Our great adventure: traveling and starting a family

Guest post by Alexandria M.
The Open Road

My husband and I have always enjoyed various forms of travel as part of our life together: random road trips, camping adventures, family/friend events around the country, international vacations, or even “local tourism” (which we tend to do a lot). My husband even lived in a 40ft travel trailer for a few years before we started dating, and I participate in Japanese international exchange programs when I can.

We left Seattle/Tacoma to try out Eastern Oregon rural living a few years ago, thinking that we would probably settle down and start a family shortly thereafter. Our amount of travel started to dwindle except for large grocery runs out of town. We became small-town homebodies of a sort, and if there was ever a form of “adult nesting” out there, I think we were trying to practice it. We even rented a larger home expecting that the guest room would eventually turn into a nursery. All of this was completely great because it was a future that we both truly wanted — a family life.

And then life gave us a chance to turn it all upside down. We had a sister-in-law with cancer in California, a very good friend with cancer in Colorado, and a desperate need to experience different jobs/communities. The siren call of travel beckoned to us, if you will. My husband’s employment as a physical therapist meant he could sign on with staffing agencies that cater specifically to “travelers” and help them get contracts all over the country, even the world. November 2010 was a big month for us as we mulled all these choices over and decided to go for it. We would leave in December, spend 13 weeks in Colorado, then possibly another 13 weeks in California, and then who knows? Maybe Europe or Japan? Travel was back in our life again, and we were pumped!

Starting a family has been a huge dream for us, but what about our relationship and everything else?

Of course, it always gets interesting when you start making big plans — like that positive pregnancy test two weeks before we were supposed to leave. Suddenly we were faced with a bigger decision: with a baby coming into the picture, do we travel or do we stay? Starting a family has been a huge dream for us, but what about our relationship and everything else? My great-aunt Jan pushed us to go, and not sacrifice just because we were starting a family: “You’ll have time for all that settling later.” It also helped that months previously, I had interviewed a birthing center that I really liked in a nearby city, and the midwives felt comfortable with us traveling as long as we returned in time for the baby to be born. They would track us no matter where we went.

Onward then! We traded in our Saturn SL for a 2006 Ford Explorer and only took what we could jam-pack into the cargo spaces. This included Smokey the cat ( and litter box) and Lula the mini schnauzer riding on top of the belongings, somewhere near our heads. Everything else we owned went into two storage units and was left behind. We started calling this our “Adventure” to make it feel special. This helped me a lot mentally considering I was in early pregnancy (exhausted), caught a cold bug right before we left (miserable), and was upset that we were leaving family and friends two days before Christmas (depressed). These emotions passed in time as I faced the Adventure before us.

We have since driven through all the Western states (except Montana) at some point in the last eight months, moved house four times, saw three very different groups of prenatal providers, and got to know each other and our family/friends a whole lot more — and still have no permanent home. Of course I wanted the numerous baby shower parties, the nice home to welcome the baby into, the family, stability, and more. Did I need all of that? Not really, at least not all the time, I realized.

Because of all this, I also discovered that dreaming was key to me as a human being. It’s something I have to do constantly, to remind myself about what it is to be flexible in life.

All I needed in the beginning was heat (it was sometimes -10 or colder where we lived the first few months), good food, and comfort. Later on, a few pieces of maternity clothes and hand-me-downs got me through the growing, and spending time with our awesome friends who had a small child was more invaluable than any mountain of baby books I could have bought. I took the time to finally see a counselor about past family issues, and had the opportunity to develop new parts of the relationship with my husband during all the driving we did. All this because we decided to travel away from our small, rural town.

Because of all this, I also discovered that dreaming was key to me as a human being. It’s something I have to do constantly, to remind myself about what it is to be flexible in life. I kept having to recreate my dreams during all these changes we experienced. Our planned return to Eastern Oregon in June completely fell through after we spent the time and money moving back there. Jobs didn’t pan out, we lost the financing on a home we were trying to buy, and we had to live with family for two weeks while we figured out a new game plan. I cried a lot, and was disappointed in the failures, but I couldn’t help but think about all the possibilities that might now be available because things worked out the way they did. Our Adventure wasn’t over yet.

In the end, we continue to prepare for the little one’s arrival next month with lots of dreaming. We now live in a city that is three-and-a-half hours away from the birthing center I had originally chosen, and the midwives are totally okay with it. We still have plenty of worries and fears, but the dreaming really keeps us going. We’re looking at possibilities such as the military, or styles of living that would allow us to visit many people in different places.

I still dream about spending time over in Japan. He still dreams about building up his old 1975 Ford into our awesome family vehicle. Do we have any plans about when or where to settle down? No, not really. Just more dreams. Starting a business, building a house, sharing our new addition with the world. All things that will have their chance along our traveling the great Adventure.

Comments on Our great adventure: traveling and starting a family

  1. Thanks for this post. It’s exactly the sort of think I need to hear right now. I feel like I’ve been trying to read a crystal ball regarding my next steps towards family life and the bumps & curves in the road keep discouraging me… but perhaps I just need to enjoy the ride & call it an adventure!

  2. Thank you! This could not come at a better time for us. I think my partner’s ears may still be ringing from me shrieking to him that someone had written our story before us! I am currently finishing a PhD in a field I don’t plan to stay in while my husband is a frustrated animator/writer working in an office job he hates. We don’t have a house or savings and are planning to head off to Asia to teach English, save money, travel and start trying to get pregnant along the way asap. We want to write about our travels en route and hope to produce something book worthy-but of course I am terrified as well as excited and it is great to see other people approaching things in a similar manner. Good luck with it all and thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. We are indeed trying to have fun with life and listen to our hearts, wherever that may lead us. Tell your husband I totally feel his pain – my degree is in Asian Studies, and yet I’ve worked in all office jobs (staffing, dental, banking) that had nothing to do with what I thought of as my career. My own husband was the one that finally pointed out that each job had helped us on our adventure so far, whether it was navigating travel assignments, coordinating medical care, or trying to buy a home. Good luck to you both on your traveling and writing!

  3. A lovely read, thanks. Just wanted to chime in to recommend the movie Away We Go. Your story reminded me a teensy bit of its narrative. It’s such a great movie.

    • That movie was a reminder for us throughout this adventure to keep moving forward and not give up on each other. It’s a great movie.

      The major difference between me and the girl in the movie was that up until almost eight months, I looked like I was still three or four months, and no one believed I was as far along! We laughed about how the airlines wouldn’t have given me a second look.

  4. Alexandria – you might consider teaching English abroad like someone else mentioned.

    I taught English for three years abroad, and I hated the job but it paid well and was really flexible hours. One could watch baby in the morning while the other teaches, then switch for afternoons. You both get evenings and weekends together. If you get on a with a big company (like Berlitz) rather than a local school, it’s easier to have contacts when you want to move on to the next place. Although local schools are sometimes more/less money than big companies. Just makes it easier when you work for a big one.

    If one of you has a TOEFL (or has the money to get one), there is a program in Greece where you can apply as a couple. Either as a duo-teaching couple or a teacher with a non-teaching spouse.

    You might also consider WWOOFing. Haven’t done it myself yet, but my partner and I are planning on doing it with our son for a year (or maybe forever if we like it). He’ll be 2.5 when we leave next November, so I’ve been reading lots of blogs, etc. about WWOOFing with a kid.

    If you know about Jean Liedloff’s Continuum Concept, she says to carry your baby exclusively for the first six months of life and to just go about your business. WWOOFing or even teaching English would be “easy” to do with a baby in a sling all day.

    Oh, and as for all that stuff in storage – chuck it! If you really feel a calling to keep traveling, ditch the extra stuff and save money by not paying for the storage unit. You can rent furnished apartments abroad, if you WWOOF you don’t need anything, you can get more stuff later if you really need it. Don’t let your stuff hold you back!

    Congratulations on your pregnancy thus far and keep up the great attitude for what happens next. No matter what happens, you’ll have a perfect tiny baby, and nothing else will matter!!!

  5. A teensy word of caution about the military life–it isn’t just glamorous travel! While I’m sure you already know that, it’s worth a repeat. It definitely has it’s perks–hell, I’m living in Europe and love it. But we live in a crap-tastic government lease, my hubs hates his jobs most of the time and while I consider myself an adventurous traveler, living in a foreign country with zero friends can really be a challenge. Be sure you’re as ready as you can be!

    • Thank you, I really appreciate your input. We would be looking at a therapy post within the navy, and we have been told that most likely the three year contract would be in the U.S.

      The good thing is that they won’t make a decision on who they want until January 2012 or later. This gives us time to connect with others doing it now and evaluate our lives for fit after the baby comes. We have the right to turn down the offer if it gets to that point in the future and it no longer is right for us, so we feel it’s worth the time to try.

      Another big factor is that, as you can see from my post, we have been traveling for almost 10 months now, and the place we live currently has no family or friends nearby at all. It’s encouraged me to be more outgoing for sure, and I know that going into military would mean more of the same.

      The future is wide open, that’s for sure!

  6. While the military has been absolutely FANTASTIC for myself (US Army, Special Ops), my fiancee hates it. The possiblity of being stationed overseas, from what I’ve seen, is much more likely if you or your spouse is in the medical field or in supply… Every military instillation needs supplies and has a hospital!

    Before either of you enlists, remember that the possiblity of deployment(s) is very real and can be very very trying, especially with children involved. Housing can be very crappy and onpost schools leave much to be desired. It can truly be an awesome experience, however, and on any post you’ll have a community of loving military spouses and programs (like MWR) to help you through any tough times. Best of luck to you both!

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