Why are you doing this? What is your goal?
I should be better prepared for this question, since I have been considering that very thing for years. But it never fails to stun me into silence for a moment. I really just want to say, “It’s just who I am, it feels like wanting to take a deep breath to me.” All it takes is three weeks in my regular, normal, wonderful life before I am dreaming of our next adventure. I have felt drawn to world travel since I fantasized as a child about becoming the female version of Indiana Jones. My password for anything for years was “Indie” (a little ridiculous I know). Then I discovered the meticulous nature of archaeology and decided I would definitely have to find another way to be Dr. Jones.
Then, in my preteen and teenage years when I came to know and love Christ, a future in international missions just seemed my logical future. I dreamed of becoming the next Lottie Moon or David Livingstone. I took French in high school instead of Spanish, solely because I had heard French would serve me best in Africa. (This was woefully inaccurate from my own experience later.) I worked with unbridled fervor throughout high school for the Whittle scholarship at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville that included a year abroad (requiring only a vague application to academic learning). To my utter delight, I got it! Along the way I had fallen in love with a bright young man who also loved to travel. One of our favorite early dating joys involved rolling a quarter on a defined area of the map and going wherever it landed. He also bought me my first hiking boots, and this became another outlet for adventure (and inexpensive at that!). My junior year in college, Chris asked me to marry him, under a waterfall the week before I left for a semester in Costa Rica, Peru, and Ecuador with my scholarship. I said yes, of course (and Boy, does that story have a lot more to it!), and then flew to a crazy Outward Bound adventure.
The trip was life-changing and just as adventurous as I hoped, but I discovered I needed loved ones with me to share it. The friends I made there I adored, but it wasn’t like my family. Everywhere I went and every wonder I saw, I dreamed of sharing it with my family.
Later, when I came home, Chris and I married in 1998, I finished nursing school, and then we spent two months in Ghana with African Christian Hospitals, (that trip can not be put into a paragraph so I won’t try!). A summer later we joined his brother with the US Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic for a month.
We went home for more school, both to nursing graduate school on different paths. During that time, we sated our travel appetite with short trips to the Grand Canyon, Charleston, Washington D.C., New York, Maine, Virginia, North Carolina, Los Angeles, just to name a few. We were becoming pros at traveling on the cheap and loved every minute. As we gained nursing experience, life got, of course, a little more complicated, paying off a few loans and buying our first house (because you can’t talk people with house fever out of it). And then, it was time for a baby!
Walden was born in October 2002 and rode an airplane before he was six months old! He took to travel immediately, and we drug him everywhere. For his first overnight backpacking trip, he was still in cloth diapers! We always just smiled at people when they commented “It’s a shame he won’t remember anything.” Seriously …. we were shaping the man we wanted to encourage him to be: non-ethnocentric, welcoming of strangers, accustomed to different languages and races, having a varied palate, flexible, able to tolerate discomfort, the list goes on and on. Not to mention, you won’t find a better way to connect with locals, to see people at there most kind and compassionate, than when you travel with small children.
To our surprise and delight, Ella followed only 15 months later. When I was only 20 weeks pregnant with Ella, and Walden wasn’t even a year old, we decided to backpack Italy and never regretted it! Nothing makes you smile like a sweet, Italian elderly woman cooing at your beautiful toddler, “Bello Bambino!”
Our sweet, quirky Ella was born in 2004, and she took her first flight at 7 weeks to Florida! She flew all the way to Hawaii at 18 months (that flight has a great story, maybe sometime later!).
As Walden and Ella grew, we tried to take a 3 week trip at least once a year. Once we visited one place, we started planning for the next. By God’s blessing, Chris’s Grandma Williams was a travel agent and helped us many times visit, with family, places we might not could have afforded otherwise. The kids were Junior Rangers everywhere! We travelled throughout the country, trying to see each National Park along the way. Camping and hiking made for inexpensive lodging and entertainment, and we pray we developed a keen appreciation in our kids for God’s incredible creation.
When it was time for school, travel was one of many reasons we decided to homeschool. Determining our own schedule and being free to work around high seasons and amazing weather was an enormous blessing. We integrated school each step of the way. How better to learn about geology than at Yellowstone, glaciers in Alaska, Chinese culture at the Dragon Boat races in San Francisco, or tide pools in Washington!
I flourished in planning educational experiences around the country, since it involved three things I loved so much: my little family, travel, and education. And sometimes, family joined us!
When the kids were 10 and 8 yrs old, we decided to plan our first international experience with both of them. We figured Great Britain was the most accessible, considering language and culture. We were studying medieval history and dreamed of castles and knights; Harry, Hermione, and Ron had just become like dear friends; and searching for the Loch Ness monster sounded especially intriguing. We spent at least 6 months planning: reading books set in Great Britain; studying the geography of Scotland, Wales, and England; and learning the in’s and out’s of medieval culture. Finally, we set off with our first stop at Stonehenge! The experience would take hours to reminisce; but lets just say, we were no longer intimidated by international travel.
Check out our digital scrapbook and itinerary here.
And since that first international trip as a family, around the world travel has been a shared aspiration for me and Chris. So much more has impacted our decision, and we will share more as we go, but for now, we are going because we knew we would regret it if we didn’t! We want to see all the natural beauty God created, experience the shared joys and sorrows of all peoples as we come to know our international neighbors, and live only with what we have on our back for a season. We hope you can join our journey and pray it might fuel your own dream at least a little.
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us. – Anonymous
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”