In early 2006, Ryan and I (Emily) were the consummate Wall Street (un)professionals. De rigueur was the ninety hour workweek, the broken relationships with family and friends, the human sacrifices of both health and sanity. By the time he abruptly gave up the ghost on his thirteen year career to move back to California, Ryan had become a full-fledged alcoholic who probably could not hope to see his 34th birthday if he refused to start on a path toward recovery. It was in his second day of outpatient rehab that we discovered I was pregnant.
Home then is a notion. It’s as much an idea as a place. The figment is no less real than the physical expression – in the end, won’t both come to dust? Maybe home isn’t what you carry on your back at all, but rather what you house in your head.
– Abigail Wick
And like that, everything we had ever known came to a sudden end and, suddenly, everything began. The transition from reckless young adulthood to unplanned-parenthood was upon us. For two frightened, self-absorbed people, having a baby wasn’t “the answer” to all the differences that lay between us, but instead, a call to action. Our lives could no longer revolve around each other’s pride and insecurities, nor could we continue to fixate on the past wounds. We needed to heal ourselves together; we needed to recommit.
When our son, Oliver, reached his second birthday in 2009, we decided that we trusted each other enough to sell a number of our possessions, cancel our mail, rent out our home in California, and buy a one-way flight to Japan. With merely a concept of Asian geography in mind, we made our way across two continents; making stops in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. For thirteen months, the three of us learned to live, laugh and love as if we had nothing but each other. Chaos had never posed a problem for us, routines and habits had never really set their claws into our home life, and OliverTheWorld was born.
During that year we spent abroad, every new and unexplored corner of the earth that we inhabited at each place and time became a kaleidoscopic classroom for each one of us. We came upon a wild cassowary and its chick in the rainforest near Cape Tribulation. In Nepal, we cheered Oliver on as local children in Ghorepani raced him along the stone path to the Anapurna Sanctuary. We urged each other to lower our voices during Nyepi, the end of Bali’s lunar New Year. We struggled to explain the concept of genocide to a three-year old before a shrine in central Cambodia.
As young, first-time parents, we knew little about raising a child in conventional American society, no less in the jungles and rivers of Central and Southern Asia. But along the way, my husband and I made it work, and we realized something very important. There was nothing on the earth that we treasured more than being together as a family. Compared to the alternative, where families disband early in the day for school, work, shopping or other countless daily routines, we had this incredibly precious opportunity to spend every moment with our son as he grew from a toddler into a little boy.
Shortly after returning to California we ached to feel the road under our feet again, so we packed up the car and began driving north on the Pacific Coast Highway. Three months and eleven national parks later, we made the decision to live this way, to travel as a family, and to take whatever steps necessary to enable our wanderlust. Our daughter, Kendley, was born a few months later, and, as a newly-minted team of four, we recommitted ourselves to our goal of leaving the United States for an extended period of time before the end of the year.
This blog is not neccesarily intended to serve as a “how-to”, nor do we expect it to provide a blueprint for other people’s two-week vacations. You will not find our family’s version of a Children’s Guide to (fill-in-the-blank) City here any sooner than you will learn which airlines we prefer. We are not here to advertise, or to make a quick buck by acting as an ambassador for a brand. I like to think that we do not represent anyone or anything other than ourselves.
Instead, we write to create an artifact, a love letter by our family to our family. We write so that our children may one day see that that they learned, firsthand, to embrace the unknown at a very early age, lest they ever forget it. We want to share this experience with you.
Barring any acts of nature, we will have arrived in Iceland no later than August 1st, 2012. We plan to move throughout Europe and parts of the Middle East and Africa with no set schedule to speak of other than a distant goal of reaching South and Central America sometime in 2014. We will learn to home school and unschool, to seek out communities of like-minded families all over the world, and to experience everything through the eyes of our children. We will experiment with local languages until we can confidently order lunch without sounding like tourists. We will live with less if our bags become too heavy, and we will always strive to feel at home in the world, so long as we are with each other.