Getting Ready for a Big Change

On the night before we leave for Africa, we’re bracing ourselves for the next phase of our family’s journey. However, just a couple weeks ago it was the Celtic gale force winds that had us bracing ourselves. We left Ireland from Rosslare Harbour on an overnight ferry not knowing when we boarded we’d be sailing into a wind storm. While it was somewhat amusing to watch everyone stagger around as though they’d had too much of the Irish whiskey sold in the boat’s gift shop, the hilarity of it all wore off during dinner. Greasy, cafeteria-style food plus a swaying sea vessel equals five green Carisches. We went to bed that night in our little cabin with stomachs lurching, but woke up the next day to calm waters and clear skies for our cruise into the port at Cherbourg, France.

Irish Sea Wind
Sailing the Celtic Sea
Sunset on Irish Ferries
Irish ferry cabin

When we disembarked the boat, we drove back into the right-hand lane of traffic for the first time in almost two months. A few hours later as the sun set and the Eiffel Tower lit up the skyline, we made our way through the streets of Paris. We spent the next two days taking the girls to see Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuilleries, Place de la Concorde and, of course, the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Notre Dame
Alison in the Tuilleries
The Louvre
Emily on Alexander Bridge
Notre Dame
Lock Bridge in Paris
1st Floor of the Eiffel Tower
2nd Floor of the Eiffel Tower
Paris at Night
Eiffel at night
One particular highlight for the girls was the “Pigeon Man.” We came upon this well known character near the Louvre. It must have been a magical time for us in Paris because I found myself watching complacently as this complete stranger encouraged pigeons (aka – rats with wings) to perch themselves on my daughters’ arms and peck bird food out of their hands. I blame the French wine for this lapse in hygiene standards.

Pigeon Man in Paris
Highlight of Paris for Liv was pigeons
After Paris we drove nine hours straight south through France, wound our way up through the Pyrenees mountains and landed ourselves back again at the home of our Andorran family. The week with the Mari, Ori and the cousins was fun, familiar and relaxing.  Brian hiked into the mountains to capture some beautiful photos of Andorra. I got a much needed dose of “girl time” with Mari as we chatted throughout the week over coffee or wine (depending on the time of day) on everything from kids to politics. The Carisch and Taulats children celebrated Halloween together, played for hours on end, and even put on a rather impressive production of Three Billy Goats Gruff complete with costumes and makeup.

Andorra le Vella
Fall colors in Andorra
Nightfall in Andorra la Vella
Our time in Andorra flew by and before we knew it we had said our goodbyes to our family and were driving down through the canyon into Spain. As Montserrat rose on the horizon in front of us, the realization we would soon be leaving the comforts of the western world started to sink in. Soon after we returned our little silver Renault Scenic, which has been our trusty road companion throughout most of our time in Europe. We clocked 14,119 kilometers on her over the last five months. She’s seen us happy and mad, calm and stressed, giggling together and ready to strangle each other. We’ll miss our little road warrior and how well she got us through many curves in the roads we traveled.

Our Road Warrior
Curves in the road

Tonight we’re staying in a hotel near the Barcelona airport, and first thing tomorrow morning we fly out for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite months of research and many discussions with our contacts there, it’s still hard to imagine what Africa will be like. We’ll be participating in an education program orchestrated by Cherokee Gives Back, a nonprofit working with local partners to advance global efforts in alleviating poverty and improving the environment. We’re excited about the opportunity to see this part of the world and learn about the programs in place to advance Africa in the world economy. We know its going to be an incredibly eye-opening experience for our family.

So here goes. Thanks for a fabulous six months Europe! Next stop: Africa.

About the Author

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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  1. I am so excited (& a bit nervous) for you guys! I can’t wait to hear all about Africa — I, too, have never been and am looking forward to seeing it through Carisch eyes!! Are you still looking for contacts elsewhere in Africa?

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