Its exactly 1 month since we flew home from Bali, and having committed to writing this blog post, I don’t feel remotely qualified or ready to articulate what this trip really means to any or all of us, or how it has impacted us. What I can categorically state is that it was the most incredible experience to embrace as a family. We have lived and learned through so many adventures together, created the most amazing memories, and built some life-long friendships. For all of this I will be eternally happy and grateful.
Getting home was a mix of exhaustion and jet lag….
….plus euphoria to see family and friends again after such a long absence:
The entire unfiltered story of Monicofamilytravels is far more complex and gnarly than these blog posts of elation, joy, and beauty would belie. While the moments of bliss, family harmony and adventurous spirit portrayed in the blog were all real, we (obviously!) weren’t without our blow ups and blow outs.
Over the course of the year we certainly grew stronger. We got to know each other as much as we got to know the world, and we recognise that there is yet so much more to learn and explore in life, in the world, and in each other. I’m glad not to have ‘done it’!!
We certainly underestimated how much time and attention it took manage the ongoing planning and execution of a trip like ours. There were the future bookings (finding an apartment in Niseko…… in peak season…..with just 2 months notice), the crazy dreams (finding a house to move into in the countryside of Argentina….. in a ‘real’ local community….. with land….. and our own horses…..), the adventures that just wouldn’t happen if you were on a 2 week vacation (camping in the Atacama desert or taking a boat into the lost depths of the Ecuadorian rain forest), and the day to day activities (lets go and learn polo……or on a street art tour……or sliding down waterfalls…… or how to do acro-yoga….). There was also the day-to-day of food shopping, cooking, laundry etc. All the domestic activities this took far more time to execute than they do at home. Initially I missed Ocado, but quickly learned to appreciate the challenges, random encounters, and cultural experiences of handling chores in the communities that we lived in vs outsourcing or online. We pretty quickly adjusted to being full time parents. Having the time to be fully present, and to get better at listening and empathising was a gift that we will try to hold on to back in our regular lives.
Lots of people ask us how we conceptually planned our year away. We intentionally chose to immerse ourselves in 3 very different cultures (S America, Japan, Indonesia) for the interest and learning that they would inspire in contrast to each other. We didn’t want to bounce from flight to flight box-checking Unesco sites and Wonders of the World. Rather, as much as possible, especially during term time, we strived to ‘live as locals’ and get under the skin of the places we settled in, spending time with local people, eating local food, and experiencing life as citizens vs tourists. This stability really helped with the school routine, as well as achieving our goal of experiencing different ways of life (vs vacationing). Come the school holidays, we put on our backpacks, and hit the road. These periods were more reminiscent of the ‘traveling’ we did in our 20s and 30s, but with the lens of exploring and experiencing the world through the beautiful eyes of our children who have none of the prejudices and preconceptions we do. It was enlightening as adults to learn and grow from how they would react to people, places and experiences when we gave them sufficient space, time and support, and when we really stepped back to watch and listen.
Getting home felt in many ways as if we had never left, and in other ways shocking to us (exorbitant levels of food packaging, bulging wardrobes of unnecessary clothes, everyone rushing everywhere).
Some things don’t change though for family Monico. Bella still gets in the car without shoes on, and only notices her lack of footwear when we arrive somewhere. Emily still always needs a poo when we are at the furthest possible distance from an actual loo. We have stopped squabbling over the travel adapter, but still steal each other’s charging cables.
We are currently in Umbria staying at the affectionately named ‘pink palace’ belonging to James’s uncle David:
….and heading next to a Monico cousin reunion in Tuscany hosted by Frances. Having spent the summer visiting friends and family in Ibiza, Suffolk, Somerset and now Italy, it has felt like the European extension of Monicofamilytravels. I start my new job at Founders Pledge next week which I am humbled and grateful to feel hugely excited about. The girls go back to school in September, and James has a plethora of business and philanthropy ideas that he is itching to look into as soon as our new nanny Zoe gets started. That will, I guess be back to ‘real life’ but I think ‘new life’ in many ways, as we have changed and evolved as individuals, as a couple, and as a family as a result of this incredible experience we have shared. Ask me in 1/5/20 years what it meant, and I fully expect to have more to say than I do today.
Over and out for now.