A New Leg
Since the day we embarked on this adventure, we've had the year to come subconsciously organized into different "legs" of the trip. The two month road trip: an obvious one. Our first three months in Schengen countries. Later in the summer, we complete our Europe leg and make the long journey over to Ecuador. At the moment, we are transitioning from out-of-the-Schengen back into it; from a rainy and windy spring in Eastern Europe and the UK into European summer; but most notably, we are ending the solid 8 month streak of being really far away from my immediate family.
A common phrase both when we said our goodbyes in October and at the end of phone calls with my parents, sister, and maternal grandparents has been, "See you in Amsterdam! Amsterdam is coming! Not long now 'til Amsterdam!" Many months before Andrew and I left, my mom's parents, brothers and their spouses, plus my grandma's sister and her husband all booked a river cruise together down the Rhine for this coming June. When Andrew and I assured them we could get ourselves to whatever city the cruise began in, my parents made plans to arrive a week early and hang out with us. My sister and her boyfriend are not going on the cruise, but are joining us for that week as well. The coming family getaway has helped our year away seem a little less long, and will be my parents' first time going international in a very long time.
It is always amazing to meet new people while traveling and begin new friendships (we're hoping to meet up with Dion, who we met in Bucharest, while we're in Amsterdam as well). We've stayed in contact with so many people we've met along the way, and that makes the world feel just a little smaller and more friendly. But it's really extra special to be with your own people somewhere far away from home. Visiting and staying with relatives along the journey has been a source of rest, comfort, and familiarity, and this reuniting with the family squad from back home is sure to be that--but on steroids.
Beer tasting with my parents back home more than a year ago. Can you tell which of us are related?
Visiting my sister and her boyfriend in San Francisco on the road trip in October.
Not only do we have our week in Amsterdam with the six of us together (Andrew, myself, my parents, my sister, and her boyfriend), but Andrew and I will hang around the city for a couple of days after the official start of the cruise to get some face time in with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles before their ship moves on to the next stop. Then we hop back down to Paris, our home-away-from-home, and stay with friends we made during our visit there in December, for the Fête de la Musique. After the Rhine cruise ends, my parents and Aunt Bev and Uncle Dave will join us in Paris for a few days before they head home, and we make our way to Workaway #4 in the South of France.
Only about 6 1/2 weeks after we hug my family goodbye, during which time we enjoy Southern France and Spain, we'll be arriving in Ecuador where Andrew's sister and her husband live. This will also be both of our first time in South America, so we've given ourselves at least 3 weeks to soak in the tropics and some quality time with Claire and Dan. Following Ecuador, we'll be visiting Andrew's parents of Little Cunning Plan on their sailboat, SV Galapagos, where they're cruising in Mexico. This is our last stop before making the journey home.
Silliness abound at Claire and Dan's wedding in Scotland, May of 2017
Missing people and feeling really distant from our community has been the hardest part of traveling long-term like this, by far. Folks ask us frequently if we're homesick, and that's a weird question to answer. Am I wishing I was back in Tacoma, or just the U.S. at all, where I know the driving laws and which grocery stores I like and people know what a top sheet is? Maybe, but not desperately. (Okay, I'm actually really desperate for a top sheet. I need layers in the night! I can't commit to a fluffy duvet or nothing!) However, I am 110% definitely wishing we were surrounded by our people again. We're missing our honorary nephew's first birthday party, my best friend will have been dating her boyfriend for nearly a year when I finally meet him (in-person, technically, because video chat is amazing), and my painting studio family will have undergone some major staffing changes and possibly a whole new venue. Good friends have gotten engaged and will be married between when we left and when we return. Life is going on--very quickly, it seems--for everyone back home, but we've kind of put ours on hold.
So really, about three quarters of the way through a full year, we're suddenly not so far from home. We'll be surrounded by our family, meeting up with friends, experiencing some actual sunshine, and cruising to the finish line of this particular wild time of our lives. I'm ready for this next leg!
During the week of wedding festivities, my parents, grandparents, Aunt Bev, Uncle Dave, and cousin Nick all came to one of my paint and sip classes. This is part of the Amsterdam crew!
Some of my magical painting studio family, who threw me a surprise bachelorette party (appropriately themed) <3
Uncle Andrew and new-dad John with baby Oliver, who is now about to turn one!
Saying goodbye to Wales!