Homeward Bound


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!” 

Welcome to the U.S.A.!

Welcome to the U.S.A.!

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. 

Checking out at the supermarket  - we couldn't believe all the options!

Checking out at the supermarket – we couldn’t believe all the options!

Schuyler finally gets to have some (almost) real ice cream, her favorite soy brand.

Schuyler finally gets to have some (almost) real ice cream, her favorite soy brand.

Pool time!

Pool time!

Looking relaxed?

Looking relaxed?

Trying to end the never-ending blog...

Trying to end the never-ending blog…

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.

BLAIR&JEFFGONEGLOBAL: 

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….

IMG_6870

Hiking in New Zealand

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!  

SCHUYLER’SGONEGLOBAL

New Zealand beach bliss

New Zealand beach bliss

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

Pigeon encounters in Venice

Pigeon encounters in Venice

Monkey Town, S. Africa

Monkey Town, S. Africa

Beading with the widows in Maji Moto, Kenya

Beading with the widows in Maji Moto, Kenya

Catching air in New Zealand

Catching air in New Zealand

Elephant riding in Laos

Elephant riding in Laos

Flying my kite in Beijing

Flying my kite in Beijing

 

ZOE’SGONEGLOBAL

Bergen, Holland

Bergen, Holland

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!

Nunney Castle, England

Nunney Castle, England

School in Majo Moto, Kenya

School in Majo Moto, Kenya

Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa

Mala Mala Game Reserve, South Africa

Facing the big waves, and some big fears, in New Zealand

Facing the big waves, and some big fears, in New Zealand

Fishing boat, Vietnam

Fishing boat, Vietnam

Great Wall of China!

Great Wall of China!

THAYER’SGONEGLOBAL

Somerset, England

Somerset, England

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!!!

Horseback riding, Bergen, North Holland

Horseback riding, Bergen, North Holland

Majo Moto, Kenya, peeking at monkeys in the distance

Majo Moto, Kenya, peeking at monkeys in the distance

Exploring the Bo Kaap neighborhood, Cape Town, South Africa

Exploring the Bo Kaap neighborhood, Cape Town, South Africa

With her favorite lamb, Mary, at Pete's Farm Stay. New Zealand

With her favorite lamb, Mary, at Pete’s Farm Stay. New Zealand

Prayer flags, Shangri La, China

Prayer flags, Shangri La, China

Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto, Japan

 

ONWARD….

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! 

Categories: ASIA, Homeward Bound

19 comments

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your year (trip) with us! It’s been such a wonderful way to introduce Piper and Ziggy to the world. They have many questions for you (“what was it like to train to be a Maasi warrior” (Ziggy) or “why didn’t Thayer like the birds landing on her? I don’t like birds to land on me.” (Piper))

    We can’t wait for you to come home–lots to catch you up on and furry creatures to introduce you to. Thanks for sharing you amazing adventure with us.

    Love, Pip, Tanna, Ziggy and Piper Clews

  2. I will write more later. But just had a quick look while at work !! I am so emotional and crying with tears of total joy and happiness that this blog brings.

    I know there’s only one more day till your home( I think) welcome back into your USA life. Will call very soon

    Love you all xxxxx

  3. Wisdom from Schuyler that I wish I had early in life…. You should grasp an opportunity… You can choose how to live with no regrets. Your blogs have become a part of my life here in Thailand, and I’m feeling a little melancholy knowing that the adventure is coming to a close. But, as Zoe said…. is it really over?

    Love the idea of the books; they’ll become heirlooms! So, thank you for having the courage to embark on this journey, and hopefully, inspire others to do the same.

  4. This send off was awesome Blaire!! You are so amazing!! I can’t wait to see you all. Just call us when you are ready for us….
    Enjoy your home when you get there, it’s ready for you all.
    Love JOJO

  5. First of all, I cried my eyelashes off when I read this blog. Thank you to all of you for making us feel part of your journey. I am so lucky that I get to watch the Demers girls change the world. Your enthusiasm, love for your sisters, perspective on our “small world”, and your awesome parents have set you up to spike the ball over and over again. I’m so glad you are finally coming home and will welcome you with open arms.

  6. What a great blog entry. I felt so emotional reading each one of your posts. The last 9 months have been filled with such great blessings for your family. We can’t wait to see you back in the South End! LOTS of LOVE!!

  7. yay!!!! clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!! We’ll done Demer’s Family! I have journaled while traveling and I totally KNOW the discipline it takes to try and bottle it all up and document all the adventures and feelings (when somethings you’d rather just not write at all!). So high marks to you for DOING it! A gift to yourself and all of us that were able to follow you! I remember growing up, thinking like Zoe & Thayer, that every one lived just like me…. you have now opened your girls eyes w i d e and from the sounds of it…….. what’s next????? (I kind of got butterflies with all those, “we are only just getting started comments!” ggaaaaah! dundundunduuuuuuu) As for the grocery store, which I’m certain was a high point of Hawaii, you choose Safeway?? I thought for sure it was gonna be Whole Foods! And Schuyler, I too looooove that coconut ice-cream! its actually better than real ice-cream, I think. All in all, your family is amazing! The reflections your girls have shared over the months is so impressive, well done Jeff & Blair! We look forward to welcoming you HOME! Love, the Pappi

  8. What an amazing journey you have all been on – thank you for sharing it! Welcome back to the US!

  9. What else can I say but “thank you” dear Jeff & Blair & Schuyler & Zoë & Thayer. Thank you and chapeau to all of you. Let me just quote my hero Nelson Mandela: “We admire you, we respect you, and above all, we love you !”
    Klaas

  10. Dear Blair and Jeff and the girls,

    Thank you so so very much for sharing your experiences with us. Your blogs often left us speechless, and in awe. What a terrific family. We are looking forward to seeing you at the wedding.

    Hugs,

    Paulette and Michael

  11. What a beautiful post… reading each of your reflections moved me deeply. To be so wise at 12, 10, and 7 (and of course, the adults too). This blog has been a gift to all of us, and can imagine it nourishing all of you well into the future. Welcome home and thank you for bringing the world to my laptop.

  12. Incredible Journey! We are soooo proud of each and everyone one of you! You put the AWE in AWEsome!!!
    High with emotions for all that you have experienced individually and as a family!….so HAPPY to have you home!!!

  13. WELCOME HOME DEMERS FAMILY…XOXOXOXO

  14. What a moving, remarkable blog. A warm welcome home to the Demers travelers, and thank you for the nine months of enriching me with your posts. I feel as if I have traveled the world with you, and am a better person for it! Thank you for the sharing and welcome home! Lots of love, and congrats for a job well done.
    Aunt Jean

  15. This is absolutely sensational and inspirational. What an incredible gift and experience for your girls. I commend the wisdom (and organization) to create something like this for your family. Enjoy, Melissa

  16. Welcome Home Demers family! The beautiful summer weather arrived with you. Happy summer on the Seacoast!

  17. Wow!!!! You are home! What a wonderful feeling!!! We have been thinking about you. Loved reading your blog posts. Thankyou 💛 what an amazing experience!!!! We miss you here at Mt Primary. It’s raining and bleak so enjoy your summer! We hope to see you again soon. Here of in America, you never know!!! Maree & Milly 😘

  18. I finished the blog on Japan two weeks ago after I read Homeward Bound. I had a hard time finishing it– because deep down– I hated to see an end to the incredible writing and fabulous photos– but more importantly– the view into the amazing Demers family as they went Global.

    Blair and Jeff–When I read your reflections on the Homeward Bound Blog I almost started to cry. So beautifully written and honest–emotional and encompassing–You totally nailed it. I remember thinking, way back in Australia, how you were acquiring all this parental wisdom after aborting the Great Ocean Road trip and allowing Thayer her Barbie doll. Now at the “Be continued” part of your journey you have the wisdom to examine what brings meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and joy to Your lives. I always believed that the journey is the reward –and it is so evident in your reflection.

    Schuyler, Zoe and Thayer–Your reflections on your world travels and experiences were so heartfelt and inspirational. I loved that as Sisters you became closer, and that you were able to spend so much time with your Mom and Dad. Having your Grandparents, Aunt and Cousin join in on your journey will add so much to your wonderful memories. The photos you chose were some of my favorites too–I especially loved the Maji Moto ones and that kimono on Thayer is priceless! Girls, I felt such joy watching your journey’s unfold this past year and getting hints of your unique personalities. You are all very special.

    For 10 months I received a wonderful gift from loving parents and amazing kids—-adventurous spirits, writers, photographers, artists, animal lovers(real and stuffed) surfers, swimmers, fashionistas, triathloners, bakers, bikers, budding humanitarians, chefs, warriors, and world travelers……
    Demers–your gift— touched my heart –and left footprints on my soul. It came at a time that was cold and frosty and it warmed me in the dark of night. I loved traveling the world with you. I am so grateful for your sharing and look forward to watching your journey “Continue” WELCOME HOME! With love, Patsy

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