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.

2-For-1 Adventure: We’re Having a Baby in Ecuador

90 days until we depart Alaska for Ecuador … and about 25 weeks more of pregnancy.

(SURPRISE!!! We’re having a baby!)

Adventure #1 – Pregnancy, childbirth, and a baby

If you’re a general member of the public, you may not realize what a huge, huge, huge, huge deal this pregnancy is for us. We’ve been riding an agonizing emotional rollercoaster of infertility for several years, but last year we called it quits and finally gave up trying for a successful pregnancy. We had spent thousands on medical help, lost five (known) early pregnancies, and shed countless tears. The emotional toll of the endeavor had grown too great and we were ready to move on with our lives. And so we did.

Instead of draining our energy on unsuccessful family-building, we redirected ourselves towards positive life-building in general. Our infertility experience made it excruciatingly clear to us that we are unable to control all aspects of our existence, but that nonetheless, we have the power of choice in all situations. Sometimes the apparent options will all seem undesirable; but we still get to choose which is the least undesirable.

We were not able to choose to have our own biological children, but we could choose to forego the years of certain emotional turmoil that would come with sticking the course. We could choose to proactively build a healthier relationship and life while we are still physically and mentally able in lieu of the tenuous and dark path that would never guarantee a biological child at the end. We have a limited length of time to live in a healthy body, and our experience reminded us of the importance to control what we can in order to create a life worth living. (If you want to read more about our infertility experience, jump to my old blog: So, this is happening …)

OK … so where was I going before I got off course … oh, yeah!

SURPRISE! We’re having a baby!

We discovered I was pregnant Thursday, January 25th. The next day I was shocked (and elated and anxious) to find that a viable fetus with a heartbeat was snuggled in my uterus (every single ultrasound I’ve had prior to this one has shown us only disappointment or sorrow). Two weeks later, we were nearly 9 weeks into the pregnancy and the baby-to-be was still alive and growing at a normal rate. I had sobbed at all of my zillions of ultrasounds … but never from joy.

Rodney has been my pillar of strength and a well-spring of positive energy from the day we first discovered the pregnancy. You see, when I took that home pregnancy test on January 25th and it was positive … I wasn’t excited. Every positive pregnancy test I’ve ever received … ended with a dead fetus. I was certain that we were in for just another “character building” experience. I really did hold a tiny glimmer of hope deep in my heart … but it’s shine was desperately buried by the shadow of doubt nurtured by years of infertility. But Rodney, from that first day, bolstered me with his excitement and confidence. It was like he willed this baby into good health and denied my body from rejecting it.

We saw the baby in the 12th week … looking like a real baby. Unbelievable. It kicked and somersaulted and was undeniably alive. Today is the first day of week 16 and we’re officially carrying a baby into the second trimester. (Aaaaaaaaa! It’s still sinking in!!) My taste for coffee and hummus has returned, but my husband’s (usually delicious) homemade sauerkraut still repels me and my sweet tooth continues to be much stronger than it has ever been before this pregnancy.

Adventure #2 – Sticking to the lifestyle change

As soon as we realized that this baby intends to join our family, we started to analyze our plans and options. We have tickets to depart Alaska for Sweden in August; plans to  be in Spain and Portugal until October; make our way to Kathmandu for a TEFL course in November; and then hang out in Southeast Asia thereafter. Baby plans to arrive in September. Hm.

To most of our family and friends, there was one obvious and clear choice: delay departure until after Baby is born and then figure out what to do and when. For Rodney and I, this sounded very unappealing. We have been working hard towards and eagerly anticipating the upcoming lifestyle change. To delay departure doesn’t just mean putting off travel, it means that Rodney would be shackled to his 9-to-5 desk job with a daily commute merely to secure ongoing healthcare to afford the birth of Baby. And then, after Baby arrives, Rodney would have limited time off from work to be with his new child. Quite simply, that wasn’t the obvious and clear best choice for us.

We looked at the healthcare costs of various other countries to see if we could afford to stick to our original plan and have Baby along the way. Our minimal research suggested that we would probably pay a similar out-of-pocket amount for Baby to be born in Sweden or Spain as in Alaska, but what we didn’t know is if we would want to bunker down for awhile to adjust to life with new Baby. Additionally, if we were going to have give birth outside of the USA … how about securing dual citizenship as a bonus gift to Baby?

Jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is a privilege offered by relatively few nations- certainly not Sweden or Spain. But when we looked at countries that do confer birthright citizenship, we were excited to see that Ecuador (along with most American nations) is among the few. Ecuador ranked highly in our list of potential countries to move to when we started to talk about lifestyle changes about a year and a half ago. Ultimately, we decided to “slow travel” for an indefinite period before plunging into a more permanent move … but, here was Ecuador again. Waving it’s cheery flag of desirable characteristics.

Ecuador is well-known in the ex-pat community. Its affordable and relatively good healthcare, low-cost living, pleasant climate, incredible biodiversity, foreigner-friendly national language and visa policies have put Ecuador in the top rankings of “best countries for expats” for a handful of years (albeit, it’s rank has slipped a bit in the last year or two as other countries have gained popularity). Having already been on our radar as a potential country to move to, Ecuador quickly became our target destination when it appeared in the list of jus soli countries. We excitedly researched medical and visa options and then with some good-looking data to lean on, decided that moving to Ecuador to have Baby and stay indefinitely will be our new plan.

So there you have it. We’re off on a serendipitous 2-for-1 adventure, thanks to the inability to control all aspects of our existence, combined with the invaluable power to choose. It’s deliberosity, baby: there’s always a choice. And we are doing our best to make the most of our insignificant and fabulous lives. Woooot!!

What’s on your “someday” list?

Your life will end.

Sooner or later.

As macabre as this sounds, it’s true. Each day is a gift of existence and you get to choose how to live. Every morning when you awake is not “just another day.” It is THE day. It is the only day you are certain to wake up to. I know we shouldn’t necessarily live each day as if it’s our last and that living that way wouldn’t be sustainable. But I think that generally, we maintain a dangerous perspective of our mortality and how one ought to experience life. We lean too hard on an expectation of a long and healthy life, and the concept of working hard to retire comfortably is ingrained from childhood. For some, this will work well and they will reach their “golden years” feeling fulfilled. For many, we will look back and say … “What the heck was I thinking?!”

Isn’t it scary to think that “someday” may never come for all those things that you really want to do, but don’t make time for? It might be travel, starting a business, eating out at a ridiculously pricey restaurant that serves 16 courses, skydiving, taking an art class, going to the spa, taking a trip to see grandparents, hiking that one really impressive mountain you’ve been eyeing for years or checking out that one trail you keep hearing about. Why is it that we postpone those things that will make us smile and fill our hearts with joy? Why do we risk that “someday” may never arrive?

I play a game with myself to help maintain my perspective. I ask myself if something will matter to me a week from now, a year from now, 10 years from now, or even on my death-bed. This helps me assign value to various experiences, to shake off an annoying or frustrating interactions, and to make decisions that feel difficult.

When Rodney and I were trying to figure out what to do with our lives, we asked ourselves, “What are we likely to regret most when we’re elderly?” And what we came up with: we are likely to regret that we didn’t travel more. Isn’t that a fairly common one for folks? I’m guessing it is, and I’m guessing that you may have had similar thoughts about wanting to get out into the world more. We use all kinds of excuses to justify why we don’t travel: money, kids, job, responsibilities. But the thing is, if you want it enough, you can make it happen.  You just have to want it enough to work for it. You start putting money aside, you start budgeting and you stop making superfluous purchases. You read about how other families with kids travel. You realize that the world will roll along without you if you duck out for a few weeks and take that trip you’ve always wanted to. You CAN do it. If you really want to.

The trick is to make a concrete plan. Make the decision. Really, that is the hardest part. In fact, even if you decide NOT to do whatever it is, and take it off your “someday” list altogether, I bet you will feel lighter and more satisfaction from that decision alone. If instead, you scratch the item from your “someday” list and move it to a concrete plan, but think that you are likely to cave in and back out on it, build in accountability. Make it public. Use an anticharity. You know your habits and what makes you tick. What will you need to do to make sure you follow through?

What is on your “someday” list? Is there something hanging out there that really belongs on your “do it now” list? What are the excuses you’re using to push it out until “someday?” When you’re wrinkled and hairless (should you be so fortunate), will you be looking back with regrets and wishing you had done more when your body was capable, or will you feel fulfilled and satisfied with the life you chose to live?

I recently heard this Japanese proverb that stuck with me:

Fall seven times, get up eight.

We’re only human. But we can try. And try again. And try again. Don’t let your old-person-self down.

Recalibration Post- It May Get Messy

I’m not sure that I’m going to be any good at this. And by “this,” I mean creating and maintaining a blog/social community that is … not a disaster. I feel like this blog is off-track, floundering and that it has no backbone. And that’s what we need to survive in this world, isn’t it? A bit of backbone?

(Ok, I concede: the cockroaches and mosquitoes have done quite well without backbones. But for humans, it’s hard to survive without a well-functioning backbone to hold all our odd and ends together.)

And heart. Survival requires heart, and this blog doesn’t have much of that so far. And we need it because the goal of this website and blog is to reach out into the world and connect with other people who want to live more intentionally. We want to find a community of folks who can share and grow together. How can we connect with interesting people if the blog is just a jumble of disoriented thoughts without any emotion to bring it alive?

We need the backbone to hold it all in place, but we also need the bit that draws us in and ties us together. To connect intimately with other people we need more than common body parts. We need a bit of soul, of heart. Shared emotion. It could be laughter, sorrow, anger, joy, grief … but we need common ground that comes from within.

So this post is going to be flung out into the world with a tiny bit of backbone and mostly a lot of heart. For once, I’m not going to over-analyze. I’ve been frustrated with how this blog has started and how it feels … disjointed. I think it’s time that I stopped thinking so much and just open up the flood-gates of my mind.

I have been confusing overthinking with deliberateness, and in the process I  lost my voice.

What I’ve realized over my 36 years on earth, is that I connect best with people that I feel are genuine. I think you know what I mean. When you interact with a stranger, or even a friend, you can get the feeling that there is a little bit of a shell on their exterior, a thin veneer of a facade to protect their genuine self. And I think most of us, if not all, wear a shell at least once in awhile. It’s a little bit of a divider between what we’re really thinking, how we really feel, what we really would like to say or act, and how we present ourselves to the world. I believe that frequently we subconsciously allow ourselves to be pulled along by the words or emotions of others and we don’t even realize that we’re not being true to ourselves. Heck, think of  mob mentality, where a rational, peace-loving human can get caught up in gruesome acts of ugliness as they are drawn into a collective and lose their self-awareness. I think this can happen on a much smaller scale of a handful of people or even just a pair in discourse. But there are also people who wear their shell intentionally and purposefully. And I have never been able to be close to those people. How can you, if you never really know what they’re thinking or how they truly feel?

Anyway, the point is, that the people who are closest to me and who I have maintained longterm relationships with are those who seem to be genuine and honest with me. People who aren’t playing some sort of social game or trying to win points or build up who they are. They just are who they are.

I think part of the problem with this blog at the outset, is that I was trying a little too hard. I wasn’t sure how the blog content was supposed to look or feel, or what direction it should go in. This morning, I grabbed my laptop and started typing because I realized that what was lacking was just the realness, genuineness, the heart. The problem came down to me overthinking things and not just spilling out from my heart. Apparently, when I overthink I lose my voice. So this is a recalibration post.

Recalibration posts may be needed in the future: I am human. But here is what I will try to do from now on. The backbone of this blog will be to focus on our travel and lifestyle choices, and the heart is going to be an effort to spill, rather than overthink the content. Being honest may get messy, but at least it’s the real deal.

 

Lighter, freer … and living with my parents

I’m sitting in my comfy pajamas as the gray sky outside the window slowly lightens; my sweatshirt cozily hooding my head, and a wool blanket tucked around my legs. My mom is to my left enjoying her coffee, snuggled in her fuzzy bathrobe. Rodney sits to my right, equally cozy in front of the glittering Christmas tree. Nixin is just out of view, snapping together her advent puzzle. We moved in with my parents a couple weeks ago.

This is the third Christmas in a row that my small family (Rodney, Nixin, and I) will be living with my parents in their large home. Many people hear this and think that it’s a situation we resorted to, rather than created. It’s funny to me that the first impression that people have to this news is usually the polar opposite to how we perceive the situation. We don’t have to live with my parents, we choose to and actually very much enjoy it. We have also joined households in the past for economic and familial benefits with no clear goal or target in our sights. This most recent joining of the households, however, has a very different feel to it. This time, an enticing target rests on the horizon and there is an almost imperceptible current subtly pulling us towards an incredible and life-changing adventure. And every day I feel the pace of the current gently increasing.

August 2018 is when we take the final steps to embrace the major life shift we have been working towards. “Eight more months, eight more months!” we sing to ourselves when faced with an irritating situation or task that will be left behind when we board the plane to our next phase of life. It’s really, really going to happen. It’s really, really happening right now!

Yesterday, we officially moved out of our old place; it’s sparkling clean and ready for a new tenant. I remind myself that these aching muscles from determined scrubbing of property and endless hauling of “stuff” will soon be free from both. I have my fingers crossed that I will never clean any of our rental units again. And I am hoping with all my might that by spring, I will be the proud non-owner of several fine rental units. Oh how the tables have turned!! Not long ago, we aimed to become small-scale real estate magnates as part of a goal towards financial independence. Now, we are excited to shed our couple of properties and with them, the last of our debt and business responsibilities.  When we board the plane to Sweden in August, we plan to walk on with our backpacks, and leave zero encumbrances in our wake, either financial or physical. Our remaining ties to Alaska and the United States will be only of the highest value: our family and friends.

So now we’re living with my dear, generous parents. We’ve expunged approximately 90% of our belongings and I’m anxious to get rid of the remaining bits over the next eight months. It feels WONDERFUL!!!! It’s insane how much one small family accumulates in a short period of time. It’s insane how difficult it feels to let go of items once they are in your household. We are vowing to be more deliberate about possessions. It is so easy to accept and purchase more goods because they are useful, because they are beautiful, because they were gifts. But these things weigh us down, use up our precious moments of life, and eat up resources from the earth that can never be replaced. I’m nearly disgusted by our thoughtless accumulation of goods over the years … and ecstatic that our consumer trend line is plummeting in exchange for a freer, lighter existence.

For now, I will sign off because we are off to celebrate that we’ve cleaned a rental unit (fingers crossed) for the last time!!!!

 

Holey moley! It’s not just talk anymore!!

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’m riding on a whirlwind. I imagine the blustery tornado from “The Wizard of Oz,” lifting up Dorothy’s house, twirling it around, and jettisoning the unsuspecting Dorothy off into another world. It’s a somewhat scary but spectacular world, brimming with self-discovery, new friends, and adventure. It’s not the perfect analogy, but it’s the visual that I’m relating to right now.

Rodney and I have talked and talked, planned and planned, and then talked some more about potential changes to our lifestyle. To be fair, we have made some decent headway and important progress in the last few years, namely in our finances and diet. But we have never taken steps that I would consider to be … dramatic.

Until now.

During our many discussions we always remind ourselves that the lifestyle of our dreams won’t just drop into our laps. It will require decisions and, most importantly, it will require action:

“The unexamined life is not worth living, but if all you’re doing is examining … you’re not living.”

Well, now we’re doing a lot more than just examining. Just this week:

  • we enrolled our daughter in home school
  • we made an appointment with our realtor to put our properties on the market
  • we started to give away our belongings

Whoa.

Whoa, again.

Taking some real action is definitely exhilarating, but it’s also a little … not quite frightening, but … maybe reality-inducing? We find ourselves saying “Oh man, we’re really doing this?!” and “It’s happening!!!”

And then it occurs to me … we’re graduating out of the “big talk” phase. If we truly want to live the life of our dreams, we need to majorly reconstruct our lifestyle and that will require big change. Big change requires much more than big talk.

Maybe we should plan a ceremony, or at least a celebration, because after years of mostly words, Rodney and Dianna Wehr have graduated from Big Talk to Big Action. (Congratulations to ourselves!!)