“I love you Mama,” my daughter cooed as I nestled down into the twin sized bed beneath the tall cathedral window where she would sleep for the night. Snuggled in with a myriad of stuffed animals belonging to a little girl we had never met, we puffed our pillows just right, to enjoy our nightly bedtime story together.
This was our first night in a new AirBnB on the Greek Island of Paros. The three-story home, perched on a ledge overlooking the Aegean Sea, would become our home for the next 10 weeks. Along with a flock of backyard chickens, a fluffy dog named Tufa, and three aloof cats to keep us company during our stay.
My daughter’s comfort level in this new space blew me away. This was our latest “home” in a string of several over the last 12 months, and she was confident this was “her bedroom.” Her contentment was all the proof I needed to affirm love is what makes our children comfortable and secure—not a fixed location or room full of possessions.
My children surprised me in so many ways during our 18-months of long-term travel, but their ability to adapt and thrive was one of the greatest.
Below are six powerful lessons my children learned from long-term family travel.
Try telling your family that you’ll be spending another 6 hours in the airport after you’ve already been there for five and the iPad is dead with no charger in sight.
It might not always be pretty, but so much is out of your control when you’re subjected to air travel. Despite their young age, my children truly learned to embody the philosophy that “Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.”
Though I often needed to find a small bribe, such as a hot chocolate or small treat, we quickly learned to simply make the best of whatever was happening. We also played a lot of “uno” on this trip!
When they were just too tired to be flexible—every airport in the world has a bar—my husband and I took shifts to keep our sanity intact.
After a long day of travel, we all look a little haggard in this photo, but a snack of fresh churros kept everyone in good spirits.
My children’s toys were restricted to basically what they could carry in their kid-sized backpacks: favorite stuffed animals, legos, and a few books. The load of things we carried lessened with each new destination. As a result, they were immensely grateful when we were someplace that happened to have playthings and games we could borrow.
I’ll never forget our stay on the Greek Island of Paros—an old piece of driftwood became my son’s most prized possession. In his 6 year-old mind, it was the coolest skateboard on the planet. He’d spend hours running and launching off rocks, perfecting his “kickflips” with the soft sand to cushion his roll below.
Jaxon perfecting his “kickflip” over the Aegean Sea at sunset–one of my favorite memories from the whole trip.
The experience of being not only the new kid, but also the only “foreign” kid in their Catalan classroom in Barcelona, offered my pre-schooler and first grader, way more compassion for other children who are different for any number of reasons.
Now that were back in California, my daughter has a little boy in her class that uses sign language to communicate. She comes home every day with a few more words she learned since yesterday. I’m not sure she would have taken so much interest in communicating with this little boy, had she not experienced the sting of being left out.
Learning a new language is hard, even for kids, despite what some experts say. Everyone gets frustrated when they’re misunderstood, and it takes a lot of courage to keep putting yourself out there.
I’ll never forget the horrific tears that lasted a solid three weeks when we first enrolled my son in an all Spanish school in Oaxaca. After what seemed an exhausting and tortured eternity, he came home one afternoon, excited to tell me all about the day.
Learning to get back up after the inevitable setbacks life throws our way, is arguably one of the most important skills we can teach our children.
My babies in their Oaxacan school uniforms. An all Spanish speaking school was a tough transition, but one that was worth it in the end.
Routine can be created anywhere
Our nightly dinner ritual includes each family member sharing what their favorite part of the day was, and at least one thing they are grateful for. At bedtime, we read books and sing our songs.
Though our family rhythms changed along with the time zones and destinations, we were still able to honor our daily traditions and routines.They merely adjusted to fit our circumstances.
In fact, our family traditions became the anchor for our children to lean on, despite everything else being new and unknown. They learned to tune into the rhythms of their feelings and emotions. We even celebrated all the major holidays away from family, and to be honest enjoyed the simplicity and lack of expectations.
Home really is anywhere there’s love.
We spent Christmas on the Greek Island of Paros last year. Though the presents were light, and our family was half a world away, we recreated many of the traditions we honor at home, and were blessed to witness many new Greek customs too.
Gingerbread houses! A longtime family tradition on my side.An outdoor Holiday market in the Greek village of Parikia.
After six months at a school in Oaxaca, Mexico, both my children had made deep friendships. Saying goodbye was difficult, but also provided a beautiful metaphor for staying in the present. Though we were saying goodbye to our new friends, we were headed home to our family and old friends in California. So many things in life are bittersweet.
My daughter, holding the stick to hit the piñata at her birthday party, with two of her best friends she made at school.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons of travel is the clarity that everything is temporary and when things are good we should enjoy them, and when they are rough, we know they won’t stay that way.
Tiffiney Lozano is the creator of the Mama Said Project and two crazy humans. She offers workshops for women craving connection with themselves and the world around them. After 18- months of continuous travel she and her family are finding adventure in the every day from the comfort and beauty of their home in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Lake Tahoe.
Watch the video to learn more about the free Mama Said Project…
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