We made it! I’m afraid many of you think we’ve fallen off our beloved globe to be heard from no more. Though it’s true we had moments of simply wanting to run away rather than dealing with the logistics and finances of a 6-person cross country move, we persevered, and after an intense month of faxing, flying, and fretting, paperwork, planning, and persistence, we finally arrived on the West Coast last week. To say this move (which is still very much in process) has been the toughest thing we’ve ever done is an understatement. People marvel that we could take four children to the far reaches of the planet, yet 11-months of travel was cake compared to this. On the road we had nothing more than a bevy of backpacks, a few credit cards, and 2-3 days of transportation and lodging arrangements to deal with. On any given day our logistics were confined to what we could carry and where we wanted to go. Here we’ve got multiple households, legions of possessions, and a seemingly endless string of utility providers, real estate agents, and insurance companies vying for our too short supply of time and energy. We’re trying to keep our wits about us, but every now and then we pine for the simplicity of the road.
The most stressful issue, however, has nothing to do with matters material and everything to do with the emotional well-being of the Six. When Tom and I removed the kids from their American lives for one year, it was with the assurance that they would one day return to the familiarity of their home and their friends and their activities. Moving requires us to leave all that comfort and security behind and forge something completely new. When traveling each destination was temporary, so there was no pressure for it to be perfect, no need to find new best friends, no threat that it would replace the permanence of home. Home for us has now disappeared and we hope it will emerge once again in our new environs–new friends, new activities, new neighborhood. Tom and I are accustomed to such changes, but we do not presume that leaving everything familiar behind will be easy or painless for the kids.
January 2008 will forever be remembered as the hiatus between our Great Southern Adventure and our second West Coast Tour. Atlanta bid us farewell by posting our picture on the cover of the Atlanta Life magazine and adding thousands more new homes to an already weak real estate market. This latter fact presents an interesting contrast to the experience of the Cohen family of One Year Off fame, whom many of you have mentioned in your emails and comments. Before departing on their yearlong sojourn with 3 kids, they sold their home and put their furniture in storage only to find it more expensive to replace their house when they got back. Bummer for them. Trying to avoid their dilemma, we kept our house, assuming it would pay for itself in appreciation. Bigger bummer for us, as our timing couldn’t have been worse. We left a red hot, rapidly appreciating market and returned to find our house worth significantly less than when we had left it. Had we known Tom would return to no job, we might well have sold the house and traveled for two or three years and still come out ahead. I mention this not to gripe (ok, well maybe a little), but to highlight that in planning for an extended trip like ours (and the Cohens), there is no perfect formula or foolproof plan. You have to do what works at the time and know there will always be risk involved. That said, if anybody is looking for a house in suburban North Atlanta, drop us a line…
Our transitional home at Grandma and Grandpa’s in Utah filled our days with wintry fun and our nights with dreams of warmer climes. The boys snowboarded, Tom and I braved the bitter cold of Park City for a few MySpace concerts, and the entire extended family ripped up the “slopes” at a local park with innertubes and toboggans. McKane perfected a big air jump off a berm he built with his Uncle Scott, but lost his zeal when, in typical “it’s only fun until someone gets hurt” fashion, a hapless co-ed bit it hard and sprained her back on his primitive construction.
After dragging it out for as long as I possibly could, I finally broke down and bought my contribution to global warming, a used, seven-seater SUV, perfect for hauling kids and surfboards (Prius to follow in a few months). I loaded up four children (2 sick for the first time in a year and a half) and slogged through snow, salt, and ice to reach our rented piece of nirvana in Malibu and rejoin our now hardworking Tom. Everything we own is still in Atlanta, so we’re camping on air mattresses and eating off of paper plates. We might never have considered such discomfort before our trip, but after living out of compression sacks and sleeping in tents, busses, hostels, and airports for a year, no one has missed a beat, much less considered our new living arrangements odd. I’d like to think this is yet one more way the trip has transformed us and given us a new perspective on even the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing I relish about being bogged down in moving minutiae, nor do I enjoy threats from the Fulton County school district that I could go to prison for Dax’s continued absences (we did withdraw him–they just can’t seem to get the paperwork into the system). Having seen more, done more, and been away from it all for 11 months just helps me shrug it off a little quicker and gaze out at my new view with a little more appreciation….Sorry, Sheraton, what can I say but home….aaaaahhhhhh!