Did you miss us? Or forget about us? Now that we are no longer travelling did we fall off your “favorite blog” list? Don’t worry, I won’t be mad. As you can see by the long silence since we’ve been home, I’ve been a little busy. Busy people don’t have time to be mad.
But alas, I thought the fanbase would like to hear how we are doing. Returning home is a big deal, and some people who travel extensively report a lot of trepidation about it. So perhaps you are one of those and wondering how it went for us. In short: we are doing well. Quite well.
We arrived back in Arizona in mid December. Dan had been in Arizona since July and secured our housing, but he and his dad had only moved in to our house a week prior to our return. So it’s not like we walked in, dropped our suitcases, plopped on the couch and declared ourselves “home”. Dan did his best to welcome us home but it was a bit rough to return home to a house that looked suspiciously like the inside of a storage unit. A storage unit that had been packed 5 years prior, no less. And lest you think we just got to unpack and then we were set up… nooo. We only saved personal stuff. No furniture, no appliances, no kitchen stuff. Just crazy things like Haley’s journal from 5th grade and a bunch of Zoe’s rainbow loom bracelets she made in 3rd grade. And a ton of stuffed animals. A ton.
But when we arrived home from the airport at 3 a.m., we all had beds, (the girls had air mattresses) and there were enough chairs for all of us, minus 1 in the living room. There was a table but it also was 1 person short. But that’s OK. In the days that followed we were too busy to sit down.
Thus began a whirlwind of bed shopping, deciding on which furniture to buy first, getting Christmas gifts (minimally, but still something) and daily trips to furnish the kitchen so I could someday cook a meal. We arrived home on a Wednesday morning. I think the first meal I cooked for the family was Sunday. Not bad. There was a lot of FSO that first week or two. I’d be halfway through my prep to make a casserole and realize that I had no casserole dish to cook it in. Good thing Target is about a mile away.
We then pulled off a memorable Christmas which was a lot easier thanks to; 1) the retail scene in Gilbert which is beyond belief; 2) Amazon and it’s lightning fast delivery, and; 3) shopping is not limited to things that fit in suitcases. Oh, and don’t forget; 4) kids who are easy to please because they are just happy to be back in the USA. The girls were given big, non travel -friendly gifts like chairs, big, fat hardback books, organizing containers for their bedrooms and big things like pillows. They were happy.
Life didn’t want us to rest, but instead said Keep Going, Fam! So shortly after Christmas Haley got her learner’s permit to drive. She didn’t feel like she had studied very much but Dan was going to the DMV to get his license updated and said “FSO, HALEY!” so she did and she passed. By 1 point. Good enough for government work! And thus began our driving lessons for Haley.
Life still said “no resting!” and soon we had double birthdays in the house. In mid January Haley turned 18 and I turned 50 – one day apart. This was a big deal and deserved big dealings! So we invited my sister and my BFF from Oregon to come and celebrate with us. It was a little odd to have guests so soon in the house that still looks like the “before” photos in those home makeover shows. But we FSO’d on that too.
For our birthdays we planned a fun baking competition, we went to see movies and a play, we ate and we shopped and we hung out and chatted in our pajamas over coffee. It was memorable and epic and blissfully normal. It was great.
On The Road Again
So NOW we can relax and take a breath? Well, not all of us. A few days after Birthday Palooza ended I headed north to see my mom in Alaska, who needed some TLC in the medical department. I had to stock up on a warmer wardrobe because it was -5 F when I landed.
A week of tolerating cold, managing to NOT slip on the snow and having some wonderful time with my mom ended up passing quickly. I was happy to go back home to my new normal, even if it still looked like we are squatters in this big house.
But the fun isn’t over. Upon arriving home, the fam had something waiting for me. Meet Abraham Lincoln.
A back story: When we left Arizona for our travels, we had our beloved dog Phinny, who came with us to Panama. That wasn’t a great scenario for him so when we set off on faster travels, we re-homed him with some friends in Oregon. We knew there was no way we could have him back when we returned, they just love him too much, so we figured a new dog would be in our future at some point.
When we arrived in Arizona in December I said to Dan: “I think I’ll be ready for a dog in about 6 months, once Zoe has settled into high school.” When I left for Alaska a month later I said “I’ll be ready for a dog when I get back.” There’s something about suburbia and stability that just begs for a dog. I would find myself wanting to walk a dog after dinner. Well, Dan did his magic once again and picked out this cutie, who shortly became smitten with me. Funny how when I’m the one that feeds him all his meals and takes him out for all his potty breaks, even at 3 am., I become his favorite. #sorrynotsorry
Back To School and Not School
Zoe has embraced public school in all it’s glory and hasn’t missed a beat in terms of academics. She entered back into the same school district we left, only now she’s in 8th grade. Time flies. It was very easy to re-enroll her, even if she’s mortified that the latest picture the school system had of her for her online profile is from 3rd grade. She even remembers some former classmates, in addition to her besties, of course. And a boy reminded her that she chased him around the playground in 2nd grade, asking for a kiss. Perhaps he was hoping for a repeat…? It is comforting to return to the same area we left from. It feels like an old shoe.
If anyone is reading this and is worried about your kid(s) re-entering the public school system, I’m here to tell you DO NOT WORRY. IT’S FINE. Zoe may not be getting perfect grades (A’s and B’s), as she works out her organizational system, but she is quite popular with all the teachers due to her enthusiasm and vast knowledge about a lot of topics. I hear daily reports of topics that we are familiar with due to our travels. Cold War? Yep, heard about that in Germany. Genetics? Yep, online class and a museum in South Africa. Rhino poaching? Yep, covered that in South Africa too! Spanish class? Where do we start!!!?
In retrospect, returning for the 2nd half of 8th grade has been extremely beneficial in preparing Zoe for high school. Right now, in February, the 8th graders are already picking out their classes for their first year in high school. So this would have been a lot harder had we showed up only a week or two before her Freshman year started, as we had once planned to do.
Haley is embracing the new lifestyle with equal amounts of gusto. She is now working at Home Depot and hopes to be transferred to the plant department soon. She’s the only 18 year old who spends her spare money on plants and fabric to use with her new sewing machine. I think it’s ironic that her new hobbies are the most travel-unfriendly hobbies possible. It’s like she’s saying “there’s no way we can travel again”.
All The Feels
Are you wondering how everyone is feeling? Well, Dan is fine. Always fine. He had 0 emotions about returning home. Well, other than “Oh, this is nice!” but that was really it. Those of you who remember our pie charts when leaving Mexico will understand Dan’s lack of emote. It’s just Dan.
The girls have been 85% happy and maybe 15% confused. They have both reported some similar observations about their peers. Haley is not finding a lot of peers her own age that she can relate to. Zoe is completely unimpressed with middle school boys, and a lot of the girls too. Although Zoe has a nice group of friends, and Haley enjoys chatting with her co-workers, I think both girls are not quite finding people their own age that “get it”. This is not surprising but it can be hard. Both girls are extremely good at meeting new people and conversing with people of any age. But finding friends who can relate to their experiences is going to be a harder task. Haley came home from work the other day and said “I could relate better to my Cuban customer than any of my co-workers.”
Both girls say that they are not interested in being on the road again, but last week, on the same day, both girls brought it up.
Zoe: You know, it’d be fun to take a road trip soon.
Haley: Today seems like a great day to go to a museum in Europe.
I think it’s a lot easier to daydream of travelling when you have a home base. But alas, life is more complicated now. We have a dog, and my father in law lives with us, both of whom cannot be left alone. So trips must be planned with a little more forethought. We are planning. Not any trips to Europe, but this summer we hope to take a little jaunt somewhere interesting within driving distance while Dan’s sister stays at the house for the dog and the dad. I’m not gonna lie, it was lovely to pack for a trip to Alaska when I only had to pack the things I needed for THAT WEEK. Not for, you know, MY LIFE. It was awesome.
And so, we are doing well. Oh, me? Thanks for asking! I’m great. I am more of a housewife than I ever was, with a bigger house and more people (living beings) to clean up after, cook for, tend to. But I’m doing it better, differently, with more perspective. Oh, and I’m doing it with ONE refrigerator! (A personal victory… don’t judge.) I like the house, especially the kitchen, and the dog is great company and it’s nice to go to day movies with Dan again. I’ve found a gym, I’m reconnecting with some friends and looking into new groups to make new friends. I’m surprisingly busy but if you ask me what I did all day on any given day, I probably couldn’t come up with anything very impressive to report.
I think my fans would be disappointed if I didn’t include some bullet points in this bog post so here’s a quick list of things we love about being home and things we miss.
Things we love about being back:
- Retail convenience. Location and operating hours and selection. My God the selection!
- Transportation. We have our own car! And so far we are having no trouble sharing just 1, too.
- Phone calls. We can make phone calls again! Easily! And in English!
- Food. So many food choices, both to cook and to eat out. The “what should we have for dinner?” question is no problem.
- Stuff. We like having our own stuff around us. We are trying not buy too much but we do enjoy not being limited by space. Problems are easier to solve. Less FSO, more USPS.
- Friends. It’s nice to feel like you can invest in friendships and it’s going to be worth your time because you aren’t leaving again.
- Having a dog. We love love love our puppy and being able to have a dog again.
- Weather. Arizona is still our favorite place. The weather is phenomenal, especially right now.
- Donuts (this is Dan’s bullet)
- Fountain drinks (also Dan)
Things we DON’T like about being back
- Routine. We do like a routine but every day is largely the same, so that can be sad sometimes. We miss our adventuring and not knowing how the day will play out. You never hear us say “Let’s just go see what’s around the next corner.” in Gilbert, Arizona. We already know.
- Medical costs. Ugh, what a pain trying to get medical care, medical insurance and all the related items. I know everyone knows this, but medical care is EXPENSIVE here! Before we left the US (right before the ACA was passed in full), we had beautiful medical coverage. Now, for far worse coverage we have to pay 3 times what we paid before. Absolutely INSANE.
- We don’t fit in. I touched on this above but it’s true. We aren’t like everyone else, and we feel that in a lot of social situations. But we still have each other and we are happy with our homelife. And I’m sure that’ll change over time.
And so, peeps, that’s the 411 on the LJT. We are reminded of our travels frequently. Featured prominently in the kitchen is a Google device that displays a slideshow of pictures. We connected it to Dan’s photos and every 30 seconds a new photo appears, mostly from our travels. We sometimes have a hard time remembering where we were at the time, but haircuts and clothing give us good clues. So it’s fun to be reminded of all the things we have done. I admit I’m surprised we “bump” up against reminders of our experiences so much in our daily lives. I guess, looking back, we really did do a whole lotta stuff.
I’ll be back with an update again when I think I have something interesting to share, or when we have taken any kind of trip that deserves a mention. Thanks for tuning in and sticking with us even in the boring parts of our journey!