Tuesday, October 5, 2010

travel and getting out of personal ruts

I love the game Boggle. Something about searching for unique, the-bigger-the-better words in that small grid sucks me in every time. About half way through the allotted time we like to turn the grid around to give us a different vantage point. It's amazing how many more words come out of the woodwork when you simply look at it from a different angle. I can totally be stuck until my eyes focus on it in a different way. Then words that have been there the whole time start to appear out of nowhere.

Lately I've been comparing why I love to travel so much to that shifting around the grid of letters in a game of Boggle (in trying to explain my addiction to Dave). Shifting things around gives such a different vantage point. Even though that grid of life looks quite good and I'm getting things from it that are helping me learn and grow, I learn so much by turning it around...by stepping back to analyze it. I love to look at things in a different way...change that grid around just enough to see beautiful things that have been right front of me the whole time.

Sometimes travel jolts me out of my normal day-to-day life enough to "shift my Boggle game around."

I want to live in China.

Or England.

Or even India for that matter.

Not forever, of course. I love life here in the dessert.

But there is such a wide, wide world of beauty and experiences out there that I don't want to miss. And in my heart of hearts where all things are possible (and money grows on trees), I'd love to pack up our family and live for six months to a year in a new place every so often.

You see, that's what I did growing up. My parents wrote books and did other things that gave us some flexibility. And they loved to travel even more than I do.

I was born in Virginia. Then we moved to Utah. Then to England for three years. Then back and forth from Virginia to Utah. And to Oregon to live in the wilderness and build a log cabin one summer. And to Japan to learn how to wear kimonos and plug our noses while we ate seaweed another summer.

There was a trip through the Philippines where we made a stop at "Smoky Mountain" where people have made hovels for their homes on an actual mountain of smoldering garbage.

There were the huts we stayed in that stood up on stilts in the water one summer.

There were the apartments we lived in in Mexico for a month where my sister and I relished in the fact that we got to be completely in charge of one of the apartments. That was the summer where my Dad singed off all his eyebrows trying to help us light the gas oven (which is another story for another day).

Then there were the six months we went and lived back in England when I was a freshman in high school. I thought I may as well just keel over and die because I hated it so much. I don't think anyone on the planet has been more homesick than I was that semester.

But we all grew. We plowed through the travel books and museums. We split up on airplanes and learned to talk to new people. We stretched out like ducks in a row running to keep up with my Dad to catch trains while lugging our suitcases behind us. The more we traveled the more we learned. The more we bonded. The more our horizons were stretched out before us.

It's funny how it seems that when you were raised in a happy, healthy environment you are drawn to duplicate it to a "t."

And that just doesn't always happen.

We had a little two-month snippet of time a few years ago (when I was seven months pregnant with Lucy), when we got to go live in China. We look back at those months in awe of how much we learned and grew as a family. Max and Elle conquered the metro system. We took Chinese lessons. We walked the Great Wall of China on what seemed like the hottest day ever recorded in human history. We met people from all over the world.

The only problem with that little stint was that it verified my theory: you grow by leaps and bounds by traveling. And we MUST do it more.

As Dave and I think over various plans for our future, taking into account jobs and children with health issues, my romanticized visions of picking up and jolting ourselves into a learning curve start to fade into the background. Our window of time leading up to high school and college is rapidly shrinking right before my eyes. As much as we may push to do things that physically get us "out of our shells," sometimes that just doesn't work out.

But what I've realized lately is that we can broaden our horizons right here plunked in the middle of this suburb in the desert. Dave's family raised nine outstanding children right here. They didn't have to travel the world to figure out what was most important in life. They didn't have to rely on outside sources to take them out of their comfort level. They stayed right here and pushed themselves and learned and grew.

To me, the biggest thrill of living in a new place is that it gets you out of your personal "ruts." You have no where to turn except to face head-on the tough, new things a different culture submerge you into. Your relationships with your family get stronger as you are forced to lean on each other more than ever. You don't have all the distractions of the mundane things that happen in every-day life. And that gives me a thrill.

But, I've learned that you can grow and jolt yourself out of your own personal ruts living in the same house all your life. Maybe it just takes a tad bit more effort.

If we lived in a foreign country I envision myself packing up our kids and going on road trips...seeing new sights each week. I envision my kids following me around museums and I am enticed at the thought of getting our passports filled to overflowing with stamps from all over the world. I think to myself that then I'll spend more quality time with my kids. Then life will be more organized and I'll be able to hollow out time to help them more with homework. Then we'll have more quality together-ness.

But in reality I can do all that stuff right now, right here in my own home (except the stamps in the passport, gosh darn it). I can choose to take Chinese lessons right here at home if I want. I can push myself to learn more on the piano and heck, I could even home school my kids if I really want to mix things up.

I can push myself to new heights every single day if I really want to. I can turn that Boggle game around any time I want. It just takes a little more pushing because it's easy to get in the routine of life and forget to step out and examine things every once in a while.

Still, I'm going to keep saving for my "Australia fund." Because someday I'm gonna make that happen.

27 comments:

  1. That is so great that you got to travel so much growing up. However, a child can still have a wonderful childhood living in one place like I did. I want to go tot Australia so bad!!

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  2. I'm so with you on all of that!
    And Australia would be the total ultimate!!

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  3. Our family just moved back to America after 6 years living in Japan. It was an amazing time filled with lots of new experiences. Our kids even got to attend an all Japanese preschool. BUT so much of childhood and parenting is the same old stuff. Same routines and activities just different location. I think I visited every park in Japan. I think it's more about making an effort to push yourself to expand your horizons and not always the location.

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  4. Where do I even begin?? You have no idea how much I love this post. Wow! Just what I needed today.
    I also have the travel bug, and my husband does not (he is often-but not always-supportive though). With 4 kids (maybe adding another next year)it can be hard (read: expensive) to travel a lot. Did I mention we live in Alaska? Born and raised here and I couldn't love it more, BUT boy is it ever expensive to fly out of here. I know large families who drive out every other summer, and that is a possibility at some point for us. It takes a few days to get through Canada, though, and it is not your typical interstate highway. Anyway, I constantly tell my kids how grateful they should be to live in such a place where people spend thousands of dollars to come and visit. We are grateful! We enjoy traveling around the state on out limited road system shall we go north--or shall we go south?). We have been lucky enough to go to Hawaii, Texas, Utah and various other states, and my husband and I were just fortunate to spend a few days in NYC visiting family. Our favorite family trip, though was when we rented an RV and drove to Dawson City, Yukon. My family often went there when I was a kid). The kids got to experience a different country, and there is so much history in that quaint little town; not to mention the drive there over the Top of the World Highway, and the uninterrupted family time.
    So, I guess my point is that I can totally relate to you. I do homeschool, and how I wish we could travel more! We do what we can, though, and I continue to dream about taking my family back to DC.
    ~Sheila

    P.S. I love Boggle, too.

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  5. Please excuse the typos and missed parenthesis in my comment. I should have proofread it! :)

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  6. My husband and I lived in Germany for 3 years and loved every minute of it. Each weekend we packed up the car and the 1 child that we had at the time and traveled all over Europe. I would move back to Europe in a hearbeat. Pull the kids out of school for a year or two..think of the experiences they'd have. I agree completely that travel=growth. I just blogged today about how every weekend we get out of our quiet little beach town and head into Boston. It's good for the kids to see different people, architecure,languages, music...

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  7. Love your blog. Since I'm doing this now, I thought I'd send you a little reality check. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE the adventure, but it's hard, hard, hard for many months both leading up to the move, and when you first arrive. The stress was so much, I thought our family would be ripped apart. It's much better now, but sill stressful...here's a peak at just one day http://moememories.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/fits-and-spurts/
    Enjoy:)

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  8. I love that I read this today, just when we're going through all the adventure of moving and trying to acclimate to a new place (that isn't Australia, but still). You've reminded me to be grateful for the newness, the family closeness, and the adventure of it all! It IS exciting!

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  9. My husband and I have the opportunity to go to IReland, sans kids, in a few months. While I was reading this blog I really think I should go -- until you said I can learn the same stuff at home.
    BUT, I've nver been out of the country, I haven't a clue when I'll have another opportunity.
    Anway, we try to really broaden our horizons here (which, in the bay area does seem to be a bit easier than in Utah where I grew up).

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  10. I would love to take the kids for more traveling experiences around the world - so much beauty and joy to be seen. I am blessed to live here in Australia and we try to take the kids to explore as much as we can. It is such a wonderful, gorgeous place to live and you had better be careful - once you visit you will want to more here! Naomi x

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  11. We are so very blessed to have been able to do so much traveling. I feel that it has made me see things differently and look through the lens of life with added prisms. You're sure right though about getting good and invaluable lessons from your own surroundings as well. Part of my problem is that I just hate routine!

    The change is more important than the where. Change requires stretching like a balloon.... sometimes more than you want. But in the process of adding air, you make something that looks more like what it is intended to be.

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  12. Australia is just beautiful, everywhere. You and yours would love it and would be most welcome to pop in and say hi. Love your blog
    denise

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  13. Such a good reminder! While it is tempting to want to search for the ways God can use us outside of our comfort zone, I think it can be an incredibly rewarding challenge to determine how He is using us right where we are at!

    Ashley

    P.S. When you say desert, where are you referring to? I understand if you don't want to say, but I am just curious!

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  14. I know you will make it to Australia. With your big smile Dave is putty in your hands. I love to travel too! It seems the windows of time available to our family is shrinking and shrinking so live it up while you can. You are in that perfect sweet spot of child raising so you have to take advantage of that!

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  15. Woo hoo! Come to Australia you will love it here!

    PS I read your blog ALLLLL the time but never comment... until you said Australia and then how could I resist!

    From a devoted Tasmanian xx

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  16. We just decided to homeschool our kids and are looking forward to that REALLY big change and hoping that it too will bring some fun travel adventures! Australia would be high on our list too!

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  17. I liked reading this. I liked hearing about your adventures, and I really liked hearing your perspective on how to grow and learn at home, too.

    We spent a year in Germany when our eldest was a baby. I LOVED almost everything about Germany...except the medical system. We came home just before Baby #2 arrived. And we've wanted to go back ever since. My husband's company would send him to Scotland, England, or Germany if he gave them the word. It's just the darn medical issues. I can barely navigate the system here for our medically fragile daughter, I have no confidence that I can handle things over there. Sigh. And then there is the issue of the other kids getting older, and school, and all of that. It has been a little discouraging to bid farewell to those dreams. We're determined to get to Europe again, with the kids, even if it is just for a vacation. Travelling is just so, so good for us.

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  18. If you ever get to Australia you have to stop in New Zealand!

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  19. You're doing great work, Shawni. I appreciate that lesson--sometimes I wish so badly that I could travel the world, but my mom always reminded me that you can look everywhere for happiness, only to find that it's sitting right in your own backyard (or was that Dorothy who taught me that?) :)

    I hope you're doing great.

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  20. had to say hello. glad to get caught up on your life and adventures. Wow- such a busy woman- don't know how you do it.
    thanks for such a great reminder. we love to travel but it is so hard with so many little ones gosh darn it. maybe our time will come, maybe it wont. I believe that we can be happy wherever we are settled and learn to push through our ruts one by one. Oh, somedays I think moving would solve most issues and would be so nice to start a "new" life but the same old ruts would creep up on me I am sure of it.
    hope you are well.

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  21. well living in australia myself I have to say you'd love it as a family holiday destination!

    I grew up in a military family and we were moving overseas and travelling as we went most of my life. It definitely gave me the bug to travel and I sometimes feel sorry for my own guys - having so many babies in a short period of time rules out overseas holidays. But the places will always be there and it's fun to plan where we will go first. I have great memories too of travelling with my family.......but then I would have loved more brothers and sisters!

    Corrie:)

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  22. Having traveled just a little, I agree that it seems to let the fresh air into your mind and life. It's also fascinating to learn how differently other people view the world.
    I'm very happy to call Australia home. I hope you get to come for a visit. If you do, you're welcome to drop by - we love to help show visitors around. (There are a few posts under 'Australia' on my blog if you are interested.)
    Thank you for your post :)

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  23. yes! keep saving! come and see me!

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  24. wow, you've got quite a few aussie's reading your blog. I, too, have the itch to live various adventurous places.

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  25. Shawni, I looove that I read this post the day after we decided to move to Australia. You really do have a bunch of Aussie followers! My husband got to choose between two position offers and we turned down England - although the charming small village was calling, I didn't know if we'd prefer the dreary climate and European w/e travels with 4 small ones. I've been to Australia twice but am nervous to live there. Reading your post helped me remember all the struggle is worth it for the life experience, (even though the kids are still bawling and terrified.) I've been meaning to reach Tal and ask him, but my question is, at what age is it better to just plant your roots and stay home, from your experience/travels growing up? Or do you think that's never necessary? Thanks - and here's another place you can stop by when you get to Australia! (I stayed with Jonah's fam when visiting New Zealand with my brothers. Awesome digs!) Love your whole fam... thanks for the post.

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  26. Hilary, go to Ireland for SURE! It will be so amazing. I believe you can push yourself out of your comfort zone from home if you don't get the opportunity to travel, but I drool to actually have the opportunity! And THAT is a great one!

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