The very real story about what happened when my teenage daughter and I decided to sell everything we own and travel the world. From this day forward, our lives would never again be the same.
My first response to my daughter's request to live with her father shuddered up from my belly to my throat like a howl. No way.
The idea of lengthening the tether between me and my only daughter made me want to wrap her forcibly in my arms and squeeze her until she squealed.
It took a week to calm my visceral reaction and think rationally about her request. I had already imagined that she'd leave me early to study abroad her junior year of high school, which would have left me another full year and a half to have her to myself. Her ask to switch her primary home a year earlier caught me off guard. Closer proximity to her four best friends motivates her desire to move. At 15 years old, she yearns for their company more than mine.
Luckily, her dad and I maintain a kind, easy relationship. He has proven to be an attentive and stable father. If she moved, I would not need to worry about her safety or schooling. However, I'm not quite done dolling out daily doses of motherly love, nor have I finished programming her with my wild, magical ideas just yet.
The remarkable brevity of our time together before she sets out on her own in the world looms heavy on my mind. Even though she spends most days with me, I've spent many of those wrapped up in my own head, my own work, my own dramas and traumas.
Wake up, I told myself. You will not get these months back. Her childhood is a finite resource. So we made a deal.
When her sophomore year swings around, she may start it based at her father's house. Before that time comes, we will travel the world together, a grand mother-daughter adventure of a lifetime.
It took us two months to prepare. I pulled her from the public high school and enrolled her in an online school. We sold the majority of our belongings at community flea sales and stowed away what we could not part with in a single storage unit. Her cat went to her father's, my cat went to my father's.
We registered with the Safe Traveler Enrollment Program so that I could assure my worried mother that we'd be tracked by local US embassies wherever we go. We visited our doctor and left laden with a cornucopia of pills and vaccines. We could probably drink from the Ganges right now and not even suffer a sore throat. (Though I won't test that theory.)
Last week, after two months of preparation, my daughter and I dumped all our trip gear on my mom's living room floor and proceeded with the grand packing challenge. Mom presented us with an ocean blue cake decorated with toy ship and the magic words "Bon Voyage." She put snacks in ziplock bags and reminded us to stay slathered in sunscreen and bug spray.
On our first flight from Seattle, my daughter turned to me and said, "I can't believe we're actually doing this." Her smile wide and eyes bright. "When I told my friends about our plan, I didn't know if it would really come true. So many people talk about doing something like this, but you actually made it happen Mom. We're doing it. We're on the freaking plane right now. It's real!"
If you do not parent a teenager, you might not be familiar with the pride that overcame me upon hearing her spontaneous appreciation. Imagine a thousand bright fireworks bursting into bloom in my chest, swelling me so that I might pop with pleasure.
After one more sleepless flight through the night, my daughter and I arrived in the opposite corner of the country. We gasped as we stepped off the plane into the humid Floridian air. Somewhere different. We are somewhere very different.
For the first leg of our trip, we cruise across the Atlantic Ocean on a great ship. We'll enjoy stops in Portugal and Spain before arriving in Rome, two weeks after departure from Florida.
After receiving an Easter blessing in Rome, we fly to Sri Lanka on a mission to bathe with elephants and sit in the shade of the Bodhi tree. A few slow weeks later, we'll fly to Phucket, and work our way across Thailand via boat, bus and train. We aim for a small town on the North end of Laos, recommended to us by our Laotian physician. After we've had our fill of fruit shakes, night markets and river dolphins, we'll take a barge down the Mekong river and hop off in Cambodia. We plan to spend days exploring the ruins of Angkor Wat. Perhaps we'll find our way to the coast and stay in a bungalow that we may reach by kayak.
There, on the coast of Cambodia, we'll review finances and energy levels and see if we might add in India and Japan. We'll journey for three months at least, four and a half if we're lucky.
I write this post now from my perch in the top deck library on the Holland America cruise ship Westerdam. A couple thousand nautical miles of ocean separates us from land in every direction. My daughter rushes to finish her homework online so that she may change into swimsuit and work with her watercolor paints at the edge of the pool on the aft deck. Our bellies are over full with fruit and buffet desserts, our skin moist with sunblock. A soft, simple start to our adventure.
Want to know how we could possibly afford such an adventure and take off without demolishing our land-based lives? Keep following. I'll post on how we managed to snag our two-week, trans-Atlantic cruise for $500 a person, how I bring in income while on the road, and how easy it is for us to live comfortably on $40 or less per day in thrilling, safe and beautiful lands.
We're doing it. We're actually doing it! Follow along with us.
This post was written in March of 2017. Oh boy to I have a lot to catch you up on! Of course, plans didn't go quite as expected. >> Read the next update now.