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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.