It's been almost 4 months since I got on a plane with my 2 year old and started our nomadic summer (my husband joined us shortly after). We were on a farm in Wisconsin, soaking up the summer in Chicago, traveling throughout Southeast Asia and driving the coast of California, making stops along the way. We have finally, finally, finally settled into our new home. Our stuff arrived. Toren watched eagerly while it was all delivered. We are unpacking. We are settling. But my, it was a tremendous journey. And what did I learn? What did I experience? What will I remember most?
1. Travel with a toddler is so manageable and so worthwhile. Don't be afraid. It can be done.
The first most important thing: CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS. This was not a vacation of sleeping in late, followed by lounging at the beach and late nights out. This was not a vacation of long days seeing the sites or long dinners enjoying the fabulous food. This was a vacation with a 2 year old who wakes up at 6am and usually falls asleep around 9pm, but sometimes stays up until 11pm. This toddler needs to run, needs a nap, can't sit still for very long, can be picky about food, wears diapers and isn't ashamed to throw wild tantrums in the middle of the Malaysian airport. When traveling with an unpredictable human such as this, don't stress, just change your expectations and plan accordingly, whatever that means.
The second most important thing: ALLOW YOURSELF TO EXPERIENCE LIFE THROUGH A TODDLER'S EYES, AND ENJOY IT. My husband is best at this, and he reminds me to do it all the time. Slow down. Let your kid explore, and explore with them. They find everything fascinating - the plants, the insects, the cars, the rocks. Let these things fascinate you too. We spent hours hunting crabs on the beaches in Jimbaran and searching for frogs by our hotel in Cambodia. We played in puddles and examined spiders endlessly in Ubud. We watched ducks roam the rice paddies until the sun went down. These ended up being some of the most joyous moments.
2. There's something magical about the farm life. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I now know it's got to be a regular part of my life. I haven't even unpacked and I've already cleaned out the coop in the back of our new home and filled it with chickens. Next endeavor - canning tomatoes and planting a fall garden. Dirt under the nails...I'm telling you, it's good for the soul.
3. I don't need stuff. I have a lot of it, but I don't need it. I assign sentimental value to things and carry those things with me throughout life, but really a lot of these things are weighing me down. It's time to simplify. When we took our trip overseas, the three of us packed all of our clothes into one single backpack. And we really did have everything we needed. It was refreshing to have so little and still be perfectly content. After living for months without my stuff, I realized how little I need so much of this...stuff.
4. Travel will always be a part of my life, no matter how many children I have or how busy we get. I believe it brought our family even closer together. Exploring a new place, meeting new people, seeing life through a different lens - this is important stuff. It's not just fun and exciting. It's educational and changes the way you view yourself and the world around you. Travel teaches you that your way is not the only way. Travel teaches you that there are so many other lives happening out there, and these lives are so separate, but still so connected to you in many ways. Travel teaches you to cherish the very things you are venturing away from. Travel doesn't have to be to the other side of the world. It can be to the town down the road, the next state over, or to a small farm in Wisconsin.
I hope for many more nomadic times in the future. But for now, I have a pile of boxes calling out to me to be unpacked and some chickens who need to be locked up for the night. It feels good to be home.