After almost a year and a half of this nomadic lifestyle, our family is now just hours away from settling into our new life in Colorado. It’s a bit of a surreal time for all of us. As I sense the girls’ nervous excitement over their first days at their new schools, I can’t help but think back to the days leading up to this trip. I was confident this crazy adventure of ours would be a good thing for all of them, I just wasn’t entirely sure what that would mean.
Brian and I can definitely see the difference in the girls now that we’re back. This trip seems to have made them more confident, more affectionate, closer in their relationships with one another, and a little more open to life’s challenges. However, I should let them tell you about it in their own words.
ALISON CARSICH, age 6 (transcribed by Mama)
Before we left for this trip I was a little scared because I didn’t want to go on long plane rides and car trips and stuff like that. But now I really really like traveling because it’s fun and you get to make new friends and see amazing stuff like really pretty sunsets and floating lanterns and crazy-looking churches and beaches and all that. You get to see a lot of animals you would never see.
Like, for instance, we went on a safari and got to see animals in the wild, and we even saw lions eating a water buffalo. I thought that was cool because we were seeing them do something they do a lot, eating this other animal, but most people don’t get to see that. We saw the boy lions eat first and the girl lions eat last. It didn’t really make me sad that the buffalo died because we’d also seen this big huge herd and it’s like the circle of life, you know? The one buffalo has to be eaten so the lions can live.
I learned a lot on our trip. First, I learned about friendship. You don’t have to be nervous and back away even though it’s a new kid you don’t know at all. You just have to trust them a little and then you’ll make a good friend. It also taught me to be thankful for what we have because we saw a lot of people who have nothing but you see these smiling, happy faces on everyone and you realize that it’s not all the stuff that makes you happy. Like for instance, I was watching tv with my cousin when we got back and all this boy stuff came on the commercials and he got really excited and all wild, like “boy wild.” (Note her use of air quotes here.) You know what a mean? Boys are wild sometimes. Anyway, he was saying he wanted all this stuff. And I wanted to be like, “You know, you don’t really have to have this stuff. You don’t need it. You just think it’s going to make you happy, but it’s not.”
Note from Mama: She still gets REALLY excited when someone gives her a new toy, so don’t let her convince you she’s become a total minimalist.
If I could go back to a place we’ve been, I think I would go back to the place with all the temples. What’s it called again? Cambodia? Yeah, it’s Cambodia. It’s really pretty and peaceful and everything. The other place I would go back to is Thailand where we went to the Elephant Nature Park. I’d go there because you can volunteer there and I want to help the elephants. They also have a Kat Kingdom and a dog rescue place and I could help with them too.
I really liked when we would help with animals, which we did a lot. I love helping animals because I like caring for the world. If we put too much bad stuff out into the world, then animals will die. Like if the chickens die, then we wouldn’t have any more eggs. And If the cows would die, then we wouldn’t have milk. And if the spiders would die, like, the bugs would probably take over the world. So we need to take care of the animals. And our planet. All of it.
LIV CARISCH, age 9
When we started on this trip I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave my grandparents or friends or dogs. But after a while I started to understand why my parents wanted to do this crazy trip. It’s changed the way I think about going to new places. It’s changed the way I think about the world. It’s also changed me.
I have a few places I’d like to go back to. Wanaka, New Zealand is on the list, as well as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’d love to go and see Stone Henge for the first time and now I’m a lot more interested in ancient history. I think it’s fascinating, the way people used to live. I never used to think about this before our family started traveling, but seeing different cultures makes me more interested in the past.
Our family was together a lot on this trip. At first I thought my sisters would drive me crazy, but somewhere along the way we started getting along a lot better. If I’m being honest, I’d say that they’re my best friends. But don’t tell them I said that. (I know you’re reading this, Emily!) When we get back to normal life I hope our family can still have a lot of time together even with busy schedules. I think I’ve realized how important that is.
The volunteer work we did on this trip taught me a lot. Even though I have a hard time remembering every project we did (seeing as how we did like 60-some!), some of them stick out in my mind. I loved helping with the cats and dogs at Koh Samui Dog and Cat Center, and I really liked building the garden at the Pink Alligator Preschool in Prague. I like working with animals and making things. Education and abused animals are my biggest concerns with the world. I know for a fact that no kid likes feeling stupid. If a kid doesn’t do the curriculum as well as the other kids, their brains are just made for something else. And we need to care about animals, too. When they start going extinct we know we’ve got a problem. They also need to be loved. An old cat or dog might not seem super nice in the pound, but if you just give them a little love, you’ll see their good sides.
One of the most important things I learned on this trip is that everyone is equal. Even though we ALL speak different languages and look totally different, everyone has at least one thing in common. We are all on this planet together. So let’s just figure out a way to get along!
EMILY CARISCH, age 11
When our family had been traveling the world for fifteen months and our trip was drawing to a close, it felt like someone had placed a big hour glass in front of me and I was watching the little grains of sand trickle past, a grain for every day. We had seen amazing things and met many incredible people. We had been through so much as a family and we learned more about the world we live in. This trip has all been like the big adventures I read about in books.
When we started on this trip, I felt a combination of a lot of emotions. Sad, comfortable, scared, excited, nervous all mushed up into one. Sad, because I didn’t want to leave my awesome school and amazing friends. Comfortable, because I knew Mama and Daddy would never take us somewhere unsafe. Scared I wouldn’t be able to stand that much time with my sisters. Excited, because we were going to see a LOT of things people don’t usually see. Nervous about all these new things headed our way.
Looking back on this trip I realize how great it was. I don’t know anyone else who’s ever bathed an elephant. Or stayed in a castle in Spain. Or climbed a fjord. Our service projects made this trip even better than it would have been. Volunteering taught me that you can’t find happiness, you can only choose to be happy.
In those adventure books, this is usually where the story ends. The family goes back to living a normal life in a normal world, with normal schools and normal jobs. But our story isn’t over. We have another big adventure ahead of us. We have another challenge to overcome.
This trip has taught me there is an adventure in every day. Because you never know what will happen. There is always another bend in the road of life. There is no normal. There is no regular. Because every day is new and fresh, with new possibilities and new opportunities. When I get up in the morning, I will be ready for the new challenge, the new adventure. Being on this trip has opened my eyes to that. It has slowed me down. I used to speed along life, always above the speed limit. This trip has been like the cop, giving me the speeding ticket. And now, I slow down. I lean into every twist and turn.
Yes, we’ve definitely seen a lot of changes in our little ladies and we know as the weeks and months roll by we’ll catch other glimpses of the effects this crazy world journey has had on them. When my 6-year-old asks me about exchange rates, my 9-year-old can lead us to our gate in a foreign airport with ease, and my 11-year-old spends her time brainstorming ideas to expand access to education in third world countries, I have to think this adventure has had a positive impact on them.
Of course, there will be some small downsides too, as with most things in life. Transitioning back into “normal” school and establishing an early morning routine again will be no easy task. It’s also crossed my mind that we’ve made them totally sick of travel altogether and the next time we want to take them on a vacation they’ll revolt out of fear we’re leaving for a year and a half again. However, for the most part, this journey seems to have done wonderful things for helping our girls learn about themselves and the world their generation will one day inherit.