I just booked tickets for the last leg of our journey.
My hand was forced (I’ve been putting it off) by Portuguese customs refusing to accept me sending a box from the US to Portugal unless I could prove I was following it.
Its a strange feeling. We always knew it had to end, and had to do so before the start of the next school year. But we are by no means ready and if finances allowed (they don’t!) we could happily do another year on the road. As it is, we have an epic trans-mongolian journey ahead, with the added bonus of 2 weeks in Hong Kong and China first, and three Mozambique reunions along the way – in Ulaan Baator, Moscow and Brussels as we work our way inexorably westwards.
Neither of us want it to end. Tempers may have frayed at times, there were low points (when I was sick, when Lauren put herself under stupid pressure to get top marks at schoolwork), but we have had the most incredible 10 months so far. We have seen and done amazing things that we will remember forever, but I think the absolute best thing about this year has been the opportunity to spend it together, for the most part just the two of us. Since we left last summer, we have spent 11 nights apart – 8 in the UK and 3 in the US. And its not like we’ve been getting up in the mornings, having a rushed breakfast then splitting off to work and school. We have spent every day together. And its been wonderful.
It could so easily have been too much, claustrophobic, but it hasn’t been.
Not. At. All.
We have about 6 weeks left, and aim to be back in Portugal for mid August in the hope that one of the two french schools in the country will find a place for Lauren. She is on the waiting list for both – one in the capital Lisbon, and one in the second city, Porto. Both are heavily oversubscribed and we have been told to have a plan B.
We will take a place at whichever offers us one.
So we don’t even know where we might ‘settle’, if we can bring ourselves to do so.
Of course, we are desperately looking forward to seeing our family – we are a close family and its not been as easy to Skype as when we are in Mozambique, and we have of course missed visits in both directions. My nephew is growing up, and we both want to be closer for that. I am looking forward to delving into some more complex and absorbing work than is possible when on the move. Lauren would like to enroll in some dance classes (and surf classes, and Spanish classes, and karate classes, and riding classes… and….and …and ) and at least be on the same time zone as her friends. We both miss Indian food.
But… but… it is going to be very difficult to give up this life and go back to the ‘real world’… the world of dealing with taxes and petty bureaucracy and people who ask “so, what is the matter with Africa then’? The world of work and school and rush and never having enough time and always feeling you are failing at something. The world of nose to the grind, make some money so you can spend it on rent and school fees and ‘stuff’. The world of patching together childcare and never, ever, having enough bloody car seats. The world of needing ‘me time’. The world of fatuous news, ‘celebrity’ gossip and caring about appearances. A world – for Lauren at least – of peer pressure, social media and stress.
It doesn’t have to be like that of course, and we will work to make life balanced. Its the right decision – we both need a base, and anyway, funds are running low. I need to work, Lauren needs someone other than me as an influence in her life. I need to be close to my friends – scattered, but many in Europe. She needs to build new friendships and learn to navigate the treacherous waters of tweendom. I need to re-engage properly with my professional life, I have a lot to give and the distance and time for thought this year will mean I can hopefully contribute effectively and usefully while keeping things in perspective. My brain is ready for more of a challenge than how to navigate our 7th metro system….. Lauren needs the social side of school as much as the academic stuff. I want her to have peers she is actually in the same country as.
It will be nice to unpack, and maybe wear a different pair of shoes occasionally. It will be good not to be lugging 20kg around on my back or forever fretting about losing passports (or credit cards, or Lauren…). To be able to stretch out in bed or even have our own rooms! Knowing what things are in the supermarket, and not having to convert every purchase into a currency that makes sense to me. Having a phone number for longer than a couple of weeks. Reliable wifi. An oven. Did I mention Indian food?
We will adapt.
But its not going to be pretty.