We just returned from an Epic Vacation. We went to Gilbert, Arizona; Salem, Oregon; and Bend, Oregon. Those cities aren’t usually associated with the description of “epic”, which is probably reserved for more noteworthy destinations like Rome or New York or Hawaii. But when you live in Cancun, Mexico, your vacations become epic for different reasons.
This vacation was a bit of a logistical complexity. The kids and I left on a Sunday, the 5th of June, for Arizona. Dan left for Oregon, from Cancun on the 8th. The next day (9th) the kids and I flew to meet him in Oregon. Then that Sunday (12th) we went to Bend, which is in Central Oregon, while Dan stayed in Portland and then flew back to Cancun that Tuesday (14th). Then the kids and I got back to Portland on Saturday (18th) in order to get back to Cancun on Sunday (19th). It was very confusing and there were many moving pieces. We were rather mixed up at times with who was renting which hotel room, when we needed a car, where to pick up, etc. But we made it work. Dan has superpower research skills and I can plan my way out of Criss Angel magic trick, so we are a good pair.
The “epic” part came not in the sights we saw or new things we experienced, but the re-acquaintance with friends and family. When you live your daily life as it if was a vacation, your vacations become more like daily life, kind of like an upside down pyramid. It’s the same life but in a different configuration and you look at it differently.
The trip had three parts so I will summarize them thusly:
Part 1: Arizona (Allison, Haley, Zoe): We visited friends, we went to a waterpark (the only thing you can really do when it’s 114 degrees), we did some exchanging of items in the storage unit and we shopped. Oh boy did I go shopping! My favorite running shoes, flip flops, underwear, some new pants, shirts, swimsuits and nifty travel supplies were all added to the one suitcase, which was bursting by the time I came back to Cancun.
We met up with Zoe’s Kindergarten and 3rd grade teacher who will now be our online writing coach for both Haley and Zoe. We were so excited to discuss all the many options one has when you personalize education down to two specific kids. We had multiple meet-ups with Haley’s BFF and Zoe’s gaggle of friends. I saw a few (but not all!) of my Arizona friends and did some much-needed exchanging of items in the one storage unit we still keep in Arizona. The last time I was in Arizona we had three large storage units. Dan has since cleaned them out so I was unsure what I would find remaining, if anything. I was happy to see the memory boxes, baby blankets and even the bedroom boxes untouched and waiting for our eventual return. I didn’t need any of those things but was comforted by the fact that they were still there. Dan reminds me that he does indeed have a heart and would not have tossed those important items. Just checking!
In Arizona, I got my first good haircut in almost 2 years. Granted, we were not in humidity so I’m sure I will wonder what happened to my good cut here momentarily. But for a short period of time I liked my hair again.
Part 2 – Western Oregon (Allison, Dan, Haley, Zoe): We were there for the purpose of our niece’s high school graduation but we managed to see only one other family – our beloved dog Phinny’s new home. He went to his new home last October, before we left Panama. Although we had been seeing a lot of pictures of him at his new home, we had not officially met his new family personally. So we sandwiched an hour in between all the plans and had a visit with him, his doggie sibling, his cat sibling and his extended family. He remembered us, of course. It was wonderful to see him and meet the people who love him as much as we do.
Part 3 – Central Oregon (Allison, Haley, Zoe): Because the IRS’s tax code (called the FEIE) is so advantageous to us monetarily, we are careful to track how many days we are in the USA. Dan was running up against his limit but the girls and I had more time, so we chose to spend a week with my BFF Danna and her family, in Bend. The kids are almost cousins, they’ve known each other since birth and our youngest kids were born 20 hours apart. They both insist they will marry each other someday. Haley, Zoe and I were happy to just blend in with their family activities; going to Emily’s softball tournament, going to CrossFit with Danna (OK, well that was just me. The kids slept in that day!), going to Emily’s birthday party, watching Danna at her CrossFit competition, etc. It was a great week and I loved just going along for the ride and not having to manage the days like I do in Cancun. It was a great trip.
Our flights back to Cancun were a little chaotic. We booked a very early (5:30 am) flight out of Portland because the cost was a lot lower, but this means we had an 8-hour layover in Dallas. Thankfully the girls are very good travelers and we are used to early morning departures. We even have a system: take a shower the night before, get into your comfy airplane clothes, lay down for a “nap” and then get up really early to get to the airport. In this case we had booked a hotel room for 6 hours just next to the Portland airport so that kept the travel time to a minimum. But the departure was still chaotic enough to cause Zoe to leave her phone in the room, which we discovered when we landed for our layover in Dallas. By the way, a big thumbs up to Apple’s “Find a Phone” system, which we have used twice for Zoe’s phone. The first time the phone was in the cushions of the living room chair, which was an easier recovery process.
So at least the phone was not lost for good, just for awhile until my fellow expat friend’s mother will come to Cancun for a visit. This same friend had given Daniel a phone to mail for her on our trip to the USA, so we are bonded over our mutual phone transport needs. This is a good life lesson for Zoe and will probably forever remind her to check and double check. We aren’t too upset, this is very unlike her. She’s had some kind of iDevice since she was about 3 when she called her iPod a “hello” because it looked like my phone. She has never once lost or permanently damaged any device so we can’t come down too hard on her. Especially because another member of our family who happens to be of the fatherly sort seems to have a penchant for walking into oceans with a non-waterproof phone in his pocket. #morethanonce #excusetoupgrade
But still, the whole family will probably feel the pain of Zoe with no phone for a month.
Once we arrived in Dallas the girls and I decided that the airport was too small to spend our 8-hour layover and off we went, thanks to Uber, to our favorite restaurant for lunch. After lunch we planned to go to the mall for a movie, and our Uber driver told us it was just across the street. This is Texas which means it was hot and it was across a big road, but we decided to walk it anyway, wheelie carry-on bags in tow.
We must have looked rather strange in the parking lot and crossing the major street. We are pulling bags that are too big to be purses so it’s a bit similar to being homeless. We don’t quite look homeless, but we definitely aren’t from there either. Haley was begging me to stick out my thumb and hitchhike across the street to the mall. She told me it would be a good learning experience, and “after all, Mom, don’t you want us to experience new things?” I denied her request but at one point I caught her behind me sticking out her thumb when a car went by. Darn that homeschooled girl, thinking for herself and taught to question everything!
We made it to the mall and walked the entire length of it before finding the movie theater. We picked the only movie that was showing at the right time and were just happy to not be dragging carry-on luggage and having a comfortable seat in a cool room. We tried to buy popcorn but Wells Fargo chose that very moment to get over zealous on my fraud protection so I had to deal with that and yell at them that indeed, it was me, and yes, I should be allowed to buy popcorn. We have one credit card that Dan carries. But I don’t carry it. This has flummoxed me several times on this trip, including the car rental. So we will be rethinking our credit card arrangements and trying to put a few new measures in place to ensure we are not caught with no access to funds. It’s unusual that we are travelling apart but it’s probably something important to do anyway. It is a reminder that this world, or at least the bank, is really not set up for people to be nomadic like us. We are frequently shut down by fraud protection. It’s a double-edged sword. We appreciate their tenacity at keeping our accounts safe but at the same time if the only people it really shuts down are the very people who need to use the card, it’s a huge pain. I did feel a bit vulnerable. I have one debit card on me and two kids in tow and it stops working. At that point hitchhiking might start to become a real option. But alas Wells Fargo was just a phone call away and after I gave them a polite scolding for shutting me out, they opened up the card once again. Hitchhiking averted.
Thanks to Uber we made it back to the airport and happily perched ourselves at our gate 2 hours early so we could recharge our devices and our mental health.
I was a little unsettled going back to Cancun. The day I had to say goodbye to my best friend and my sister within 4 hours of each other, I was definitely feeling a little uncomfortable. It’s not like I was leaving “home” but I was not necessarily going back to “home” either. So it was a little sad. Not depressing but not overly joyful either. Just somewhere in the middle. But once we started the journey back I was energized by the travel (airports are my happy place) and feeling good at the thought of seeing Dan again, settling into a routine for 5 weeks until our next visitors come, and then getting ready to leave Cancun for our next adventure. We don’t plan to be back in the USA for at least a year so hopefully all the shopping will hold us over. And by then I’ll really need a haircut.