Our family is now over a month into this journey we’re taking together. Even though we’ve only been out of the United States for 2.5 weeks of it, some of those ah-ha moments overseas travel brings out in a person have come flooding back to us quickly.
#1 – We All Need A Cell phone-ectomy
Going onto a roaming data plan will break any cell phone addiction in a flash. While I hadn’t equated myself with those people we see in all the “put down your phone” videos who are stuck to their phones at dinner tables and during sporting events, I’ve certainly discovered my own cell phone addiction since we’ve been gone. I might not have been on it constantly, but I had definitely developed a habit of pulling it out quickly to check email or see if anyone had liked something interesting on Facebook. Both Brian and I definitely needed a smack in the face when it came to our phone usage. Guess what? Paying $15 per MG of data was just that.
#2 – Travel Instills Confidence in Kids
If given the chance, kids will surprise you with their adaptability. Need them to sit on a plane for 8 hours? They deal with it. Need them to pull a suitcase through a crowded customs line? They actually think it’s fun. Need them to eat something that they say looks like ” it came from another planet”? If they’re hungry enough, they will. We’ve asked a huge amount from our girls with this trip – leaving their friends, traveling to strange lands, eating weird food. Yet they’re doing it all without skipping a beat. Overseas travel always boosts the confidence I have in my kids’ ability to adjust to new life circumstances, and it’s probably boosting their own confidence in themselves.
#3 – Empathy for Foreigners
The fastest way to become a complete idiot is to travel to a foreign country where you don’t know the language and then attempt to converse with locals. Someone who is usually an articulate and informed conversationalist transforms into a big, smiling, nodding dope. That’s us. The smiling, nodding Carisches of Andorra. When we go out with our family who lives here we frequently get introduced to their friends and acquaintances. After the initial niceties, our smiling and head bobbing begins. Even running errands makes me feel like an idiot. I had to pick up some medicine for Liv yesterday using my broken Spanish. Even though the pharmacist was extremely nice and helpful, it was still a mildly stressful experience. She was asking me questions and I had no earthly idea what she was saying. I realized after getting back to the apartment that what I thought was “How old is your daughter?” was probably “Does your daughter have any allergies?” That would explain why she looked at me a little strangely when I responded with “She’s almost 8.”
Every time I experience this end of the language barrier, it increases my empathy for non-English speakers back home. I think about that young Latina mom I saw at the pediatrician’s office recently whose daughter was translating for her or the African man I was standing near as he was trying to return a drill at Home Depot. These are probably bright, funny, articulate people who were being greeted with exasperation and eye rolling because they didn’t know fluent English. In fact, at one point the nurse at the doctor’s office told the young girl, “Honey, you need to tell your mama that if she’s gonna live here she needs to learn English.” I just stood there and did nothing. Now, having remembered what it feels like to be on the other side of the situation, I wish I would have stepped up and helped that nurse see the other perspective.
#4 – Our Palates Need Expanding
Cirero picota is like a peach but flatter and way better. Nespres is a cross between an orange and an apricot. Siciliano pizza (which has tuna on it) is actually really good! While we’ve used the old phrase “Try it, you might like it,” with our kids all the time, as adults Brian and I don’t really think about how limited we are in what we eat. We get into a dietary routine and rarely go out of our way to try something new and different. Travel forces it. You eat what the country has and you adapt how you cook to fit what’s available. I wonder if this expanded palate will stay with me after we go home. Maybe I’ll grab a rutabaga or some other never-before-purchased selection from the produce department just so I can figure out what to do with it.
#5 – It’s All Relative
No matter where you are on the planet, annoying stuff happens and you have to deal with it. A few months before we left for this trip I left my wallet at the grocery store. When I got home and realized what I’d done, I was all in a tizzy calling the store and rushing back out the door to get it. Now I would like to go back in time and whisper in that woman’s ear, “Calm down, crazy lady. You’re going to leave that same wallet on an airplane in a foreign country and let it fly off to another foreign country. This grocery thing will work out.” For some reason, tackling an issue in another country seems more momentous and helps put things into perspective when back home. I hope when all of this is over, we retain an ability to take things in stride – an attribute which seems to be growing by the day since I seem to keep forgetting things everywhere.
Things are going well in Andorra. We’re in the homeschool and work routines we needed to get back into. Brian has started doing the via ferratas he loves so much (a combination of climbing and hiking). My work has been focused on the next steps in our journey and talking with a contact in Prague, which is where we’ll be from mid-August to mid-September after Portugal and Germany. Things have slowed down as we’ve settled into our temporary home with our family. I think the most exciting thing that happened this week was when a bird pooped on Liv’s head. Like the little world traveler she is, she just took it in stride. It also helped that I told her it could possibly be yellow and white paint.