Time is the Big Unrenewable Resource

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I often engage in adventure travel with my son. While we enjoy museums and food tours, we are low-key adrenaline junkies and enjoy the occasional thrill.

We have zip-lined across the Zambezi River. We’ve ridden ATVs across the Sahara Desert and through a forrest in Chiang Mai. We’ve also flown in a helicopter to get a better view of Cape Town. We love snorkeling in the open ocean and riding roller coasters – the scarier the better! 

When you become a parent, you’re often faced with the thought of something terrible happening to your child. One minute you can be watching your child be silly or minding your business washing dishes and the next minute a flash of a terrible accident crosses your mind, briefly paralyzing you with fear.

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Self-Care and the Art of Being a Good Mother

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“If you are traveling with a small child or someone who needs your assistance, please put on your mask first before assisting others”.

For those of us who travel, we have heard these words more times than we can count. So much so, we rarely pay attention to them when we are on our flights. We are settling our kids in or sending those last few text messages or emails before the flight attendant walks by and asks us to turn off our electronics. We aren’t paying attention, but rather occupied with other things.

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Here and there: The cure.

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Phuket, Thailand | December 2015

 

I feel most at peace when I am in or near water. So my son’s affinity for swimming only makes sense.

We both are on our way to an upswing with this adjustment. After being here for 9 months now, we are learning how to navigate not only the city but our emotions better. Learning how to understand when we are just tired or stressed and take some time for ourselves. But we are both longing for the water again.

It has the power to cleanse us. I read a quote by Isak Dinesen that said “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea”. I definitely believe this to be true. And we have definitely experienced all of them at some point during this year.

We are learning. We are growing. Continuing to swim through the ebb and flow of this adventure.

The weekend wanderlust.

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A summary of this week’s victories, lessons and roustabouts.

The last few weeks have been busy and I’ve been an uncharacteristically social butterfly.

We’ve gone to barbecues at the Air Force Base, entertained friends traveling through Tokyo, and even met up with local ones and had sleep overs. I’m utterly exhausted.

So, this weekend I planned for us to be lazy and not get out at all. Saturday was amazing. I barely had clothes on and took two of the most glorious naps known to man. It was needed and absolutely welcomed.

However, this bliss was short-lived because on Sunday the boy had a trial session with the British Football Academy to see if he wants to take up soccer again on a more constant basis. He absolutely loved it.


Afterward, we roamed around Roppongi and grabbed some food before heading home. It was a pretty awesome day.


It makes my heart smile to see him find some normalcy in this foreign city in which we have found residency. He was so energetic and excited to get back to something he knows and loves and I was happy to see him in a familiar place again. I feel like we are on our way to finding our pace here in Tokyo, finding more stability and becoming more acclimated with who we are in this space.

It’s nice. And we need a bit more of that in our lives.

What adventures did you get into this weekend? Share in the comments below!

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Leaps and bounds.

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Today is Leap Day. The extra day we acknowledge when that 1/4th of a day we ignore until it actually equals up to something to recognise.

I know. I haven’t posted in a while and I start off all grouchy. I swear I’m not in a bad mood.

But it’s also a day that we can choose to make something more of our lives with this extra day we have been given. For no other reason than this opportunity only presents itself once every 4 years.

But today, my thoughts were more on the past rather than the present. Because it was this time last year I was traveling in India with Nomadness for the Holi Festival of Colors. During that week, we traveled to Agra to see the Taj Mahal in all is majestic glory, and rode camels through the Pushkar Desert. We even celebrated Holi with a local family and danced and drank under sporadic clouds of pigmented chalk. But it was in exploring the streets of Jaipur when I experienced the true magic of India.

Roaming about, allowing myself to become enveloped in all the sights, sounds, and smells that Jaipur offered, I began to see the world through a new pair of eyes. In a country that is overrun by poverty and still seen as “developing”, I was only able to see it’s beauty in the bright smiles of those who call India home. It was while walking the streets that I discovered that I needed to see more and do more with this life that I had been given.

I know there are people who say that visiting a certain place or having a particular experience while traveling “changed their life”. It’s pretty cliché, I know. But traveling to India definitely was that for me.

Perhaps it was the spirit of Holi in the air. The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, a time to reflect, forgive and forget, and to repair broken relationships. And I did. I thought about my life and the things I wanted to change within myself and with those around me. It was then that I decided to take the biggest leap of my life, to leave all that I had ever known and move abroad with my son.

I guess it’s appropriate that I reflected on that experience today. A chance to make more of yourself and your life with the gift of an extra 24 hours. In thinking about my travels last year, forced me to reaffirm the commitments I made to myself then. To constantly immerse myself in new cultures and experiences, to live boldly and on my own terms, and to always choose myself first.

I needed to be reminded of that today. I feel like that last 6 months have become lost to me. I’ve been busy and have used that as an excuse to become lackadaisical about what I’ve accomplished and how much farther I have to go. Moving to Tokyo wasn’t the end for me. I’m content here, but I have never wanted to feel or become stagnant anywhere. There is still too much world to see and too much I have yet to experience. Today was the reminder and reset that I needed, I suppose.

Although this “extra” 24 hours was still a work day for me, spent juggling the problems of students and their families, it wasn’t wasted. I made time to reflect and give thanks for all that I have experienced thus far and found a new source of energy and determination.

One thing I have learned today is that India still speaks to me and continues to reintroduce me to myself.

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Lessons learned while mothering and traveling in 2015.

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Over the past year, I have traveled to more countries than I have in my entire life. 17 countries, 24 cities, and 4 continents to be exact. That’s a lot of traveling for me. And the boy went to 10 of those countries, and 12 cities with me.

He’s one well-travelled kid.

The beginning of my travel binge started when my grandmother passed away in the summer of 2014. I think it was just a tipping point for me to live my life and stop being a person who wished their life was different, but actually worked hard to make it different from what it ever has been.

In addition to increasing my country count, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the boy in the last year. Our relationship is growing and becoming increasingly stronger because of what we have experienced and endured together.

The mothering thing is ever evolving

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Livingstone, Zambia

As the boy grows older, the way I am with him changes. Still consistent in most of my methods, but he is one smart kid *pats back* and I have learned that I have to change my approach with him sometimes. I’m raising a critical thinker that I am challenging to question everything that doesn’t make sense. And sometimes that applies to me. I try hard not to invoke the “because I said so” when I’m frustrated with his questions. I want to encourage him to be inquisitive and search for answers instead of just accepting what is because some authority figure told him it was fact.

This is extremely hard when bad things happen. He wants to know why and I have to maintain honestly with him. I try to always tell him the truth about why we moved to Japan, why I sob at the injustices that are happening in the United States, and why I search for a feeling of safe outside of our home country. He is still wrapping his brain around this, but has a clear understanding of where I stand with most things because of this honesty.

We are both growing together, that I do realize. Just as he is a different child than when he was 5, I am a different mother to him. The way we interact is more intentional than ever before and our relationship is developing into something of mutual respect, love, and adoration of who the other is becoming.

The boy is more resilient than I could have ever imagined

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Seoul, South Korea

So this move to Japan was really just out of the blue as far as the boy is concerned. When I left him with my mom this past summer, he thought we were moving to Cambodia. Hell, so did I (and most of you). But things changed and I came back to the states with a whole other destination on the horizon.

When I told him I think he just shrugged and continued playing. Or come to think of it, he may have been like “What the heck?!?!” Either way, he didn’t really fight me on it. He just rolled with it and we kept it moving.

Even when we’ve traveled this past year, he has been so easy-going I couldn’t have asked for a better travel partner. Whether there are train delays or changes in the itinerary, we never complains. He eats airplane food and switches gears when things do go as planned.

This year of travel has tested us both, but this child of mine has shown that he can overcome almost anything and I’m so proud to be his mom.

I am one awesome chick

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Nairobi, Kenya

This year, I did some incredible things. I zip-lined across the Zambezi River with the boy, I flew in a hot air balloon in Ethiopia, came face to face with a mama elephant in Botswana, and had some pretty amazing adventures in Haiti – one of which involved being in the back of a police truck.

This past year challenged me in so many ways and I learned how to say yes for the first time. I embraced the moment and ended up having some pretty cool adventures and stories for years to come.

I never would have thought that I could have traveled this much in my life and moving to Japan is creating even more of a bad ass experience. This past year has shown me that I have more grit within me than I gave myself credit. And that I can do anything once I make the decision to do so.

I’m most comfortable when I’m uncomfortable

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Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Traveling isn’t easy. It’s not as glamorous as some may choose to show through social media. I’m even guilty of this. But this past year has shown me that when I am in the most uncomfortable of situations or the most unfamiliar, that is when I feel most at home.

It’s really hard to explain sometimes, but when I find myself in a country whose customs are alien to me, where the language is indescribable and the food is unrecognizable, it stirs something in me that makes me feel like my most authentic self. That I’m able to lower barriers and relax in a way that I’m not able to at home.

Maybe it’s the familiarity of it home. The routine and the lack of spontaneity. But being in unfamiliar places makes me feel most alive, I suppose. Or maybe it’s that I’m constantly searching for that feeling of home in other places.

Home is where we are

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Johannesbug, South Africa

One thing I’ve realized is that we can find home no matter where we find ourselves in the world. In Zambia we felt at peace and familiar with our surroundings. South Africa welcomed and embraced us like no other. Haiti brought me so much joy to see in the faces of those who call Port au Prince home. And India brought me back to myself in a way that I will never be able to explain or recreate.

I’m realizing that home is not where your family resides, but more about the experiences you have together.

I seem to always return to this concept of home when we travel. Among all the chaos, culture shock, new sights, smells, energies – something seems very familiar about it al. Instantly I recognize it and my surroundings. I connect with the language and the people of that country. Despite language barriers, the boy can always find a friend to play soccer with.

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Kliptown Youth Program, Soweto, South Africa

No matter where we are or where we go, we always find ourselves in the people and in our surroundings. I can almost always find the faces of my aunts and grandmothers in the women, whether it’s in Tanzania or Tokyo. We connect with the souls of those we encounter and in these connections we find home no matter where we are.

One month later…

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It’s been a month since we arrived in Tokyo. And in the last 30 days, we have experienced two typhoons, an earthquake, many tears, more laughs, several visits to Ikea, and far too many meals at fast food restaurants.

It has been challenging, to say the least. But now we are settled into our apartment. Jumping head first into work and school, we have not had much time to explore Tokyo, but we are looking forward to more lazy Sundays and free weekends to be tourists in this city we now call home.

In reflecting on the last month, here are some observations:

  1. Tokyo is safe. Not that things don’t happen, but they typically don’t. So I’ve heard. But we live on the ground floor apartment of a building that you typically need a key or a code to get into. Even the patio area is locked. But. I, and my “urban” inner-city dwelling self is not used to this. But one thing I can appreciate is that I can be completely jet lagged, rushing, forget my keys in my door and they, along with my apartment, are where and how I left them. That shit would not happen in Philly. They woulda took the toilet paper off the roll. But I get enough sleep now so it’s not likely to happen again.
  2. The Japanese are polite. Like, reeeeeaaaaallly polite. Like, so polite you can be a xenophobic society but your cultural upbringing keeps you from, say…I don’t know, allow your civilians or police force to down every person that doesn’t look like you in the streets and call it justice or a second amendment right. I’m just saying. I was talking with one of my students about it and she was laughing in my office. She agreed that her culture is so polite that they are passive aggressive if they have a conflict with someone. She told me a story about how someone in her family was so angry at her downstairs neighbor that she spent countless hours to contact the landlord, ward offices, and eventually got the tenant not only evicted but deported back to Korea. That’s dedication to the silent promise you made to them that they will never cross you again. When she told me that, I made a note to bring welcome gifts to my neighbors this weekend. Just in case.
  3. Moving to Tokyo is not the same as traveling to Tokyo. I have yet to eat sushi here. Or drink sake. Or see Tokyo tower. Or watch a movie in Japanese. Or see traditional dancers in the middle of a square. Or visit a temple or the shrine of some famous Japanese sensei. I landed in Tokyo on August 17th and went to work August 18th. And I’ve been working and sleeping ever since. But things are stabilizing now with our schedules and I look forward to taking weekends and exploring this city and country like a true tourist soon. But it’s funny that we’ve managed to find restaurants that serve all the food we would have eaten in America without really trying. Go figure.
  4. Every restaurant we have eaten at almost always has 90s R&B music playing. Which I am here for, but the boy is completely embarrassed by. Not exactly the music itself, but his mother who grew up in that era and insists on singning every song WITH the choreography if needed for emphasis. I love it. And don’t let them play Hip Hop! OOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!!!
  5. I actually like it here. Not that I thought I would hate it, but I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do. One concern I had was that they would have this unnerving fascination with us and it hasn’t been a huge issue. I know that others have had very different experiences here, but I haven’t really had a concern walking down the street or going some place and getting touched. When we visited China, it was a constant barrage of stares, pointing, touching, photos, and exclamations of “Africa! Africa!” (seriously) But here, there has been none of that (or very discreet attempts). It could be possibly the aforementioned politeness. However, I have had a few staring contests on the train with really old people, tho. I always win.

We’ve enjoyed our time here and looking forward to it getting better. Hopefully more adventures will happen as we settle more into school and work.