8 car rentals
56 volunteer projects
dozens of new friends
over 65,000 miles traveled
and 1 family… forever changed
Back in April of 2014 our family couldn’t have imagined what lay ahead of us. Our bags were packed with all the items we thought we would need – stuff like electrical outlet converters and specially-designed travel clothing. These were things we’d researched and ordered online and meticulously arranged into our brand new luggage. We were prepared to jump into this adventure with both feet, whatever it may bring.
Looking back on that time, we realize the most important thing we brought with us into this journey didn’t go into one of our suitcases or a backpack. It wasn’t something we could unwrap and hold in our hands. As corny as it might sound, our most critical piece of travel inventory was a positive attitude. We were anticipating only good things from this journey, and we believe taking that mentality with us made all the difference.
We all have adventures in our lives. Whether starting a new job, buying a home or sending children off to school, life is full of new beginnings. You certainly don’t have to buy a plane ticket or pack a bag to embark on an important journey. However, we also live in a society that tends to accentuate the negative. Simply turn on any major news channel and you’ll quickly see how much more air time is dedicated to the bad stuff rather than the good stuff. Therefore, it’s easy for all of us to walk around thinking about the worst that could happen. Unfortunately, when we put our focus on the worst possible outcome, it seems we increase our chances of getting it.
With all this in mind, one of the most important lessons our family’s trip around the globe taught us is the importance of expecting the best out of every new adventure. We went into this crazy trip anticipating a safe, eye-opening, life-changing journey, and that’s exactly what we got. Over those tens of thousands of miles traveled we had no lost luggage, no immigration issues, no travel delays, no scary situations, no injuries and no serious illnesses. In fact, I can’t help but notice that the first time I had any amount of negativity in me, those days in Nicaragua when I was mourning the end of our trip, all of the sudden – BAM!! Our first cases of food poisoning hit us. Coincidence? I think not.
This adventure exceeded our expectations in every way imaginable. We’ve learned lessons we’ll be sharing with those of you continuing to follow this blog. To be honest, we think the most exciting part is still yet to come. It will be our epic adventure epilogue. What will “normal” life look like now? How hard will it be to ingrain our new perspectives into our old life? What will change? What will remain the same?
In our last days overseas, we knew the adventure would continue after we returned to the U.S. However, we weren’t there quite yet. We still had a few fun times ahead of us in Nicaragua. Before our flight home, we went over to the coast to visit Playa Coco. What better way to celebrate the end of a successful family trip than with a day at the beach?
When we got back on the eve of our departure, we finished packing our bags and I made our last family dinner of the journey. Unfortunately, as a little reminder from the universe that I should be excited about our return home, Alison started vomiting just as I was putting food on the table. Luckily, whatever had made her sick was short-lived. By the next morning she was feeling much better, although you’ll note the precautionary plastic bags I’m holding in the photo below, taken moments before we climbed into the shuttle to Managua airport.
As with all the other flights of this journey, our ride into Miami was easy and uneventful. In fact, it felt a little anticlimatic. We went through a digital passport check where a robotic camera scanned our faces. Then we walked through a quick line to a customs officer who had zero interest in us or our life-changing adventure. As he apathetically glanced through the girls’ passports, he gave us a somewhat disgusted look and said, “So, why aren’t these kids in school?”
Brian and I glanced at each other, not really expecting the question or the attitude. “Well, they’re homeschooled right now,” Brian replied. “We’ve been traveling overseas.”
“Yeah, so? Why aren’t they doing school today?” I started to wonder if this guy might moonlight as a truant officer.
“Because this is a travel day for us,” Brian said.
“Yeah, alright,” he muttered as he rolled his eyes, shoved our stack of passports at Brian and waved us through. Welcome back to the U.S., Carisch family! Happy, happy, joy, joy!
That might sound a bit sarcastic given our interaction with the Debbie Downer of customs officials, but it truly was a happy-happy-joy-joy moment for our family. Em, Liv and Ali were over the moon to eat their first bagels in over a year when we found an Einstein Bros. in the domestic terminal. While I watched their smiles and sisterly banter at our next gate, it hit me how close our girls have become during this journey together. Before long, our last flight was beginning its descent into Indianapolis. The girls pressed their faces against the plane’s windows and watched our American life get closer and closer. With tears in her eyes and a huge smile on her face Emily kept saying, “We get to see our dogs again!”
As the plane touched down, I felt an intense wave of gratitude wash over me. How lucky we were to have had this journey together, to have learned these life lessons in such a unique way. Now here we were, safely back home, walking into the arms of family and friends. A new adventure lay ahead of us – a new life in a new part of the country. The next chapter has begun for the Carisch family, and we can’t wait to start writing it.