When my husband and I decided to embark on this grand adventure and take a year to unplug from our regular busy lives and travel, we knew it would change us and our kids. Naively I thought it might take a few months, something around 6, but things started shifting within 3 weeks.
The main reason we decided to uproot ourselves, sell most of our stuff and travel with our kids was not because we knew it would satisfy our sense of adventure (although that is huge), but rather because it would reconnect us as a family.
For too long my husband and kids and I passed each other on our way in or out of our front door. Someone was coming just as the other was just leaving. Our front door became the meeting place. Gone were the dinner conversations or the early evening walks. They were replaced by work hours and driving our kids to soccer, orchestra and music lessons.
At the end of the night we started to feel a bit empty. What exactly had we accomplished during the day? Our days were full, but our hearts were not. We yearned for a slower pace. For those dinner conversations to return. For those late night walks catching fireflies to become the norm.
In the beginning of June we changed our schedule.
For the first time since our boys were born, both my husband and I were home at night (and during the day). We cancelled all of our kids activities. We resumed the family walks. We had dinner together again. We read our little girl more books. It was amazing.
We also spent endless hours packing our house, selling stuff and getting our house ready to sell. It was a ton of work.
At first our older kids grumbled. They wondered when the fun that we promised would start. They didn’t think there would be this much work.
But we kept after them. We talked about how we are all in this together as a family and that preparing for the gap year was just as important as taking one.
They cleaned, they sorted, they organized, they helped out way more than they wanted. They spent endless time taking care of their little sister.
In the beginning we were all mentally and physically exhausted from all of the prep work.
But slowly things started changing.
We found ourselves being more patient with our kids. We became more grateful for their contributions.
We noticed that our boys stopped asking us what we were going to do (for fun) and instead started asking how they could help the family. Multiple times a day.
Our boys become more patient. More giving. More calm.
Our boys willingly started parting with more stuff as they learned that relationships and experiences felt better than things.
We took a few road trips and spent over 3,000 miles on the road exploring new places and confirming that being together on the road is exactly what we all want to do.
And other things changed.
One of our boys who would always ask us to help him, started realizing that he was capable of more.
His confidence grew leaps and bounds.
The other boy let his softer side come out and was often entering the room with a smile that would melt our hearts.
And they began to look forward to work. (Yes you read that right.)
One day one of our sons entered the room and proudly declared, “Mom, dad, when you first asked me to work I hated it. Now it makes me feel good to work.”
Our family has always been close. But the preparing for this gap year has brought us to a calmness and closeness that I thought would take months, not just 3 weeks.
It has made us better parents. And better people in general.
We are all proud of our accomplishments. We are in love with our slower lifestyle. We are happy to learn that living with less is really as satisfying as we thought it would be. We are enjoying our time together, without rush. We are enjoying the patience and gratefulness that is now abounding in our house.
As we close on our house and get ready to leave the country to travel to Australia and beyond, we can only imagine where we will grow from here.