If you wish to travel far, fast and light, take off all your envies, jealousy, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. Cesare Pavese
Take a moment with me and look back on your childhood. What do you see? Are you playing with your favourite toy, swimming in your pool or are you with your family?
For me our family vacations define my childhood.
My dad built a travel trailer with a hitch for our 70’s Chrysler and we camped throughout BC. Long hot days spent on Vancouver Island beaches, Gold Stream National Park just off the Malahat Highway between Victoria and Duncan and Manning Park with bear and ancient pines. I can still hear the trickling stream just before falling asleep under the night sky. In the wild, under shade trees, mom prepares our morning scrambled eggs and dad chops wood with my brother for the fire.
Our parents drive us over the Rocky Mountains into Alberta and down the west coast through America to Mexico stopping in Disneyland and Vegas on our way. Our many vacations were always fun and we learned so much.
Our extended family on our dad’s side came along for some adventures. With our cousins, we made up games to play while on the road, hung out in the backs of our Chrysler vans reading comics and fishing with makeshift fishing poles in lakes and rivers. Like kids, we got into trouble, laughed out loud and stayed outdoors until the sun went down and the mosquitos came out.
There were long trips to our native Hungary visiting my mother’s family too. We spent hundreds of hours with our Hungarian cousins, swimming in Lake Balaton and visiting museums and art galleries. They opened our eyes to different cultures and connected us with our own.
What was it about that time that sticks with me so dearly?
Dad was not working and had time to spend with us, showing us how to make camp, swim and play games. Mom had the time out of the house and away from her daily chores. She let us prepare food under her watchful eye and both parents let loose and had fun, getting out of the routine.
My brother and I did not have gadgets to entertain us and learned to entertainment ourselves. Allowed to stray away from camp to explore gave us confidence and we learned the forest; it’s smells, creatures and secrets.
My memories play back like 8mm film, slightly faded with an antique finish. In some ways, the memories have grown better than the experiences, as I hold them so dear, especially after our family split.
How do we bottle up what worked in their marriage and have it all the time in ours?
In the hustle and bustle of North American’s typical life, we found ourselves running with the kids from one after school activity to the next. Alfonz would come home exhausted from work. We ate dinner together and then would fall into our beds each night. It was a good life to North American standards, but the stress was taking its toll.
Alfonz kept everything in his head for the business and I could not offer any relief to take some of the load off him. It would have taken him years to teach me what he knows. That brought us to a crossroad. We either let my husband take on the burden of the business on his own and continued down the path towards his eventual heart attack and bigger ulcers or we sell it all to find a life that we can all get excited about!
After reevaluating our life, we decided that what the kids needed was not endless amounts of activity, computers and toys. They craved time with us doing ordinary things like helping us around the house, playing together and family time. The time we spent going to the park playing soccer or to the pool for a swim was very important to them.
The busy life we led gave us fewer and fewer hours together. Although we were there watching these sporting events or ballet lessons, there is a big difference between being there and being engaged with our children. We needed to strike a balance between school, activities, work and life that would give us more time with the kids.
Our adventure started one year ago. The day my father dropped us off at YVR to catch our flight to Hungary, with little more than two suitcases in hand, we started our journey to find a new life based on the theory of time having more value than money.
We spent six months preparing before cashing in our chips. The house went on the market, the business and cars sold. Our material things given for pennies on the dollar to liquidate our assets to take on a new life on the road to search for the life we desired.
In this last year, we have seen much of Europe, explored with the kids to the places most people only dream of. We sought out a life that would keep us together for most of our time and learn new things along the way that would reconnect us as a family.
What I discovered about my children was interesting. Alfonz and I reconnected with these two little people we brought into this world in a way I could not have imagine. We have met them again and realized that they are fabulous to hang around with.
During the years of driving to school, then to soccer, then to swimming, home to do school work and then read before bed; I did not actually get a chance to get to know who they were. Too busy caught up in the notion that it was my job to mould these children into something constructive for the future gave us little time to just be a family and not running to the next thing. Guess what? They do not need all the expensive activities, toys, or gadgets to become who they need to be. Our job is not to entertain them. Just love them.
A year uninterrupted travel with both parents is sure to be a revelation. At first, they did not know what to do with us. Angelina actually searches for moments alone, as where Daniel craves more one on one attention from us. The more you give him the more he desires.
They are different and it is hard to believe they come from the same parents. I assure you they do!
Angelina with her tiny physique, her light brown hair and hazel eyes, in one smile has you wrapped around her finger. She bats her eyelashes and asks Daddy for something and the answer is usually yes. She has a fabulous sense of humour and I often find her cracking herself up and trying to explain to me why it is so funny. She is mature past her years and has an awareness of everything going on around her that most adults do not.
Daniel is going through that awkward stage. Lanky and all knees, thin and always hungry, he seems like a much older boy then when we left. He carries his heart on his sleeve, the boy tries so hard to be good and you can nearly see the impulses he struggles to control. Such a small package for so much going on, Daniel is complicated, loving, and generous in nature and just wants love. If he were a dog, he would be a golden retriever: loyal, strong and deeply affectionate.
The most rewarding relationship built on our adventures is between the two kids. I have watched them become friends, learning to play together. Back in Canada, they played together, but their activities and friends were generally separate.
Travelling in small spaces, exploring as a family, we had no choice but to deal with each other’s unique personalities. You can not exactly set up a playdate with people on the road, so we learn to manage within our family.
Alfonz and I have been through a whole lot of change since we met and the things we do are usually extreme. On this year, we have learned to spend great lengths of time together.
When working our regular jobs we spent 10 hours apart, not just in distance, but mentally too. I had my roll and he had his roll. It worked efficiently but where does happiness come into the equation?
On the road, we had to figure out how to co-parent. Since the kids were born, I have been the primary caregiver, teaching them to read, taking them to their activities and helped them with their homework. These tasks fell into my department.
Alfonz was there to help in the evenings and weekends and was effective as the parent not as often involved is. With him home, I could not exactly threaten, ‘When daddy gets home’, so we learned a new strategy and it did not come easy. There was a shift in power from me to him and then after the initial shock to the children equilibrium occurred. Now they listen to both of us and know not to turn us against one another as children do. Solidified we parent.
I watch the loving relationships develop between the kids and Alfonz. Affectionate people as we are, in the evenings the kids curl up to us and we often watch a movie or play a game.
It is a proud mama moment after a year of uncertain ground, to realize that it was worth every minute of the journey for the result.
Not everyone can journey across the world to reconnect with the basics of family, for us we did. To cut off all ties and move away from all the material things, the rat race, the Jones’s and all the preconceived notions of our family, we allowed ourselves the time to reconnect.
Our healing journey back to our family values was worth every penny, every sacrifice and all the changes we endured to get to where we are today.
If everyone took a year to reconnect to his or her family, would divorce rates be lower? I wonder.
Still pursuing happiness,