing discomfort, of taking risks and thinking outside the box, of embracing a broader definition of “education” for our children. We could preach about how “less is more,” after traveling with one rolling duffel each for 9 months. Or we could try and explain the connections we made with each other, the perspectives gained, during our sabbatical from the insane pace of juggling careers, parenthood, and over-scheduled children. We could highlight our enhanced relationship with giving and service, both global and local. We could examine the joys and pains of 24/7 togetherness through the lens of a parent, a child, or a sibling. We could reflect on the cultures we’ve encountered, the friendships we’ve developed with people all over the world, or on our deepened awareness of just how many people really do live in this world, and how many different approaches they have to living meaningful lives. Certainly we are more keenly examining what brings meaning, purpose, fulfillment and joy to our lives.
And the list goes on, and on, and on…. it’s overwhelming, really, to try and pinpoint the most important “takeaways” from our year. There are just so many possible angles to approach from, so many topics we could cover. But perhaps we don’t need to right now. Perhaps we just need to think about this journey as a “To Be Continued” story, rather than a story with a beginning and an end. Surely, there are more adventures to come in the years ahead. If there is one thing we do know, it’s that we are only just getting started….
Ultimately, this blog is for Schuyler, Zoe and Thayer. We will print it in book form and each will have a copy to treasure for life. It will serve as a detailed, shared memory of this year; we know that when you grow up, even the sharpest memories and images of childhood can fade into foggy hues with blurred edges. Hopefully, between their personal journals and this online diary, the girls will keep re-living this trip indefinitely.
So for the sake of trying to formally complete this blog, Schuyler, Zoe and Thayer will now contribute some final thoughts along with a few favorite photographs from their journeys. We as their parents could not be more proud of the way they handled themselves throughout these past nine months. They will tell you that this trip around the world left a permanent mark on them, but we can assure you that they left their own footprints – curious, mindful, joyous, courageous, gracious, indelible footprints – on the world!
As you can imagine, it is so hard to wrap up this trip in just a paragraph. There are so many emotions going through my mind right now. Is our trip really over or is it just disguised as the start of what is next? I believe an adventure never ends because life is a big adventure in itself. Being with my family for 9 months straight has brought so many experiences and I have learned a lot of values to live by. As great as it sounds, sometimes adventures take their toll. I think we have all gone a little nuts at times, like all living in one room for 15 days or just living life on our own and having to make so many decisions (like planning if we will take the bus or the train, or even just where to get our next meal). Working together to navigate on our own was not always easy, and I want to give a big thanks to everyone who helped us along the way. But I think we learned so much about ourselves and about each other during both the good times and the challenging ones. Both are important to remember when I think about this year.
So, I have been asked to reflect on our trip, but how? That would be like asking me to write a novel for you and trust me, this “reflection” already is long enough. I can already see so many of the memories within the smiles on our faces. All the wrinkles, the sunshine, the hole in our mouth (referring to Thayer who lost her tooth) that we gained have all happened for a reason. If you are as close to your family as I became this year, then you would realize that every time someone laughs or cries there is a mark left on them inside or out. Sometimes I ask myself: “What have I come home with that I had did not have when I left?” Of course, there is no one single answer to that question. I have learned that experiences come but never go, and opportunities never last long. You should grasp an opportunity you get whether it is a job, helping another person, or going around the world. Live life as an adventure because you know you will never be let down by the curve balls life throws at you! You can choose how to how to live it with no regrets. I know I am trying to do that now.
I am so grateful for my parents, especially because they had to deal with me all year (ha ha). I also want to give a special thanks to all my friends and family at home who have supported us and read our blog all year. It was great to have someone to email with when I was feeling alone. My sisters have made a big impact in my life – they have really taught me how to be a better person in many shapes and forms. I truly missed everyone back home and I am so excited to see you. SchuylerDemers(has officially)GoneGlobal. See you soon! xoxo
Here are some final thoughts from me about our trip! I don’t know exactly how I’m feeling about going home, but I’d better figure it out before reality catches up to me. I do know that I am really sad about ending this experience, but is it really over yet? I’m not sure – I feel like I’m on a roll and ready for anything! There is quote that I put in my first journal entry that was something like: “Amazing opportunities are often disguised as impossible situations.” I thought that this trip was going to be just that, an amazing opportunity but one that felt completely impossible. But it wasn’t that way at all! Yes, it was amazing, but certainly not impossible in any way. I think maybe instead, ending this trip will definitely fit this quote, because it is sure feeling impossible right now! But I know that their are many opportunities waiting for me in my future.
I didn’t understand the world before this trip. I kind of thought that everyone lived like I do, with a house, food and water. But it’s not like that. I also didn’t know about countries like Laos and Denmark, and I thought that Vietnam was just a war not an entire country! The world is a big place that I will never stop exploring. I have an interest now in traveling, exploring other places, and stepping out of my comfort zone. When I grow up, I want to travel around the world and help other people and animals. In the future, I really want to take my family around the world. I want them to experience what I did. I guess what I am trying to tell you is that traveling with my family while I am still young was nothing short of a once in a lifetime experience. I am really going to miss it.
I just want to end with a big thanks to my family and my friends – I’m so grateful to my parents and my sisters, and all the family and friends at home who have followed me in my journey. I always said to Mom and Dad that one of the things I’m most excited to be able to do and say when I get home is that “I’m a world traveler,” and now I can say that!
It’s been really fun to travel around the world because you get to see what’s out there. When I was back at home I thought everyone was like the people in the USA, but when I traveled the world I noticed that people are different. They have different colored skin, and even in Africa the little girls had shaved heads! Some of my favorite moments I’m always going to remember, like on sad days to make me happy, are: sloshing through the floods of Venice; a bike ride to an ice cream shop in Bergen, Holland; adopting my baby elephant, Kamok, in Kenya and watching him go to sleep; riding on top of the boat in Watamu, Kenya, to go snorkeling; sleeping in the camper van with Meme and Pepe on our New Zealand road trip; coming in second in my triathlon at my New Zealand school; getting my new dresses made in Vietnam with Mumsy and Pops there; and riding on a motorbike with Daddy to the pottery village in Vietnam. And there are just so many more memories! I also feel so much closer to my sisters because we had to spend so much time with each other. Without them, I wouldn’t have any friends on this trip! Back home, my Dad goes to work every day and I don’t see him enough. It’s a big bummer and I miss him. This year it was different because Daddy was with me every day, and I LOVED spending so much more time with him. Have you seen his HAIR?!!!! I will always remember the time that I had with my family this year. It was amazing to see it all. I wish lots of other people get to do this! But now I can’t wait to get back home, there are so many things I want to do! Hello Portsmouth! Here I come!!!
We are leaving Hawaii today and flying HOME. We will post one last time, from our house in New Hampshire, when our journey is complete. At least this part of it….
See you in New Hampshire!