It’s not a difficult question to answer.
When people ask “What do you miss the most about the USA?” we always say “Friends and family”, followed by “Red Robin”. The “stuff” we had in the home we lived in and all the THINGS that used to seem important… well, they are a lot less so when you leave. In fact, we barely remember the “stuff” we left behind, so clearly it wasn’t all that important to us. But friends and family are the things that pull on your heart strings and life on the road can be a little melancholy when you see them less often.
We’ve had a steady stream of visitors, first Aunt Kim (Dan’s sister), then my mother and just recently my sister, Margaret, and her two kids; our kids’ cousins. We’ve spent a lot of time vacationing and just living life near my sister and her family, but now that we are nomadic it’s been a long time since we’ve seen them. I haven’t seen Margaret for about 18 months and the cousins haven’t seen each other in about 2 years. That’s a long time when you’re only 9 years old, let alone 46. I mean, if someone were 46… hypothetically speaking, of course.
So the Oregon girls arrived and we quickly whisked them off to day after day of adventure. First I’ll show you pictures of what we did and then I’ll wax poetic about how wonderful it felt to have them visit. You’ve been warned: there’s some feelers coming up after these pics.
We cenote hopped, visiting 5 of them in less than 8 days:
NOTE: Hover your mouse over any picture to see a description at the bottom.
We did a little Worldschooling, taking them to glass blowing and chocolate making workshops and a crocodile sanctuary.
We did a little exploring of Isla Mujeres and also exploring the lounge chairs and wait staff at a beach club on that island. We sweated… a lot. We shopped… a little. We relaxed… a lot.
Another highlight of the trip was Juan, our culinary school graduate part-time cook. Juan was like our butler, being available when the clean laundry was delivered, buying the food for dinner and cooking it up and even setting the table one night when we rolled in really late. It was 1) tasty and 2) ready and waiting for us every night when we got home from our adventures. You really can’t ask for more!
We visited ruins, big and small. We went to Ek Balam which was a first for the Shermans as well. It was very interesting to see more of the artistry of the Mayans, but our tour guide was more limited with English and was not able to answer our many questions. The girls wandered off to climb while Margaret and I tried to listen intently. But the cenote at the end of the day was probably the best part.
After seeing Ek Balam and noticing Margaret’s keen interest in the Mayas, I decided we needed to wedge in a trip to Chichen Itza for her. It has a bigger “wow” factor and I knew she’d be interested in all of the achievements on display there. I have been there before so I was able to ask for our prior tour guide, who did a wonderful job explaining the history and accomplishments when we went with Mom. We learned that our prior guide, Luis, was not working that day but Luis’s friend managed to get him on the phone and before we finished our snack, Luis appeared and whisked us off on our tour. Margaret was summarily impressed and the day was a huge success. Some Mommy Alone Time was also much appreciated.
We arranged for a cousin photo shoot, which was compromised by wind, bright sun, and sand. So we had a re-do photo shoot way too early in the morning on the day they were leaving, with no wind or sand and only a little sun.
One evening we checked out a new (to us) restaurant in Playa del Carmen. It’s right on the street so you don’t think it’s anything too different but once you walk inside you have entered a very large cave with lots of little rooms where they have set up private tables, or dance floors, or a bar, or an area for a large reception. The kids had a great time exploring, the moms fretted about table-side flaming deserts with only one exit, and we all looked for the gnomes that supposedly only those with good hearts can see.
Faith did all her research on good and safe places to go and managed to wedge in her first tattoo into our busy schedule.
We swam with turtles but we didn’t get any pictures of them because we were too busy avoiding stepping on them and getting sunburned. We succeeded at not stepping on them but we got sunburned. Totally worth it. And poor Margaret could not use snorkel gear because she needed to use her glasses to see, but the turtles seemed to understand and they kept coming up for air right next to her. #socute
I’m sure you all understand that its lovely to have friends and family visit. But I really think you don’t understand the DEPTHS of how lovely it is. To some, a visit might simply mean “Hey, good to see ya, chap!” but to world travelers, and perhaps overly-emotional world travelers like a certain middle age pre-menopausal woman prone to anxiety and overthinking, a visit means all of these things:
“You’re not bat-sh*t crazy to live here”
“I think you’re doing an ok thing, with this worldschooling”
“You are not screwing up your kids for life. At least not yet…”
“You mean enough to me to take time and money to come see you in the corners of the world” (Ok, well Mexican Riviera is not exactly an arm-twisting location!)
“I haven’t forgotten you or written you off”
“We still have things in common even though your lifestyle is totally whacked”
“I’ll be here when you get back and we will continue our friendship”
“I actually think you’re kinda doing a good job”
All of those statements sound face-palm-cheesy when I type them but you have to understand how life on the road can be lonely. Yes, as a family we are closer and our bond is tighter than ever. But our social circle is small and ever-changing. We meet new people and say goodbye to less-new people more often than we can count. It’s a continual ebb and flow of people coming into our lives and leaving it, or we are leaving them. It’s the biggest downside of the lifestyle. At the moment the balance is worth it, so we’ll take the bad part with the good part of traveling. But many people who do this say that eventually the loneliness is what ends the game, and they long for stable relationships once again.
One of the other things I loved about my sister’s visit was how enthusiastic they all were about our lifestyle. Sure, it’s easy to be enthusiastic about beach clubs and swimming with turtles, but they were enthusiastic about everything. Hearing us speak – or stumble through – Spanish; the many run-ins with people who
serve help us; the crazy guard system for getting into our neighborhood; the endless (and I really mean endless) speed bumps; the crazy parking lots with all the tickets; remembering who to tip and how much; the ever-present security guards carrying large guns in stores; the way you can order your coffee the exact same way but get different results each day; and the list goes on. They seemed to enjoy tolerate even the foibles, like when we ran out of water and Margaret had to take her morning shower in the pool because it was better than nothing. And when the laundry sent a few things back a different color. And when the toilets stopped working after every 4 flushes. And how we ran out of towels All. The. Time. None of it phased them and they rolled with all the punches. Faith even loved my school-marm system of communication via whiteboard. Every night she wanted to know when the white board would be updated with tomorrow’s activities and expectations. Gotta love that girl!
It was an emotional goodbye but we are comforted by the plans for our upcoming trip to Oregon in June for Faith’s high school graduation, with a stop in Arizona for some BFF time for Haley and Zoe, and Eastern Oregon for BFF time for me. We will also be meeting Margaret in Spain when we go there later this year, as that is where we lived together with our parents in 1983. It will be our first time back and we’ve decided to explore it together.
So you can see why we are always shouting at you all from the rooftops: “Come visit us!”. Not only do we want to show you all the cool things there are to see and do around us, but your visits really boost us and refill our emotional cups. Well, as I type this the girls are still asleep and begging to not leave the house today. So if we’re being completely honest, visitors can take their toll. But we are all feeling connected once again and it will sustain us until the next time.