Reflections from the road ¼ of the way thru
Trip Start Oct 13, 2004
23Trip End Jun 21, 2005
Well I'm sitting here after a travel day from Fox Glacier to Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand. A little Elton John is playing in the background, something about a vagabond. I guess in some way I feel kind of like a vagabond, a transient, a wanderer. Out here on the road you definitely have a lot of time to ponder things. Sometimes it is deep "meaning of life" kind of stuff, other times it is stuff like who the hell invented Cricket and why? That said I did get into a 1 day Test between NZ and Australia and NZ made a wild rally to win, I think with 3 balls left to bowl. See, I even have the terminology down. Now having confessed to watching this for an hour or so, I must also admit I got right into it and quite enjoyed it. I only watched it for an hour or so and it had been going of for hours prior to that. How do you stay engaged in something that long, I asked myself in one of those pondering-times? Then it struck me, BEER and lots of it. Ah but I digress.
25% of the way through! Wow that much 'eh. It seems like we've been gone much longer than 8 weeks. In some respects it seems like we've been gone a short lifetime, maybe that is because of what we've experienced, maybe it is because many days, life just seems to stand still here on the road. In any event time has slowed down for us and that is very cool.
So what are some things that have struck me so far. Well for one, I like my own country Canada a lot. I've known that for a while now and the more I have traveled the more I have come to appreciate just how well we have it in Canada and how blessed we are. A shame more of us don't realize just how good it is, maybe we'd whine a bit less. I'm at the front of that line. This trip has reinforced that for me, Canada is truly a great place to live and raise a family, period. Now my first impressions of New Zealand are that it would not be a bad place either. So, far I am very impressed with New Zealand, and New Zealanders. But many of the places I have visited in my travels both prior to and during this trip would fall into the nice or even amazing place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there category. New Zealand along with Italy and Switzerland all fall into the 'I think I could liver there' category and more importantly the 'I wouldn't mind raising my family there' category.
Something that has struck me is what I miss from home. I, hate to admit this publicly, but I miss my closet full of clothes. Damn, you get tired of the same 2 pairs of pants in a hurry. As I have previously mentioned Shannon is making an even greater sacrifice in this area but I miss my clothes and shoes. I miss my bed, the heavenly bed is a dream and I miss it night after night. I miss my and our friends. Now I'll never be mistaken for a social butterfly but I've definitely, with the help of a lot of therapy I might add, come to a place where I can appreciate a good party and socialize pretty well. And I totally miss being able to have some of our friends over for a dinner party and a nice bottle of wine (two, or three...).
On some days, usually travel days, I miss the structure and routine of being at home. I miss playing hockey, I miss my co-workers at Microsoft. I miss our house and I will miss not being at the Cabin for Christmas. I miss having Starbucks readily available, surprise, surprise and I miss my small groups that support me through all my stuff. I miss being able to hear Tom preach on Sundays at Westside Kings Church. I miss that a lot. You don't realize how much energy, inspiration and encouragement you get from something or somebody until you don't have it anymore and that is definitely the case with Westside. I miss taking the kids Ice Skating and I miss our house.
Would I give up this trip because of any of those things, not on your life! But, I also know I will be returning to all those things and for that I am very, very grateful. I also have some things I'm not missing at this time of year. With Christmas being only 2 weeks away, I don't miss the insanity of Christmas Shopping and all the busyness both personal and professional that goes along with this time of year. I don't miss -20 or worse. I don't miss waking up in the dark and leaving work in the dark. The 10 pm sunsets in December here in New Zealand has been a pleasant surprise to say the least. I don't miss TV but I do miss movies and the odd round of video games on my Xbox. I'll probably be the last person at Microsoft to play Halo 2, oh the shame, the shame.
There is no doubt that the positives of this trip and the positives of living in Canada outweigh their corresponding negatives, but it is interesting to note what strikes you from time to time about each, both positively and negatively. Some other things that have been interesting include the discovery that I am the worst traveler on Team Duke/Schewe. I more than anyone else have struggled with the lack of structure and routine. When I think about that for more than a nano-second it should be no real surprise as I am by far the most structured member of our family. Shannon is the other extreme - she abhors structure, so this is right in her wheelhouse and the kids - well they're kids. Tyler's world revolves around two simple phrases "I'm Hungry" and "I'm Tired" usually repeated numerous times during the day. And Kayla, well she is Shannon's own "mini-me", she is always up for the next adventure or the next mountain to climb, figuratively or literally. So I am firmly bringing up the rear when it comes to adaptability and accepting the lack of structure that now exists in my life on a daily basis.
I'd also say that I, more than anyone else, have struggled with the fact that we are pretty much together 24x7. I like my quiet time and my down time and to be honest those times are hard to find here on the road. I would say my adjustment to this fact has been, at times, a bit bumpy and turbulent. With the end result being that those around me and closest to me sometimes pay a higher price than they should have to for sharing this trip with me. On the positive side I am very aware of this fact and I am consciously working at improving this particular defect of character. So see, even out here on the road, having the time of my life there are still growth opportunities.
· Beyond my wildest dreams. This trip has exceeded my greatest expectations and some of the things I've looked forward to the most are still to come. Wow! I expected it to be harder to embark on a trip of this magnitude and thought there would be many more difficult times, especially with the kids. Not to be Pollyanna and imply everything's been perfect, but there have been no major issues and the little things seem to defuse easier than in 'real life'.
· Costing more than I imagined. The ole credit card is getting a solid workout on this trip! The reality is we're not backpackers - we've passed the "roughin' it" stage of our lives and adding children to the equation spikes up the bill, be it activities, food or accommodation. Plus our tastes have become more 'discerning' over the years - we LOVE great food and wine and that can add up. That said, we're also not staying at the top of the line places either - I think we're in a unique travel genre "Adventure Travel with Children" - look out Frommer's
Truthfully, that Adventure Piece of it is crazy-expensive too - $500 for a family of 4 to go JetBoating. And any time you truly want to get away from everyday life (Kapawi) you know you'll pay a premium. Add "Eco" to the front of any adventure and there's an automatic markup. The good news is, we're soon in SE Asia and everything, we're told, is more economical there.
· Too many consistent travel days are hard on everyone. We need to find a good rejuvenation place to just regroup after major travel - I call it 'nesting'. A minimum of 4 days in any location seems to work well for us. It's not good for us to be on the go every day, plus it makes it hard to keep up on schoolwork too.
· Speaking of schoolwork - that can be challenging, at times. We've found it's most effectively accomplished if a routine is maintained as much as possible - first thing in the morning seems to be the best. The perfectionist in me also struggles that we're not doing enough, but I'm trying to get past my Straight A Persona. Perfectionism is definitely not a trait I want to pass on to my kids.
· We each need space. Our favorite places have enough space that we can each have our own zone, with enough time there to establish familiarity.
· We each have our strengths & weaknesses. As Mark said, this kind of thing is what I love - new places, new adventure, new people to me, new things to learn. I hate too much structure and what I consider to be anal mundane tasks - oh, "silly things" like packing up. He's great at that, so he's in charge of keeping things organized and I'm very grateful for that. Tho' I may travel better in most areas, put me in a car and my threshold drops to a minimum. It must go back to some childhood trauma, cuz I am worse than the kids for any kind of long distance driving "are we there yet? How much further?" ... Mark mentions the best way to travel with me in a car involves sedation. We actually are a great team now that we've learned to accept each other where we're at and exploit the areas where we shine.
· Mark & I are using this time to really explore each other at a new level. When in our lives have we truly had the opportunity to spend this amount of time together without the distractions of work, busyness and endless commitment? We're doing "Artist's Way" together which is such a wonderful way to explore our individual passions and desires, as well as a those of our coupleship.
· Regular massage is critical, especially after extensive time in planes. Plus it's one of my mandatory self-care items - I love it and need it on a regular basis.
· The realization at how amazing our world truly is. We've always loved to travel but this is so much more - a journey, a pilgrimage.
· I am continually blown away by how amazing the children are. I always knew children are adaptable, but to see, in action, every single day these amazing little creatures just absorbing the wonders around them is truly magical. They have been up for everything and we don't hear too much whinging from them
Things I miss:
· PEOPLE!!! - friends, family, groups I belong to (Artist Way Girls, RCA, BEST, CompassPoint, the Dinner Gang...), hangin' out with the girls, parties.... For any of you that know me, I am a VERY social person and I miss all aspects of that part of my life. I'm glad we're hooking up with friends over Christmas/New Years...it'll be great to see familiar faces. That said, we sure have met some wonderful people along the way - definitely one of the gifts of travel.
· My Closet - Ok, it's superficial, materialistic and shallow - and true. Oh, to think of it's bounty. In the clothing dept, I'm feeling a bit like Cinderella before she had a Fairy Godmother. Note: Mark has finally confessed that he actually 'smuggled' more clothes than me on this trip - being the packer has it's privileges. Needless to say, I'm bitter and I'm going shopping!
· Our king sized "Heavenly Bed" ... moving beds all the time you get some good & some not-so-good.
· Tom @ 11:11 ....frequenting churches around the world makes me realize how special Westside Kings is and there's only one Tom Morris in the world. Send CDs or get on the web 'k!!
· Our washer & dryer....keeping up with the laundry for 4, while traveling can be challenging. This has been largely solved with the Motel scene, but can't say what's ahead in future countries. It was brutal in Central/S America.
· The Gym - it's hard for me to get my head around working out w/o a gym. We get lots of exercise hiking & swimming, but tho' it's been difficult, I'm starting to get more disciplined about doing ab work & yoga in our rooms.
· Picking up the phone and chatting with a pal.
· Having someone else teach our kids...I'm appreciating the teaching profession so much and am looking forward to putting the kids back in Master's Academy. Home School is not one of my passions.
Things I Don't miss:
· The Tom Baker Cancer Centre....I hate that place and the fact that I'm simply 'not available' for 3 month checkups feels good. I don't want to disparage the role they've played in my healing to date, but frankly they didn't give me much hope 4 years ago. I'm very happy with my 'road less traveled' of holistic care, homeopathic remedies, supplements, nutrition, deep emotional cleansing and spiritual healing. I think of the doomsday words just before I left "that I shouldn't do this trip" and it just makes me angry. Contrast that to my holistic doctor completely encouraging it as the best thing I could do for myself and it's no small wonder which environment I respond better in.
· The busyness of our lives...it's so nice to have NO obligations apart from providing the basic necessities.
· The COLD!!! And all the ugliness that goes with it....bad roads, traffic jams, blocked driveways, freezing my bedoochies off!
About the Kids: --- The Musings of a father (with a few interjections from a mother) ---
The kids have been absolutely amazing! They have both grown so much on this trip already. I am constantly amazed at how well they adapt from town to town, country to country. They just take it all in stride. What a great lesson for me, for all of us really, on just taking the things life throws at you in stride. It has been awesome to watch the two of them bond as well. They really get along great most of the time, and they play and push each other in areas we never imagined.
Tyler as it turns out is quite a little daredevil and he has surprised us with his lack of fear, be it the Tower of Terror Ride at Disney, riding the Zip Lines at the Canopy Tour in Costa Rica, trekking the rain forest at Kapawi, exploring the Galapagos, tubing on the Lagoon at Aitutaki or Jet Boating the Dart River. He just keeps asking for more, including a very sincere desire to go bungee jumping. We told him 'maybe next time'. He has always been a quiet, shy little man and it's great to see him more comfortable meeting people, even making his own relationships along the way with people he's attracted to. He has developed this incredible belly laugh that is absolutely wonderful to hear and is completely contagious.
Kayla has also been a joy, she is always up for the next adventure and has been awesome with Tyler. She is really good at pushing him beyond his comfort zone in a healthy way and I believe has been instrumental in his growth on this trip. She continues to grow up as well - she's very bright and often exhibits intelligence way beyond her years. The down side of that is she sometimes also exhibits highly teenage behaviour of pushing her boundaries - at times outright defiance. This has led to her and I butting heads a bit from time to time. I have found that most interesting as I thought because Shannon and her are so much alike they would be the ones having issues but here it is, at least right now, her and I.
Scholastically we are doing our best to keep them both stimulated and learning. We know they are experiencing, seeing and learning a lot just from this trip. The challenge is to provide some of the 3 R's for Kayla and work with Tyler on typical pre-school things like basic numbers, letters while continuing to work on his speech. This to me seems to be continually improving.
The other thing we've noticed is how much their imaginations have blossomed on this trip in the absence of TV, Video Games, Computer Games and all the distractions kids face today. Interestingly, many of their games have some type of learning component in them with Kayla playing teacher to Ty or some type of learning card game etc. Kayla has become an avid little reader and they both come up with all kinds of imaginary scenarios with which to pass the time away. Tyler has even developed a whole supporting cast of imaginary friends. Some of whom live on the Volcano in Costa Rica while others are currently building a house for him on Bali. Wherever they may be, they are very clearly part of how he is processing this trip. It is also fun to watch Shannon talk with him to see where the story will go next, the odd time when he 'traps himself' and it ends up we are at the same place as these 'friends' (ie flying on the same plane) he tells us "well you know they are not real" like he can't believe we're so silly to not know the difference between truth & a game. It is great to see Shannon with them like this, so involved, so alive!
It dawned on me in the Shower the other day that both of them are at critical stages in their development. They say that boys are pretty much fully developed as to what they will be like personality wise etc. by the time they are 5 and in girls they hit that point around 7 or 8. As fate would have it, Tyler is 4.5 and Kayla 7.75 so the timing for a trip like this could not be better. In the shower I wondered just what we are imprinting on their souls, memories aside, what impact will this trip have on shaping who they are and who they become. I believe it will have a significant impact on both of them regardless of how many conscious memories they have. And as a parent, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to give them this gift. A gift that will forever be imprinted on their soul, living on long after the conscious memories have faded away. Is there any better kind of gift that any of us can/could receive? I think not!