Have you ever considered dropping everything and leaving the country for an adventure? Well, we did it! This (long) blog post is about the pros and cons. Not really about Australia specifically, but about going away for 6 months in general. There have been many blessings and plenty of challenges thus far. I’ve decided to share some with you.
Let’s start with the CONS:
1. Getting Around
While I love not having a car, it definitely requires a new skill set and patience to get around, especially for a family of 5. Consider how long it takes you to drive somewhere. With public transport, it takes us at least double the time and usually more. Everywhere we go takes planning and packing. Everywhere. We can walk to stores, restaurants and the beach. That’s about it. Everywhere else requires a bus, train, or ferry. Sometimes 2 of those. When we go places…we stay. There’s no dropping the kids off and going home. All for one. So trips require stuff. I have resorted to using an old diaper bag. What’s in my bag? Wet wipes, hand sanitizer, bus passes, wallet, sunglasses, water, snacks, and band aids. Lots of blisters. I’ve never lived without a car. It seems like a luxury to me now.
This may be particular to our situation, but I’m sure a universal challenge when you travel. We have a small beach house rental kitchen. Basically we don’t have a full oven. Our grocery store is pretty small and we can only buy what we can carry. So that makes mealtime more challenging. I go to the grocery store at least once a day. There’s a limited amount of meals we are capable of cooking well. I don’t mind going to the grocery store every day. I feel like we waste less food when you don’t have a big cart to fill up and a trunk to drive your bags home. We only buy what we truly need. The kids miss certain foods from home, and I miss having a fully stocked kitchen.
This is listed as a pro and a con. This probably doesn’t need much explanation. We spend a whole lot of time together. This is very different from life in Denver where on most days the kids are at school or with friends. Here, we have a smaller house and 1 bathroom. We do most things all together. At home, we are usually a “divide and conquer” type of family. We have less to do here, so we do things together. 5 different personalities + daily challenges + less privacy can be a recipe for disaster. We all have good days and bad days, so the biggest challenge is to not kill each other and to not let the person having a bad day rub off on everyone else. It makes me giggle when parents complain about being stuck home on ONE snow day with their kids. Try homeschooling 3 kids in another country in a smallish house with endless rain and no car.
Sometimes we feel a little isolated. 6 months isn’t quite long enough to really establish a social life. The kids aren’t in school and where we live isn’t quite the same as courtyard life in Stapleton. We do have some friends. They live pretty far (when you don’t have a car) so getting together happens, but not easily or frequently. My kids are spoiled in Denver with endless friends at their doorstep. We knew this would be a challenge for them, and we’ve done our best to get them out interacting with other kids. I am very grateful for the families we have met and the ones we already knew. We’ve had some very fun get togethers in the 2 months we’ve been here. They’ve made us feel welcome.
Many days are filled with unknowns, newness and risks. While we embrace them…It’s not always easy and we have some bumps and hiccups along the journey. We make mistakes (lost backpack/Chromebook) and get some boo boos. The weather can ruin plans or we can miss the bus. This experience requires us all to get out of our comfort zones, be flexible, and do some hard stuff. Most of these are too personal to share…But you know what I mean.
And now the Good Stuff….
1. Living Simpler
Less stuff. No car. Our calendar is almost empty. It feels so good. It feels quieter. Calmer. It feels like one big giant sigh.
2. Life Pause
You know when you’re at a work meeting and they start to talk about something that doesn’t apply to you. It feels so good. This whole 6 months the feels like that. I know what’s happening back home and we can totally remove ourselves. It allows me to get a good perspective about what’s important and I plan to make some changes when we return to our normal life. I remind myself of this perk daily if I ever start to have a bad day. I remind myself that even if today isn’t awesome….I’m on a pause from normal life and that’s a gift.
Speaking of gifts… Togetherness also has many advantages. We are all getting to know one another on a whole different level (for better or worse) and we talk more and play more. I see different relationships between the siblings forming that weren’t there before. In a blink, Elle will be off to college. Back in Denver, her world is her friends. I will cherish this togetherness because I know we may never have this opportunity again. So much magic mixed into the madness.
Remember all those cons? Those are changing us for the better. I’m sure. We are building grit and patience and perseverance and other good stuff. It’s happening.
Another gift. The empty calendar means more time for each other, but also to do things we love. No hustle and bustle. The word “busy”is almost non existent. As a part of homeschooling, the kids had “hobby day.” They each prepared a 30 minute presentation on a hobby. The rest of us paid attention and even gave it a try. Instead of each having our own separate lives, we took the time to learn about what makes our other family members happy. A gift. I get to see the sunrise. We take walks. I’ve read over a dozen books. We sleep well. We exercise. We are able to take time for ourselves and each other.
Instagram is our highlight reel. The hard stuff is ingrained in our memories forever and making us better humans (I hope!)