One final blog post, by Blair…
We’re back! Over two months have passed since we walked through our front door after spending almost ten months abroad. I thought I would be writing this post within a week of our return, but somehow just could not bring myself to officially complete the blog. It all just felt so final. So I have let many weeks go by while bearing witness to the joys (and pains) of our re-entry. And this final blog post retreated to the far corners of my brain while I navigated our transition back into “normal” life.
So many people have asked us, “How does it feel to be home?” Well… it feels wonderful to be home — to sleep in our own beds, drive our car, stock our own fridge, and generally relish in the ease of life in the U.S! It goes without saying that the many reunions with our friends and family members this summer have been the absolute highlight of our return. We’ve had a revolving door and an open-house policy, relishing the ease with which we can connect and be social whenever we please after feeling so far from our loved ones this past year.
Schuyler, Zoe and Thayer have had an easy transition back into their lives here. They are out playing in our neighborhood, riding their bikes as often as possible, loving such freedom and independence after the year of extreme togetherness. They’ve enjoyed a lot of unstructured time at the beach and pool, as well as some great day camps and, for the older two, sleep-away camp. When it comes to the speed of our re-acclimation, Jeff and I are pretty much eating their dust.
Naturally, despite the many joys of our return, parts of re-entry have been challenging. The barrage of phone calls, texts and emails that clutter our daily lives and interrupt so many of our quiet moments were initially exhausting for Jeff and me. After living under the radar for so long, we had adjusted to a slower pace of life, to uncontaminated time for our brains. In addition, managing the weekly calendar for a family of five, all of us now often going in different directions, has been an adjustment after so many months of living in the moment, day to day, all together. It is taking patience and practice to re-master the scheduling needs of a typical American family, even one that tries not to overdo it! We do miss the simplicity of one rolling duffel bag per person and small hotel rooms or apartments. And in our own ways, Jeff and I are grieving the end of such a special time in our lives. It’s hard to let go after so many months of planning and execution, and to move forward into the next stage of our family’s life together.
Just when I worry that our trip is slipping too deeply into the recesses of our busy minds, small reminders of our year appear at the most random times. For example, I reached into the pocket of my raincoat last week and pulled out a receipt for something we purchased on a rainy day in Hanoi, Vietnam, last April. While away at camp in Maine, Zoe had a counselor from New Zealand, and they shared an inside joke about preferring the kiwi term “togs” to the American term “bathing suit.” While playing in the woods with her cousins recently, Schuyler started brushing her teeth with a peeled twig, imitating the Maasai people’s dental hygiene practices that we experimented with in Kenya. And Thayer just lost her second tooth, immediately wondering if the tooth fairy would reward her in Dong or Dollars!
These little reminders of our year abroad infiltrate our lives at home with regularity, and there is some comfort in that, just knowing that the trip is still with us. And then there are the more subtle signs of the impact this year has had on us, which are starting to rear their wonderful and welcome heads as more weeks pass since our return. For example, we are noticing a different kind of confidence in the girls, one that perhaps comes from knowing they have accomplished something both challenging and unique at such a young age. Jeff and I have a renewed appreciation for simplifying, slowing down, finding time to be together. We talk about our priorities, how to live and work with intention and purpose, how to find a healthy balance while navigating the frenzy of opportunity facing us each and every day. We more deeply appreciate the community in which we are raising our children, the proximity of our families, and the depth of our friendships. We are evermore committed to traveling with our children in some way, shape or form, for the rest of our lives.
But for now, as we move away from the adventurous traveling lifestyle, as we go about our daily routines at home that sometimes feel mundane, we bring with us a treasure trove of memories and a deep gratitude for the incredible gift of this past year abroad. Ten months of shared experiences have bonded our little family of five in ways that we haven’t even begun to really understand. We look forward to feeling the ripple effects of our adventures together for many years to come.
THE FIRST PHOTO
THE FINAL PHOTO
Number of continents: 5 (Europe, Africa, Australia, Asia, N. America)
Number of countries: 14 (England, Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Kenya, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong/China, Japan, United States)
Number of airplane flights: 32
Number of airlines flown: 16
Number of flights delayed: 2
Number of flights missed: 0
Number of bags lost: 0
Total air miles traveled: approx. 48,000
Types of transportation: 42 (jet plane, turboprop, single prop, helicopter, train (bullet train, subway, steam engine) car, van, combi, minibus, bus, taxi, trolley car, tram, RV, safari jeep, tuk tuk, ferryboat, jet boat, junk boat, basket boat, vaporetto/water taxi, hydrofoil, bicycle, scooter, skate board, pedi-taxi, motorbike, cable car, ski lift, alpine luge, horse, horse cart, ATV, water buffalo, elephant, rickshaw, zip line, wheelchair (Schuyler – food poisoning in China), and of course, our own two feet.)
Number of places we slept for two or more nights: 52
Types of accommodation: hotel, B&B/inn, motor lodge, youth hostel, house, villa, apartment, condominium, camper van, trailer park, houseboat, Bai compound, farm stay, Maasai manyatta (mud hut), traditional Chinese Bai home, ryokan (traditional Japanese inn).
Number of museums visited: 29 that we can recall well
Favorite Cultural Activities:
Roman Baths and Nunney Castle (England); Experimentarium (Copenhagen); Anne Frank Haus and Canal Boat tour (Amsterdam); Dutch soccer match and Klaas Witts’ architecture tour (Bergen); Glass blowing demonstration and gelato tasting (Venice); Colosseum and Pantheon (Rome); Maasai warrior training, Maji Moto widow’s village, Enkare Lepa School (Kenya); Langa Township, Robben Island, Slave Lodge, Bo Kaap (S. Africa); Sydney Opera House production, Harbour Bridge New Year’s Eve fireworks (Australia); Maori tribal dancing exhibition, Surf Lifesaving class, Mount Maunganui Schools, bungee jumping, gold mining, farm stays (New Zealand); fortune telling and Chinese medicinal herb tour (Hong Kong); water puppetry performance, cooking school, fashion design, pottery making, eco fishing and farming, street food tour, kayaking through floating village (Vietnam); traditional silk dyeing and weaving class, Mekong River boat trip, giving alms to monks (Laos); umbrella painting, HIV orphanage, monk indoctrination ceremony, Long Neck Village (Thailand); Chinese ink painting, Baisha silk embroidery lesson, Naxi hieroglyphics lesson, Tibetan Monastery, Chinese kite making, dim sum lesson, Forbidden City/Tiananmen Square, Family Learning House (China); Yuzen pattern painting, traditional hot baths, Hakone Open Air Museum, Hiroshima Peace Park (Japan), Pearl Harbor (Hawaii).
Favorite wildlife encounters: Every minute of our 6-day safari, Monkey Town (S. Africa); koala, kangaroo and reptile encounters (Australia); snorkeling (Great Barrier Reef and Watamu, Kenya); horseback safari, chasing zebras, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (Kenya); Kaikoura seal colony, Pete’s Farm Stay, Rangitikei Farm Stay, horse trekking (New Zealand); water buffalo riding (Vietnam); elephant riding in the Mekong River, Asiatic Black Bears (Laos); Tiger Kingdom (Thailand); playing with “Ginger” the Tibetan stray dog (China).
Most Unusual foods eaten: “Smiley” (road-side sheep’s head, S. Africa), poisonous green ants (Australia), goat meat (Kenya), silkworm poo tea (Laos), yak meat (China), just about everything in Japan.
Birthdays celebrated: Thayer’s 6th (Australia), Blair’s and Jeff’s 40th (New Zealand), Zoe’s 10th (China)
Number of doctor’s visits: 4 (Sydney, Mt. Maunganui, Hanoi, Chang Mai)
Difficult moment that we now laugh about: Schuyler vomiting all over our 10-seater aircraft, S. Africa.
Number of nights Blair and Jeff spent away from the girls: 1 (a heartfelt thank you to Jeff’s parents for that)
Number of times we pinched ourselves: countless
Number of regrets: 0
Thank you everyone for your love and support along the way. We couldn’t have done it without you!
Blair, Jeff, Schuyler, Zoe and Thayer Demers
Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
– Mary Ritter Beard