Monthly Archives: July 2012

Meet Toronto

So, it has begun…here we are in Toronto. We are at a great hotel, Intercontinental Toronto Centre, in a great suite, with a great pool. We had a great night’s sleep last night, and now we have the day in the city before we head to the airport to fly to England tonight. For me, everything feels better now that we are actually on the road – all the stuff we had to do before we left is either done or not done, and if it’s not done, there’s nothing we can do about it now. We now have in our possession only that with which we are travelling, so there’s nothing to sort, no more what-to-take-and-what-not-to-take decisions to make. It’s exciting, and we are starting it off with a bang in this hotel! (This level of luxury is a one-time only experience, so we are enjoying it immensely.)
This morning, we are taking the kids up the CN Tower. Yesterday, they rode the subway for the first time, we got caught in a huge thunderstorm on Yonge Street, and they wondered about a lot of things…why all the vents in the sidewalks, why does water squirt up out of some of them, why are they hot, why does wind blow up others…I’m wondering all those things too. Time for me to do some learning along with them, I think!
Of course, Liah announced yesterday on the plane that she doesn’t want to go on the trip anyway. She hates trips apparently. And Darragh had a moment too where she said she just wants to go home to her bunkbed (which of course, is not actually at home, but rather in a tractor trailer). They will be fine when they get to have a few weeks with family in England, though. It’s funny how it never really occurred to me that the kids wouldn’t actually want to do the travellling adventure, but it makes sense that they would approach it with some trepidation. After all, their mother has clearly been a little anxious over it recently. Amazing how different it feels now that we are on our way!

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Blog Stats.

You know what’s really exciting to me? My blog stats.

I don’t know if every blogger is like this or if it’s just me, but when I see that little bar graph on the top of my page, click on it,  and there’s the map of the world coloured in wherever anyone has checked out the blog, it gives me quite a little thrill! The other day, for example, there were six little flags on my stats page, and six countries coloured in, and because two of them were the US and Canada, it looked like almost half the world was reading the blog! Woo Hoo! The other countries that appeared were Indonesia, Malaysia, Belgium, France, UK, and Ireland. This, I think, is very cool.

I love maps, and I can’t wait to track our travels on one (still looking for a good online tracker if anyone can recommend one). I used to cut maps out of National Geographic magazine when I was a kid, and paste them into a scrapbook. Just random maps. Because they look good – exciting and exotic. I also once learned the capital city of every country in Europe just for fun. Of course, now there are countries in Europe that I’ve never heard of, and several of the capitals have probably changed as well, but there you go – a new challenge. I think at least one of our girls will take up that challenge as we travel. Follow in their mother’s map-geek footsteps.

Anyway, back to the stats…I spend a few minutes, each time I see one of these little flags appear, wondering who it is who might be reading this blog, what their life is like, how they happened to come across the blog, and whether it is at all interesting to people who may not know us….I don’t get that kind of information from my blog stats. Well, I shouldn’t say that. Sometimes I can see that facebook referred someone to the blog, but otherwise, how did Joe from Idaho come across it? It’s a mystery. And I love it. It adds a whole new twist to the adventures of our impending travel.

You know what else I love? Comments. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, very few readers actually comment. There are a couple, but for the most part, I can check the stats, fifty people may have visited the blog on a given day, and not a single one has commented. Or even clicked “like”. Does that mean they don’t like? Or that they don’t know how to comment? Or that they can’t be bothered commenting? What? What does it mean?

I feel like I’m in junior high school. Do you think he likes me? Is she mad at me? Are you not speaking to me? It’s a little bit pathetic, really. But there it is. The culture of blogging. I’m sure if I search, there are plenty of sociological articles already written, but since I’m new to blogging, I have not yet come across them. Perhaps when I do, they will explain this blogging-neediness in a more scientific way, one that makes it seem slightly less pathetic.

In the meantime, I will continue to get my thrills from the appearance of the little flags, and the mystery of  who it actually is out there in Malaysia who is reading the blog…

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The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow…

There will be days, says Dev, where nothing goes right. We’d better get used to that. It really is amazing what can happen in the space of 24 hours though, and we need to trust the fact that it will always be ok. Because it will. Our pediatrician told us the other day that there will never be a problem we can’t handle. I think that has to be a bit of a mantra when things are uncertain, as they undoubtedly will be, over the next several months.

Yesterday, it was looking like we would have to revisit our whole transportation-in-Europe plan. We were going to buy a minivan in England, and use it to travel in Europe, and then sell when we are finished. One of Dev’s siblings was going to insure it for us and then name us as drivers, and all would be well.

So then, we found the vehicle we wanted, and tried to set the wheels in motion, but the wheels kept getting stuck. Things don’t actually work the same way over there, apparently. You can’t just buy a vehicle and drive it off the lot; everything has to be registered and taxed through the mail. Really! The mail! In this age of technology and information, we have to wait for the mailman to deliver our tax and registration. Amazing.

And then there’s the insurance. No, the siblings can’t insure for us because then we’d have to stay in the UK. And apparently being a good driver in one country does not actually make you a good driver anywhere else. So, the 20 years no-claims Dev has may not be at all useful. Even though the world wide web can actually inform the insurance company that Dev has not, indeed, had any claims. And even though he’s British, with a British drivers license, and 5 years British no-claims…don’t even get me started.

Luckily for us, we have great family in England who have spent the last couple of days looking into it for us, and we have been in contact with a very helpful man named Andrew at Evans Halshaw in England, and I think we now actually have a new vehicle:) It will even be ready for someone to come and pick us up at the airport. It’s a Citroen Grand Picasso, a gas (petrol)-guzzling machine that despite it’s appetite, will get us around Europe on our own schedule. With room for kids, bags, and tents. It’s all good.

The moral of the story then, is, when there is a day of frustration or things don’t seem to be going well, the next day will be better. This particular incident is minor really, so when we miss the plane or the boat or the train, we’ll get the next one. And when that amazing place is all booked up and we are disappointed, there will be another, equally amazing place we didn’t see the first time we looked. And we’ll book that one instead.

And as Annie so famously says, the sun will come out tomorrow!

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The Organization of A Nomadic Life (or lack thereof).

I think we need to vastly improve our organizational skills. Anyone having read earlier posts will probably be facetiously scoffing “Hello!” right now, but to be fair, I did do a lot of sorting and organizing in order to pack up our entire house into a tractor trailer, especially since I had to leave out what we needed to take with us on our travels. The problem is, the stuff I left out to take with us could fill a pick-up truck. And I seem to have to look through a minimum of three suitcases and four totes to find any one particular item.

Example: Saturday morning I showered. I used pink princess toddler shampoo to wash my hair, man-scented shower gel to wash my body, and my legs are really hairy because I couldn’t find my razor. Still haven’t found it. Based on the volume of stuff I kept out, this should not be happening. I have my own shampoo (three bottles, I believe), and I have my own body wash. And I have a razor. And none of them are in the tractor trailer. So, where are they?

Last night, we moved into our third location since leaving our house, and just to find the kids pj’s and toiletries, I think I must have made at least 40 trips up and down the stairs rooting through stuff.

Another example: Lost my husband on Saturday. As in, couldn’t find him. He went off to a supposed two or three hour event early in the morning, was to call me when it was over and I was to pick him up  to go visit friends about an hour away from, here. No call. I didn’t exactly know where he was (mistake), and his phone was “out of service area”. So, at 3:30, the kids and I left to go to to our friend’s place without him. Then, when we were ready to leave there later that evening, we find out he’s on his way. So then we had to wait for him so we could come home together. An organizational disaster caused by only one cellphone, only one vehicle, and somebody’s organizational weaknesses. Not saying whose. But I was where I was supposed to be at the time I was supposed to be there.

So, today, I am going to sort, yet again. I need to pare down, and consolidate. Each child needs a bag of their own clothes. The totes need to go. And I need to come up with some kind of system that is more streamlined and seamless. What’s kind of worrying is that we haven’t even gone anywhere yet….it’s going to be an interesting year!

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The Littlest Hobos.

So, that’s it. We are officially nomads. Hobos. Vagrants. The house is gone, and even though I’m very sad about that – we all are – it is strangely freeing at the same time. Yesterday was emotional and we were all grumpy and exhausted. Still exhausted, but much calmer, and marginally less grumpy. It feels like there is room in my head for other things. Like cottages in Provence, and villas in Corsica…it’s like the dream has become fun again. We are getting a bit of a taste of our new nomadic life in very familiar surroundings right now. Easing our way in. We are staying with one sister, then probably moving on to the next one, and then we are spending a week in a neighbours house while they are away camping. This is a really good intro for the girls – our middle daughter had a lot of tears and anxiety over her bed being taken out of the house and having to sleep on a mattress in her sister’s room, and now she’s actually sleeping on the floor in someone else’s house – baby steps, but important ones! It’s good for me too. I am attached to my bed, perhaps a little too much. No matter where I’ve been, even if it’s a four star hotel room, I’m always happy to get back to my own bed. I love it. It is comfort. Familiarity. Home.

I need a new philosophy now – home is wherever we are as long as we are together as a family. I need to be able to find that comfortable, secure feeling regardless of the bed. I feel positive. I think I can do it.

Although, we were supposed to throw the bed away when we moved out, but we snuck it into the back of the trailer at the last minute! Maybe my new philosophy might need a little work…

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How Things Change…

Sometimes, you just have to give in. That’s what I did the other night. Yes, it felt pathetic on some level, but I had to admit to myself and my family that the plan was over-ambitious, and it was doing me in. I think it was a relief for everyone, actually.

So, now we are not heading to Central America in the suffocating humidity of August with the killer mosquitos; we are, instead, heading to flood-drenched England for some mosquito-free “home” time. This makes us feel better.

This whole venture is big, and we knew that going in, but as I think I may have mentioned before, until it is imminent, it all seems quite doable. Then when its all happening at once, it becomes a bit of a problem. Mentally, physically, emotionally, and practically. Of course, as our good Kingston neighbour pointed out, we did know it was all coming…it would seem we’re not the best planners in the world.

So, we turned the plan upside-down, and now all things seem slightly calmer. We are spending August in England, and then heading to the European mainland at the beginning of September. That way, we have August staying with family, and we can get our feet under us and do some less stressful planning for the remainder of our year. We fly out on August 1 (all booked and everything!). And so it begins…

ps. we do still hope to travel to Central America, but on the way back, when we’re a little more “seasoned”!

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Advice for Potential Family Travellers.

If there’s anybody out there planning to sell their house and take their three kids travelling for a year, let me give you some before-you-go advice.

First of all, make sure you have somewhere arranged to live after you move out of your house and before you start your travels. Yes, even if it’s only a couple of weeks, and even if the nonchalant “It’ll all work out” seems like a reasonable plan initially. It won’t be. Trust me on this. You might find it adds to the already surprisingly stressful enterprise of moving. (Ah, the romance of Moving to Nowhere…where has that gone?)

Secondly, do not underestimate the stress that goes with packing up a house you have lived in for 10+ years. You have no idea how much stuff is in the back of those cupboards and closets. None. Oh, and start early. Do not, for example, think you can pack the entire house in the two weeks before you move out. This will not be a good idea. You may find you don’t have time to do other things, like feed the kids, shower, or breathe.

Thirdly, don’t expect there to be any peaceful moments or tidy spaces in your house ever again. Your house will not only be full of half packed boxes, it will also be dirty and messy. Because who has time to clean when you are trying to focus on breathing? You probably won’t even have the energy to yell at the kids to tidy up their stuff, so expect that to be all over the house as well. This will complement the box situation quite nicely. Oh, and when your eleventy-two year old says she’s packing her room, what she means is she’s spreading all of her stuff over the floor and any other available surface of her room. Just FYI.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourthly, start small with the travel. Pick somewhere you are familiar with for the first part of your venture. Don’t, for example, decide to go to Central America first if you’ve never been there before, don’t really know anything about it, have never done much tropical travel, and are afraid of diseased mosquitos. Bad Idea. Instead, think of how much the kids could learn on a trip to, say, Tignish. Really, how many of us have truly explored Tignish? I’m sure the learning opportunities are endless.

And finally, even if you make all of the above errors, try to stay positive. Just pack, breathe, pack, breathe, feed kids, shower, pack, breathe…in that order. Get yourself into a routine. Avoid over consumption of alcohol (helps with the breathing, but slows down the packing), and if at all possible, start anti-anxiety medication at least one month prior to the move.

Above all, try to remember that this is FUN! This is your year off! The year you’ve waited four years for! Woo-Hoo!

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