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.
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