We’ve been home sweet home for more than a month now.
We’re back in our house in Ottawa, Canada and back to our pre-travel life.
Hints of fall and the end of our endless summer are everywhere. There are fresh apples at the market, a few leaves on our maple tree out front have lost their green, and school busses have joined the traffic. The mornings and evenings are getting cooler as summer winds down—our first tastes of frigid air in more than a year. Soon, our sun-kissed hair will darken, we’ll have to give up the comfort of flip flops, and L, who travelled the world for a year with a single pair of shorts, will have to put on pants.
But the season isn't the only change...
New school, new work, new backyard
The big one is that LJ went back to school! And is loving it!
She hadn’t been to school in two years, except for a six-week stint at an outdoor Waldorf-inspired school in India and two weeks at more traditional Mexican Catholic school. She loved homeschooling and so did I, and I really miss her during the day, but she needed a change this year and a little extra independence after spending so so so much time with her parents over the last 13 months.
Returning her to her previous pubic school wasn’t an option for a few reasons so she’s attending a private micro-school. It’s an Acton Academy school—a model we started exploring two years ago that really resonated with the whole family. It gives LJ the best of all worlds: the collaboration, teamwork and friendship of school; the self-paced and self-directed learning of homeschool; practical skills; and lots of time to be creative, play and run around.
Meanwhile, I’m working out of an aweome co-working space near LJ’s school since I need to play chauffeur and want to avoid the extra rush hour trips. I left a hectic government job three years ago to do my own thing and was working part-time from my home office. With LJ in school I have more time to work, which is great because I have a lot more work to do!
I still run a communications company with two partners; however, I’m also now working as a consultant for an instructional design company and writing a how-to book based on our travel experience. L and I also have a charity project we’re exploring…but more about that some other time.
Not as much has changed for L. He's currently building a ninja warrior-style climbing structure in the backyard with repurposed wood; and he and LJ have been spending some extra time doing little fix-it projects around the house.
We’ve also reigned in our spending. Living out of a backpack and having to track every cent for a year made us more comfortable living with less, more concious of where our money goes, and more motivated to find ways to save money. Also, having the added expense of school fees means we needed to make some big cuts in other areas.
But what’s changed the most is us.
There were some frustrating parenting moments during the trip and we often had to remind ourselves that LJ didn’t chose this particular journey and that some of the benefits of such an experience would come later, maybe even years from now, when she’s older and more equipped to process what she’s seen and learned.
We’re already starting to see some of that.
She’s matured so much and is more grateful, respectful, self-aware and responsible. I’m sure some of that comes with simply growing up but every day I see little ways in which her experience has shaped her. She uses a Thai expression to tell her friend to calm down, she doesn’t hesitate to ask questions of a shop keeper, she easily connects with a Romanian girl during a day camp, and she’s constantly looking for ways to raise money to help her soccer friends in Tanzania.
She says travelling around the world is the most challenging thing she’s ever done and that it’s also the thing she’s most proud of.
L and I are different too. We’re less bothered by and more appreciative of the little things, more motivated to try new things, and have changed opinions on some things.
And we wish all food was spicier.
Sameness and slipping away
That said, honestly, much of life is like it was before we left.
Our house is unpacked and organized just as it was. Our dog, who was nervous and slow when we first returned, is back to her cuddly and playful self. L is back at work and back on his bike; I’m back to grocery shopping, laundry, my car and all the other to-dos as a work-from-home mom; and LJ is back to doing what she loves most: playing outside with her best buddies and soccer. We’ve reconnected with our family, friends and neighbours; we’ve eaten our favourite poutine; and we’ve spent lazy mornings on our front porch.
Some days it feels like we never left…As if the last year was just a dream.
And that there’s the hard part.
Although we love our home life, travelling and adventuring united us in a big way and became a part of our identity. Every day it feels like we’re losing some of that, like it's slipping away. It feels like the amazing connections we made are weakening and the lessons learned are fading. We’re WhatsApping less with travel friends, we’re losing the Swahili we picked up in Tanzania, we’re walking less, and regular life is taking over the time we once spent feeding our curiosities. In the midst of busy normal life, the amazing moments are becoming memories.
We have short, canned answers to the obligatory questions because most people don't want more than that, and that's okay, we get it. We find ourselves struggling to share anyway, even with each other, because I guess we're still processing and there's no easy way to capture all we did and the effects it had on each of us.
L and I are going through all the photos of this last year. There are thousands and we’re choosing 500 that we’ll assemble into a book, which will inevitably sit on the living room shelf with the other photo books. It saddens me a bit because it’s like we’re taking what was a life-changing and massive experience and reducing and simplifying it to a single chapter of our life story.
It’s a chapter I don’t want to end because where does the story go from here?
Objectively, I know we’ll never lose what we gained. Those experiences run deep. They've marked our soul and speckled themselves throughout many facets of our life. However, making that book and seeing all we did this year does make me yearn to recapture the simplicity, connectedness, magic and adventure of our travel life.
A big trip is out of the question for now, though I’m aiming for something for a few weeks in the spring. We’ll see…
For now, I must remember that there's much to do, but more importantly, so much to enjoy and be grateful for.
Overall it is good to be home.
Because despite all the incredible homes away from home, none are quite as sweet as this one.