Where are we now?

I just poured cold water into Nixin’s breakfast bowl. Nixin watched me, confused and a little amused, as my water bottle stood patiently nearby. That’s why we’re not going to Turtle Town this morning. 

More accurately, we’re not going because Pyra is teething and she and I didn’t get enough restful sleep last night. I quickly gave up and went back to bed after trying to persuade Rod to take Nixin to the beach without us. 

This lifestyle is an interesting mix of vacation and … “life” that I feel we  haven’t yet sorted out. We’re still finding our footing and figuring things out as we go. I feel a bit like we’re moving around in limbo. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to the idea of venturing out from a permanent residence: you leave your home and stuff behind for a certain period and then return and resume where you left off. Only we just left, we didn’t leave off. We have no home to return to (although I admit that the generosity of my parents to share their home with us is very near the feeling of having our own home). 

I was frustrated that Rod wouldn’t take Nixin to the beach without me, because we’re only on Maui a couple more days, and our time with Nixin is fleeting. Who knows when she’ll next have the chance to swim with sea turtles? More importantly, when will he have the chance to share the experience of swimming with sea turtles with his daughter? Well, maybe it will be tomorrow, or maybe it will be never. Who knows? 

On vacations you generally are more motivated to get out and experience things because your time away from “real life” is limited. But what if you’re living a semi-permanent vacation? Is our motivation declining because we don’t have a deadline to return to “real life?” Or is today just an off day because we’re all a little under the weather? I’m sitting on the lanai (pretty sure that’s what they call a deck here?) soaking in some gentle morning sun, listening to the coos and chirps of island birds, with the sea shimmering a deep blue just a few hundred feet away. But I’m letting my daughter sit in the air-conditioned apartment and watch “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.” 

I’m going to have to do better to take these things in stride, because this IS our life. There will be down days, and there will likely be many more than I imagined. We’re not out on a quick 2-week trip, we’re just “out.” There will be indoor tv days even in paradise. But I’m grappling with this, because as much as I appreciate relaxed, having down time, and not over-planning, I feel the tug of mortality and uncertainty in my periphery- the uncertainty of how long this lifestyle will last. There are other variables, out of our control, that we have to contend with and incorporate into the equation. 

We don’t get to make all of the decisions for Nixin’s experience and future on our own. There have already been some shadows of roadblocks coming to light that we’ll have to navigate. And it may potentially lead to a change in course. 

But I ramble in my cocoon of sleepy thoughts. I guess I just want to make sure I appreciate this life right now, as we live it. And to really live it, even as it stretches out in front of us indefinitely. I don’t know if we’re at the beginning of long and durable venture, or if this beginning butts up against the unexpected ending. 

I may have experienced a sleepless night with a teething baby, and awoke to feel unrested and grumpy, but the Maui morning sun has soaked into my bones as I sat writing this, removing the sense of frustration and anxiety that permeated my foggy thoughts. The blue water swept those unwanted feelings out to sea. The chorus of birds have brightened my outlook and helped to adjust my perspective. 

We can never know exactly where we sit on our journey through life. But that’s ok, especially if we recognize and appreciate the inevitable uncertainty as opportunity. 

Mahalo Maui. 

“Last” Day in Alaska

Note: I started this post on the afternoon of our last day in Alaska, although I published it from Cuenca, Ecuador, a few days later. I couldn’t quite get it finished at home; my brain was too preoccupied with preparations and other priorities.


Well, the day has finally arrived. Actually, after creeping towards us for months, “The Last Day” swooped in and swept us away. It’s now afternoon on The Last Day, and while there is still a little more to do, we’re mostly ready to head to the airport. The primary goal for the rest of the day is to spend time with family … time is passing altogether too quickly.

In fact, our last weeks in Alaska seemed to defy the laws of nature, as each day dissolved into night in record time. Our to-do lists kept growing as available time kept shrinking. But we’re getting on that flight tonight; we’re headed to Ecuador.

With limited time and patience, I’m just going to quickly jot down some of our last-minute preparations/experiences:

  • We finalized our transition from a four-vehicle-family to a no-car family. Rod sold his ’69 Chevy last fall, the “big truck” went earlier this spring, and we both handed over the keys to our daily drivers two days ago. It felt like being a teenager again: Mom and Dad were very generous, both in allowing us to borrow their cars and in shuttling us to various family gatherings. For many people, not owning a car is not a big deal, but we’ve been dependent on private transportation for all the years we’ve lived in Alaska. Eschewing private vehicles is a huge leap for us.
  • This morning, the morning of our departure, we discovered that our plan to “port” our Alaskan phone numbers to Google Voice was ill-conceived. Google Voice (and most other VoIP service providers won’t port an Alaska number, it seems. We are now trying to figure out if there is any way to keep our current phone numbers … but it’s not looking good.
  • In the last months and weeks, I’ve struggled to balance preparations to leave, Nixin’s homeschool, and quality time with family and friends. If I were able to revise my choices, I would put greater effort into the relationships. Even so, I did get lots of hugs and kisses and squeals of laughter from my nieces and nephews to carry with me.
  • One last haul of clothes/belongings to a donation center. It’s funny, it was placing some of Rodney’s clothes in a bag for donation when it really hit me: all our belongings will be on our backs and in some checked luggage. When I was getting rid of my clothes it never struck me, but looking at Rodney’s t-shirts that I’m so used to seeing him wear, and that I’ll never see him wear again … my heart and throat clenched up a little. The reality of what we are doing, the “sacrifices” and adjustments we are making to experience a different way of living … it just sunk in a little deeper.
  •  Last minute decision to purchase compression hose for me … the double whammy of pregnancy and a lot of flying made it seem like a good idea.
  • While we were in town getting the hose, Rod talked me into replacing my rain coat. I was on the fence for months about this … I LOVE my Arcteryx shell … but I’ve been wearing it for about 5 years and it’s waterproofing isn’t great anymore. When I realized that I tend to avoid wet weather because of the jacket’s diminished impermeability, I knew I needed to get a new jacket. I wasn’t mentally prepared to drop several hundred to replace my incredible coat, though, so I got less expensive REI-brand raincoat. There weren’t a lot of color options, but I got one I never would have chosen in the past: “Flash Pink.” It’s kind of orangey/red/pink. Rod and I have noticed how nice it is to have easily-identifiable outerwear when we travel; we don’t like to lose one another. And while he has a gorgeously subtle navy blue Arcteryx, I’m content to be the eyesore if it means he can always find me 🙂

OK. Time to head to our family gathering; hard to believe we won’t get to be physically present with some of these loved ones for eight months. I know that many families are scattered across state lines and continents, but for the last eight years, I’ve been very close to my family, so this is going to be tough.

Tonight is the night: we say goodbye to Alaska for now, and head off for a new way of living.

Perceived Stumbling Blocks May Actually be Your Stepping Stones

About a year and a half ago, Rodney and I started to talk seriously about moving out of Alaska. While we both feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in this beautiful state, we want to live in a more temperate climate with better access to fresh foods and where we can trade in our dependence on personal vehicles for more environmentally friendly and physically active transportation.

Furthermore, despite the fact that I grew up in the dark winters of Alaska, my body and mind function a trillion times better with exposure to sunlight. (I think I may be part plant.) I want to live where there is more sun, more of the year- for the sake of my health and well-being and in turn, the well-being of my family.

Whenever we’ve discussed moving outside of Alaska, the sticking point has always been the same: a sweet little girl named Nixin.

Nixin is a delightful, intelligent, good-natured human. When I first met her, she was a chubby, hilarious, sweet, almost-two-year-old. At this moment, the slender 9-year-old is bouncing around the house with long legs sticking out from her pajama t-shirt.

Rodney shares equal custody with Nixin’s biological mother. As far as these less-than-ideal situations go, things work out pretty well; Nixin seems incredibly unperturbed by her dealt hand of a split family and we manage fairly good communication between our families. Yet, the custody arrangement has always made our dream of an out-of-state move seem out of the question.

Alaska is far removed from any other state and requires one to fly (or drive for several long days), just to get to any other part of the USA. Seriously- a whole other country sits in between! To get from Anchorage to Seattle (the nearest big city in the “Lower 48”), one must drive  2,250 miles (3,620 km). That is the same as driving from Chicago to San Francisco, with enough miles left over to continue down the coast a couple of hours to Monterey. The feasibility of equal custody with one family in Alaska and the other outside seemed … mmmm, NOT feasible. Especially if Nixin were to remain in the public school system.

However, Rodney and I had reached a point that we could no longer imagine remaining in Alaska until Nixin graduates from high school. (Did I mention that I’m part plant and NEED MORE SUNSHINE?!) We decided to broach the subject with Nixin’s biological mom as a “what if?” We said that someday we’d like to move outside of Alaska … what would we do with the custody agreement then? Much to our surprise, we weren’t the only family with dreams to move.

Nixin’s biological mom had been wanting to move out of Alaska, but like us, thought that it wasn’t feasible. All of a sudden the conversation turned to a discussion about how homeschool would allow for both families to move to wherever they’d like and still allow equal custody of the sweet girl who has little choice in the matter.

Fast forward several months and plans were rounding out. Nixin’s other family decided to move to Washington State to be closer to family, and after some contemplation, we decided to spend a year or so “slow traveling.”  We started to homeschool Nixin in preparation for the planned big changes. Now we have about 6 months of homeschool experience under our belts, our personal belongings and real estate are finding new owners, and we’ve got plane tickets out of the country.

As I finish up this post, we’re 105 days from leaving Alaska, and Nixin’s other family is currently trucking their belongings down the Alcan highway towards Washington State- they actually took the plunge before we did!

What if we had never broached the subject? The response we received was beyond our imagination and turned the tide of our life towards realizing our dreams sooner than expected. Don’t hold back for fear of how others will receive you or what response you might get- who cares what they think! Besides,  your perceived stumbling blocks may actually be your stepping stones.