Around-The-World-Trip Part II

Our trip begins in Thailand, the sky ablaze with floating lights. Having experienced Asia in 2014 when I travelled to Delhi and Chennai in India for the World Down Syndrome Congress, I knew I wanted my family to experience that vibrant and chaotic side of the world, and I wanted to do so in an authentic way. I can think of nothing more authentic than attending a festival, and Loy Krathong is a big one. Yee Peng, the lighting and releasing of  lanterns into the sky, is a small festival within Loy Krathong. In this way, Thailand became our official starting destination; we would work backwards – or rather – around the world, from there. But where to next, and how best to get from Canada to Thailand and avoid dreadfully long flights?

While we hadn’t been having the best of luck with travel agents to date, I decided to give the travel agent game one last try. This was a good move. While there are challenges working with others: waiting for email replies, trying to convey your vision, explaining why 24-hour flights won’t work to a person without children…our travel agent has proved invaluable, especially when it came to booking our flights, and helping us to form an itinerary that makes sense.

Nancy came to us with an understanding of flight paths, how to best organize plane tickets, and industry connections and knowledge. She taught us there is a real thing known as an Around-the-World ticket, or as it’s short-formed, RTW ticket. Booking a RTW ticket through Star Alliance, which is what we are doing, is saving us more than half on ticket fares for each destination. This is worth spreading and repeating. If you’re planning a trip with multiple stops, RTW tickets save you money – loads of it!!! I’m talking 45 days of travel to five destinations for five people for under twenty grand. This is not an insignificant chunk of change by any means, but I can assure you that number would be well over twenty grand if we booked each ticket separately. If I had been left solely in charge, I shiver to think of the financial consequence.

Which brings us next to destinations. Dan and I have long discussed a trip to Hawaii to celebrate our ten year anniversary, which passed this summer – why not work Hawaii into our RTW trip we reasoned? We therefore decided to leave Canada and head around the world in that direction. We had to decide between Vancouver or California as a stopover point on our way to Hawaii to break up the long flights. We decided on San Francisco, California for two reason. One, none of us have ever been there, and two, because of the coastal redwoods and Muir National Park which houses the ancient sequoias, the largest trees in the world with some as old as 1,200 years. THAT seemed like a sight to see that the kids would enjoy. Also, who doesn’t delight in a large bridge and an island prison?

After a short four days in San Francisco, we fly to the Big Island of Hawaii. I was locked in to flying to Big Island (Kona airport) to see the volcanoes the island, and the region, are famous for. Hawaii is made up of hundreds of islands, but there are eight main islands, with Hawaii (Big Island) being the largest. Based on our next destination of Japan, which Dan and I decided would be “neat” to see, to say the least, according to our trusty travel agent we needed to fly out of Honolulu on O’ahu (different island). This meant splitting up our week-long trip to Hawaii into two sections. With the inter-island flight lasting only an hour, the situation wasn’t terrible. While not ideal, we’ll get to see what we want to see, explore more islands this way AND stay in not one, but TWO awesome beach houses. Win win. We are hoping to surf, view sea turtles and check out an active volcano in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park along Crater Rim Drive. Lava, I want to see lava!

From Honolulu, we are flying to Tokyo, Japan. Japan has been on my list of places to stop since the inception of our RTW plan. I just think it will be otherworldly. I was disappointed many cruise lines didn’t include it on their RTW itineraries, but geographically speaking, the island is a bit out of the way. Flying gave us the freedom to choose, and choose Japan we did. Hawaii to Japan made sense, in terms of the flight path, and it got us closer to Thailand.

I’m in the process of planning our accommodations for Japan right now, which can feel overwhelming. I love the ‘translate this page’ option, with translations off Japanese sites like, “Please enjoy original dishes mainly on Japanese food that is kind to your body and mind.” And “The dining room is a dining room where you can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of adults using stone materials.” I can only imagine what barbaric translations our websites must spew into Japanese, with expressions like “all you can eat buffets”.

Our Japan leg of the trip is going to be exhausting. Not only is there an eleven hour time difference, but we have plans to arrive in Tokyo, travel to the Kawaguchiko Lake region to view Mount Fuji, travel back to Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city near Tokyo to catch the four hour bullet train ride to Hiroshima; then plan to travel by train to Kyoto and finally to Osaka, our final Japan destination. We have eleven days to do this. I’m working on it. I’m extremely excited about this leg of the trip. The only hitch is that the Rugby World Cup is being hosted in Japan at the same time we are there. This will make the whole country much busier than usual, but it also means we get to be caught up in a part of history, the first time the cup match is being held outside of Australia/ New Zealand, and experience some of the hype. Remember the authenticity I was now striving for? We’re going to dive right in in Japan.

From Osaka, Japan, we fly to Bangkok, Thailand. Through one of my guide books (I prefer Lonely Planet) I discovered there’s an amazing jungle about an hour outside of the city with some fantastic short hikes. We’re talking about the opportunity to experience the jungle and all its inhabitants on a one to two kilometer jaunt. As a family who loves to hike, this seemed like a must. Next, we’ll head to the North of Thailand to Chiang Mai, an excellent place to stay and take in the festival of Loy Krathong, and the best place to get to an elephant sanctuary for rehabilitated animals.

After all of this travel and stimulating commotion, it seemed only natural that we unwind for a week on one of Thailand’s stunning family-friendly islands. We plan to do just that on the island of Ko Samui. From Ko Samui, we fly back to Bangkok, before a monster twelve-hour flight, the longest on our trip, to Frankfurt, Germany. After a less than twenty-four hour stopover in Germany (so that it doesn’t actually count as one of our stops on our RTW ticket), we fly a few hours to the southern-most part of Europe, Lisbon, Portugal. We debated other European countries, but by this time, mid-to-late November, most of Europe will be cooled down, and we tried to stick with moderate to warm climates. Japan is the exception, in that it will be fall when we are there in late October to early November. Light jackets and sweatshirts are easier to pack than winter gear.

We plan to spend four days in Lisbon, taking in Europe’s cobblestone streets and cafes, giving the kids enough of a taste to whet their appetite. We know we will be back to Europe, so we can justify this short stop tease. From Lisbon, it’s an eight hour flight back to good ol’ Toronto, Canada, with enough family memories, I’m sure, to last a lifetime.

I can’t wait to see what we’ll learn, experience, feel, each of us on our own and as a family. This trip will be a stretch for us all, to be sure, but more than anything, I hope it is quality time living life together, and the first of many more amazing travel adventures to come. While our trip encompasses several countries and continents, North America, Asia, Europe… we haven’t forgotten about South America, Africa, the rest of Europe… the question, as always, is what will it take to get there? While travel is a luxury, and certainly not one everyone is able or willing to afford, for many of us, it is only beyond our reach if we aren’t willing to prioritize and make the necessary sacrifices to make it happen. And if you’re like me, and you want it all, maybe you can have that to. I wish that for you.

I plan to write about this trip like it’s everybody’s business, but I can’t promise when it will be posted because I want to be in the moment, not writing about it. What I do guarantee is that at some point I most certainly will be posting about it, maybe in the form of a book turned Master’s thesis.

Until then, we have the summer together before we leave this fall. WE LEAVE THIS FALL!!!!

I hope you will dream big, travel far and do life as a family the way you would do you. Do you. Be happy.
As I’m learning in Japanese, Oshiawase ni! May you be happy, and Yoi tabi o! Have a good trip.

What the World Needs More Of

I spent the last few days at a friend’s cottage with my two oldest girls. I can tell you there is nothing so endearing to me, nothing that makes my heart soar more, than witnessing others being good to my children. My friend and her husband showered my kids with love, and it was a beautiful sight to behold. What the world needs more of is people who aren’t afraid to turn to another with open arms and say, I see you, even the funny bits that are sticking out that you tried to tuck in; the parts you don’t want the world to see, but that I see anyway. I see it all, and you’re okay. I love you anyway. The world needs more people like my friend and her husband who welcomed both of my daughters – and their challenging behaviours – equally, unafraid and with joy in their hearts.

To be blunt, what the world needs more of is people who aren’t afraid to mingle with kids with disabilities; who aren’t afraid or hesitant to invite a child with Down syndrome into their homes and family lives. But it doesn’t stop there either. You can’t just invite someone over and think you are bringing them in. True hospitality, like true inclusion, is about meeting every guest’s needs.

I can honestly tell you there have been many times when I’ve felt it was so much easier to just stay home with Elyse than to try and bring her over to someone else’s home or go out in public, where others may not understand or be compassionate about her outbursts. Elyse can take a long time to warm up to a new place. At this age and stage, she has some challenging behaviours that accompany her discomfort in new situations or scenarios when her needs aren’t being met. Namely, she screams. Often, she screams the word “NO,” but it can also just be a burst of sound. Sometimes she screams in my face, or the person who happens to be closest to her. She may even give a little shove. This is her way of shutting down and protesting a situation she isn’t comfortable in or happy with. I understand this about her, and I’m doing my best to accept it as her parent and to help her work through situations that are upsetting to her. But I refuse to keep her home. Life must go on, yelling or no yelling, and she has to learn to deal with new situations, because life is full of them.

There are certain people who bring Elyse comfort. Namely, Elyse relies heavily on her daddy in times of stress; he is truly her rock.

I knew, then, heading into the unknown territory of a few days at a friend’s cottage without daddy for backup was risky business, emotionally speaking for Elyse and myself. If Elyse felt lost, I alone would have to guide her back, a process with which even as her mother, I have varying degrees of success. When Elyse is feeling misunderstood, her frustration manifests itself in an angry wail. The force of her anguished voice cuts through you like a physical assertion, and I feel every bit of her pain. While I’m becoming more understanding of Elyse’s emotional outbursts, she’s doing the best she can, I don’t expect other people to understand, though I hope they will. I wanted our cottage visit to go as smoothly as possible. I wanted to be able to enjoy the experience with both Elyse and Ariel, my eldest. And I of course wanted to have a great time with my friends and their families, too.

On our way to the cottage, Elyse fell asleep hard during our late-in-the-day car ride to the boat launch where we were to meet my friend for a short boat ride over to her place before bed. I slid a sweater and lifejacket over Elyse’s lifeless body and cradled her in my arms then hoisted her up into the boat. She woke up in a daze mid-lake, but thankfully remained calm. She asked for dinner when we arrived, we fed her some cereal and then it was off to bed without much of a hitch.

With no running water in the cottage, there was the new experience of the outhouse, which Elyse took to well. Perhaps a bit too well. More on that later. When I checked on her and Ariel before I went to bed, Elyse had ditched her single bed and crawled in next to her sister. To do so, she got down from her bed, then climbed over a railing, in the dark, to squeeze herself in on her sister’s single bunk, where she fully entwined herself with her sister. Poor Ariel looked rather cramped, and though she later complained not to let Elyse sleep like that again – nevertheless, the following bedtime she offered, “come over here and you can sleep with me again, Lysie.” The world needs more big sisters like Ariel.

After breakfast on day two, the real challenge began. Elyse became fixated on the outhouse. I must have taken her a dozen times. It was as though she didn’t know what else to do with herself. I managed to get her interested in swimming and we headed down to the water. With a gentle sandy beach and a girl who loves to swim, I thought the set up could not have been more perfect. I was wrong of course, completely wrong. Elyse was beside herself. She’d suddenly lost all willingness to venture out on her own. She didn’t want me to leave her side for one minute, which was fine, except she was clinging to my neck and screaming in my face. She didn’t want to get out, she didn’t want to stay in. I wasn’t getting it quite right. After a few minutes of her yelling, I dropped her off in the shallow water where I hoped she would calm down a bit, but she only panicked after me, calling for me, “mommy, mommy, mommy!”

What is it about desperation that so forcefully pushes you in the other direction?

My friends reassured me, and sent me out on a planned swim. I couldn’t understand why Elyse was being so clingy, we had just been swimming at my parent’s house the day before. I was doing my best to be patient with her, but it was hard not to feel annoyed. This wasn’t how this day was going to go. Two of my good friends arrived with their kids during another bout of Elyse’s screaming, and finally I gave up on trying to get her to swim, and despite further protests about getting out of the water, I swaddled her in a towel away from the crowd, sat her on my lap, and tried to ascertain what the heck was wrong. When she’s worked up, this isn’t easy. “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy” was all I got between sobs and wails. Mommy’s right here, I told her over and over before falling silent and simply gazing out at the view.

I find when Elyse gets worked up, sometimes the best thing for me to do is just shut up, and let her get it out. I try to lead by example by remaining quiet and calm – I don’t always succeed, but I know it’s important and that Elyse isn’t acting out because she wants to, she’s acting out because she’s trying to communicate something and she’s frustrated.

Being the creature of comfort that she is, I finally got the idea to pull out a few of her favourite books and bring them down to the dock. With my friends there, and Ariel swimming in the water with the other kids, I didn’t want Elyse to try and wander back up to the cottage…or the dreaded outhouse. The books worked like a charm. She was obviously overwhelmed by the new situation, and the number of people, and giving her a favourite pastime worked wonders. She calmed herself. Elyse knows very well what she needs. After that, we had a blast. I rarely had another issue or emotional outburst from her. Later that day she enjoyed a boat ride, a buggy ride, she played games with the other kids, we roasted marshmallows and had a fun story time before bed. She even worked up to swimming in the lake by herself without clinging on to my neck the next day. I stayed close by, but we enjoyed swimming together. There was no more frustration or panic. Elyse smiled her genuine smiles and laughed her infectious giggles.

While I worked through Elyse’s frustration, fears and outbursts, can you imagine what made the whole process easier? Let me fill you in on a little secret: it was the people around us. I didn’t feel judged by my friends as a terrible mom because my child was screaming. I didn’t feel judged when I took her to the outhouse for the umpteenth time because when she tells me she has to go, I take her. I didn’t feel judged when I missed my turn to do dishes, or didn’t quite prepare all of that dinner when it was my turn to do so because I was parenting a child who sometimes takes longer to do things. Instead what I felt was their love and support. They showed not one ounce of disapproval for any of my daughter’s behaviours, no matter how disruptive or socially unacceptable, they simply accepted her for who she is. They helped me by picking up the slack, by including both girls in every single activity where they showed the slightest bit of interest and offered to watch one or the other repeatedly. It felt like we were three parents looking after our combined four children, and I can tell you, when you’re the single parent in that triad, that feels pretty darn good.

So why tell you this? That my kid screamed in my face and that other parents, my friends, were cool about it? I have to tell you this because there are parents who would still turn away, look to another and roll their eyes at my daughter’s behaviour. There are parents who might hesitate to invite a family over who has a child with a disability because they’re afraid of the type of socially unacceptable behaviours I’ve described. There are parents who wouldn’t know how to help, though they’d want to, and so they’d rather just avoid the whole situation all together. There are parents who would be shocked, maybe even offended, by my daughter’s behaviour. And all I want to say is, invite us anyway, invite the kid with the disability to do things anyway, take a chance, anyway. My friends’ kids saw their parents display unconditional love, and I can think of no better life lesson to imitate than that.

My friend and her husband put my daughter’s needs as a child and person first without me having to say a word. Her need for dignity and respect, kindness and patience. They respected her timeline, and made it clear she was invited in with open arms. They played with her, not afraid to make dragon sounds back. They asked me about her preferences, trying to ease transitions. Basically, they acted like the incredibly decent human beings that they are, extending the same level of hospitality to Elyse that they do to every guest, but understanding that the same does not always mean equal. That at times, Elyse needed a bit more attention than the other children did; though they all took their turns, and everyone got what they needed.

I am incredibly grateful to my friend and her husband for the amazing weekend, and for allowing both of my daughters the chance to grow in a space free of judgement, where they could truly be themselves. What the world needs more of is people who aren’t afraid to see into the fear and pain of another and reassure them it’s okay to be who they are. And mean it.

The Best Parenting Decision I Made This Summer (maybe this year…)

I was going to write, “The Best Decision We Made…”, but truth be told, I’m the the one most often in charge of the children in our household; the one who received the advice and the one who frequently has to live with the consequences of our parenting decisions – be they good or bad, so I get to own this one. Let’s face it: I’m the stay-at-home mom, though I don’t like that stifling term. I prefer away-from-home mom because I’m always out doing things with the kids; or the work-at-home-with-kids-mom, as I transition back into the workforce on my own terms. But that doesn’t really have the same ring to it as stay-at-home mom, does it? Anyway, I am the one who pushed for this idea because I am a mom, and moms, in consultation with dads, know what’s best and get shit done. This one key decision would rise above the rest.

For many years, I’ve had moments of major guilt about relying on television and technology to help raise my children. This pattern began when Ariel was two and a half years old. I followed the screen recommendation times with her put out by the Canadian Pediatric Society – none until the age of two – then at two, I let loose. It’s no coincidence that Elyse came along at about the same time, and I needed a way to occupy Ariel while I was breastfeeding so that I knew she was safe. I really have no regrets about this. Are there better ways to have gotten through this time? Sure. But I needed to survive, and was getting little to no sleep. My husband travels for work, about a week out of every month, sometimes more, and often for several days to a week at a time. Since I’ve left teaching and become a full time parent, there have been meals to prepare, children to mind, a house to keep. These things don’t just happen magically, they require huge sacrifices of time and effort. Dan is one of the most supportive husbands I know, but there’s not much he can do to help when he’s away. I have no guilt about the use of a virtual babysitter during these years. I didn’t abuse it, in my opinion, and I used it to buy myself time to get dinner on the table. I don’t feel the shame of “not good enough” as a parent from these days, but I have felt it more in recent years.

You could argue adding the third child may be even more justification to turn on the TV and get a much needed break. But hold on a minute – how much TV or screen time in a day is too much, or just enough?

When Penelope, number three, was born, I did my best to protect her from screens as long as I could, but the problem was that her sisters were already addicted – and so was I. Our kids get up really early in the morning, often in the 5am hours. To grab some extra sleep, we commonly let them use their iPads until we were ready to parent. After school, especially in the Kindergarten years, I found the big kids were burned out and cranky at the end of the day, and in addition to their snack, what they wanted was time to relax after school. So I’d get the kids snack, and then let them use their iPads. When it was time for grade one, all of a sudden Ariel had homework, but Elyse was still beat, so Ariel would whine that Elyse got the iPad and she didn’t. I tried timing iPad sessions, but inevitably whenever I have to take the screens away, the kids are less than happy about it, even downright vicious.

I noticed my kids becoming different people when they sat behind a screen, but I felt powerless to change our routines. I NEEDED the time to get things done. I NEEDED TV to keep the kids calm so I could get dinner ready. I NEEDED IPads to keep them occupied and quiet – or did I?

Don’t get me wrong, iPads and technology, when used for good, can be extremely educational and worthwhile. Using iPads with your kids as a teaching tool can be excellent. Elyse learned every single letter of the English alphabet with the help of the Sesame Street App – thank you, Elmo! It’s just that we all know when you’re using the iPads to get a break, you aren’t sitting with your kids. They are sitting there, by themselves, watching TV. It was that part, the “by themselves” part about Netflix watching that was starting to get to me. That Penelope would choose a screen over playing with her toys when given the choice. That my kids would completely ignore me when watching their iPads. The problems were adding up. Worse still, with the arrival of warmer weather this year – FINALLY – if I let them, my kids were choosing their iPads, out of habit, after school, instead of going into our backyard to play in the beautiful sunshine. That did it. Enough was enough. It was time for me to take back my kids attention, fight inactivity and foster imagination and creative play. Screw you iPads, screw you (but also Thank You, for all those times I needed you, because there were truly times that I did and you helped me to survive.)

So the best decision I’ve made for my kids this year was to take away their iPads. No more iPads after school or first thing in the morning when they wake up. No more iPads for the big kids during Penelope’s afternoon naps on weekends. No more iPads period through the week all summer. I’m reclaiming my kids’ lives and making a case for letting them become bored, and building the necessary skills that arise when you have to figure out what to do with yourself.

I am in no way judging other parents, or trying to be self-righteous about this. I am only writing about this, because by golly, it worked! I thought my world would implode without iPads, but the results have been remarkable, though not without challenges.

After I declared the iPad ban was in effect, Ariel was stunned, flabbergasted, appalled. How could this be so? Then she started playing more with her sisters, and after a day or two, they all more or less forgot about iPads.

I’ve seen my kids make messes again with paints and scissors and glue, and I’m okay with that. All kinds of art projects are happening.

I’ve seen my kids taking turns, and being nice to each other, and playing games inside and out, and I’m more than okay with that, too.

I’ve seen my kids dealing with conflicts using some great strategies and some not-so-great strategies where I’ve had to intervene, but the point is, they are my kids, I want to teach them things, and I want them to be practising these social skills at home and with each other so that I can guide them. The iPads were taking away many, too many, social opportunities.

I’m seeing my kids work on new projects. I’m seeing Elyse and Penelope make up imaginative games, each of them showing more interest in books, drawing and writing.

I’m seeing better focus, and children who immediately come to the table at dinner or snack time, and wash their hands without issues when I ask them to because they are hearing me, and they’re more hungry from actually playing instead of sitting around.

I’m seeing the opposite of what I expected in terms of gaining more time for myself. I have children who are willing to help and who are observing me in the activities I’m performing. I need my kids to be observing me because otherwise how are they going to learn?

I’m seeing myself work through frustrating moments, and teaching my kids how to deal appropriately with their emotions in turn.

I’m seeing Ariel take on more responsibility. I’m seeing Elyse find her own things to do. I’m seeing Penelope play play play.

I’m seeing all of their innate sense of play in full force and we are engaging in more worthwhile conversations.

In essence, I’m seeing happier kids. I’m seeing kids as they should be. Kids in the wild. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

If after only four weeks, I have seen all of these changes, imagine what a whole summer will do, and then a next year, and the year after that? Imagine what projects my kids will choose to do with their free time and the lessons we’ll all learn from each other; the dance parties we’ll have and the extra time we will be spending together.

I don’t know about you, but my family needed the iPad break. Thanks to my friend who encouraged me to try it by sharing her own experience.

We are a complex culture. On the one hand, don’t give your kids TOO much screen time because TV will rot their brains. On the other hand, no screen time? How could you dare deprive your kids of the future?! There lies a balance somewhere, but I think for me, that balance holds greater weight on the “less technology is more” side at the moment. I myself gave up TV about two years ago, when I committed fully to reading. Something had to give. It’s not that I NEVER watch TV, it’s just that I save it for special occasions, like Raptors championship games or Game of Thrones or maybe the occasional movie. That is actually the list of all I have watched on TV in the past year to date. Giving up TV was a conscious decision, a choice I made, to make time for an activity I enjoy that informs and feeds my passion for writing. I have read something like sixty books so far half way into this year. It also comes down to this: I would much rather my kids got into book reading than TV watching.

While I have any influence at all, I need to use it for good and guide my girls back to the natural light. Something tells me my impact will be much greater, their memories from childhood more memorable and enduring, with the screens tucked safely away.

Around-The-World Trip Part I

We have had something brewing for a long time – over three years now. Something big. It’s easy for me to remember how long it’s been because the idea came to me when I was pregnant with Penelope who turns three this week. When I texted Dan at work to tell him I had one of my BIG ideas, I’m sure he was bracing himself. When I get a big idea in my head, it’s hard to change my mind. Later that evening, I approached the subject lightly, after all, I didn’t want to come on too strong and ruin my chances of Dan accepting my big idea. “What about,” I began, “if we downsized and lived in a cheaper house, and then used the money we made on the sale of our home to travel around the world?” I tried not to sound too hopeful. I tried to tame the bubbling excitement rising from my throat. “Yeah,” Dan said, seemingly unfazed, “that could work.”

And so, what began as an idea over three years ago shifted into shape. The first step, we both agreed, was to sell our home, “our Castle on the Hill” as I sometimes refer to it. That house was on a lovely, extremely private cul-de-sac, surrounded by tall trees and lush greenery. We even owned a section of the common greenspace with our neighbours. Yet, we had rushed into it.  We had some fantastic neighbours and a coveted address in town, but…I felt somewhat trapped. After paying our mortgage, we didn’t have any extra money to do much of anything else. We were house poor. I eventually wanted a pool in our backyard, but our Castle on the Hill was set into a steep hill. There was zero chance of a pool ever happening. From a practical standpoint, a kitchen looking over the backyard is best with small children; you can let them out and watch them play while cooking and preparing the many meals and snacks small kids require. Our kitchen looked onto our neighbour’s yard, which offered a picturesque view but was useless otherwise. The best place to play outside was on our large side deck on the other side of the house, away from the kitchen. Unfortunately, there was a pond on that side deck, and so I could never leave my young children to pop in and grab something we inevitably needed. Going outside became a production, and if you know me, and my love for running, cycling, exploring and hiking the outdoors, this was not a good combination. I also questioned the value in owning a bigger home. I began to resent the cleaning and maintenance that often fell on my shoulders as the one who was home. The way I saw it: bigger house equals more to take care of. I wanted less. So you see, there was more than one reason for us to move, and travel made the whole idea of moving so much more glamorous and appealing. This is classic Adelle – I’m very “treat” motivated. I’ll do just about anything, including moving with a newborn, if you dangle the right carrot.

I make it sound like we made the decision to uproot our lives and travel the world in an instant – we did and we didn’t. We discussed the matter for months, spent time looking at other houses and considering our options, but Dan and I both tend to make up our minds quickly when something feels right, and I think we both knew right away that travelling, and spending an extended period of time together as a family, was something we both wanted to do.

I continued to dream big, imaging us boarding an around-the-world cruise as a family of five, voyaging the oceans of the world for over a hundred days, seeing as many countries as possible. That was our original plan, and we repeated the mantra many times over, let’s see as many countries as possible! We imagined we might be able to plan our trip for when our baby-to-be was eighteen months old, only two years away from the inception of our plan. We were over-ambitious, and a big dose of reality would help to sort things out.

Our house did sell – not for as much money as we wanted or hoped for, but the first phase of our plan was complete. We visited my friend’s mom, a cruise specialist and learned those hundred day cruises would cost in the $200k range for a family of five, and that, well, not many families of five did this kind of trip, but we’d potentially have a lot of loving grandparents to help out! I wasn’t ready to admit it yet, but that kind of disposable income was unfathomable and downright impossible – short of selling our house and not purchasing another. After deliberating over that idea, we ruled it out. If we wanted to cruise, we would have to shorten our trip, though I wasn’t ready to admit that either.

In the meantime, I gave birth to our beautiful baby girl in the house we would soon move out of. We knew we wanted to plan a big trip, but we didn’t know exactly when or where. We would wait for the cruise lines to come out with their itineraries for the next year and see where that took us, and what we could piece together.

It’s not that the trip really ever slipped our minds – more like life took over. We found our new home (thanks Alexis!), Dan and I packed up our house while caring for a five and three year old, plus a newborn, and then moved into our new home when Penelope was one month old. Why do big life changes often happen at the same time as new babes? What is it about new life, and its inverse – the loss of life, that propels us forward?

The girls started at the French school around the corner and we began to settle into this chosen life. There was only one thing Dan couldn’t stand about our new house, and that was the kitchen. Fun fact about downsizing: you need to get rid of some of your stuff! There was nowhere to put our pots and pans in our new kitchen, so we had a Costco fold-out table permanently on display by our back sliding door to store our kitchen wares. After some minor disagreements, we came to terms on spending the money the following summer to renovate our kitchen, which was our main living space – but that that would be it. The rest of the money we made from downsizing would go into our trip. We thought we could do our kitchen on the cheap, maybe IKEA, or some combination of quick fixes. I threw out a random budget of $7000 max, but was dismayed when we started researching actual costs for kitchens we liked. We spent over four times that in the end, though I have to say Dan was right and I love having a functional new kitchen. But I digress.

We hadn’t heard from our travel agent in a while, and time was slipping away. What about those cruises? Weren’t any coming up? After reaching out a few times, and not hearing back from her, I decided to reach out to another agent who got on it right away, pulling together a variety of cruises that might peak our interest. The problem was, we didn’t want a fourteen-day Japan cruise. We wanted to see the world! We continued to operate under the mantra, let’s see as many countries as possible! We worked with this new travel agent and found a wonderful cruise encompassing a beautiful cross-section of the world. The price was still an issue, but we’d figure it out. By this time, a year had passed since we’d moved and it looked like our baby would be two and a half by the time we would be going on our trip.

We thought we were all set. The travel agent said prices for the cruise weren’t posted yet, but as soon as they were, she’d let us know and we could book! I was euphoric, hopeful, and impatient. We leaked the news to a few friends and neighbours about our impending big trip. Then the unthinkable happened. As one of Dan’s work colleagues says to his children when they’re pouting, “There are Big Deals, and there are Little Deals. Is this a Big Deal or a Little Deal?” For us, the Little Deal was that the cruise we wanted ended up being fully booked over a year in advance – our agent hadn’t known the prices weren’t showing up because all options were already taken. We had been waiting an entire year, wasting time – for nothing. Then, the Big Deal. This kind, vivacious woman in her forties whom I had been talking to over the phone, explaining our dreams, called to tell me she would be on leave, and that a friend would be taking over her clients for the time being. A month later, I saw on Facebook that she had passed away. Brain cancer. She left behind a husband and a nine year old son.

Her passing was a terrible reminder that you just never know, to hug your loved ones close – all those clichés – but it also spurred me on to BOOK THAT TRIP TODAY realizing tomorrow may never come. For her, it didn’t. As life happened around us, and our money pile continued to dwindle, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I got this idea from the movie Tangled – the Disney version of Rapunzel – that it would be incredible to see lantern lights released into the sky. When I realized the scene that plays out in Tangled is a real-life festival in Thailand, I had to see it. I thought the kids would love it, and that that would be a great place to visit on our trip. I now had a concrete destination in mind. While cruising had seemed like the easiest option for travelling with three small children, the realities and expense of booking the perfect cruise were sinking in. I questioned our mantra of, let’s see as many countries as possible! What was this, a race? Wasn’t it more important to actually see and experience the countries that we visited? I had been doing some travelling on my own and with Dan in the meantime, and started to realize my priorities had shifted. More did not necessarily equal better. Quality over quantity. Maybe that’s become my new mantra. Let’s enjoy our life together. I asked, what can we do that is doable and enjoyable for us and our three small kids?

Thailand was the spark that lit the fire for our new plan. We would take to the skies.