Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The End

141 days ago, we boarded an airplane with a mountain of luggage, five children, and a bunch of anxiety about what was to come as we set our sights to Europe for several months of family adventure.  It was a step way outside our comfort zone, and while we had a general plan, there were many unknowns.  We wondered how we'd do it all, and several times seriously considered packing it in and going home.

Tomorrow, we will again board an airplane, this time headed back to the States after having lived a lot, cried a little, and really just experienced the world around us.  Our 142 days of adventure will come to an end with little fanfare, and hopefully peaceful children during our long flight back across the pond.  When we land, summer will have given way to fall, which will have faded to winter.  Our bright and worn traveling clothes will be buried under the hats, scarves and gloves which mark the season in Pittsburgh.

In a weeks' time, we'll be busy with school, work, Church and everything in between.  We'll be able to get babysitters and send the children outside to play.  I won't have to wear the same tie to Church every week, everyone will get a new set of toothbrushes, and we won't have to visit several markets to do our weekly shopping.  It will be an adjustment.

I expect friends to ask us how our trip was, and I've thought a lot about how to respond.  How does one sum up five months of experiencing the world in a sentence or two?  How do we share the joys and the sorrows, the fun and the hardships, the concerns and the triumphs of our travels in a casual conversation?  I struggle to capture the breadth of my feelings in any medium, because it feels as if doing so always leaves something unsaid.

The reasons for that are as varied as the emotions that flow as a I think about Connemara, London, Paris, Slovenia, Antrim, Munich, Wicklow, Zugspitze, N├╝rnberg and all the other places we've been and things we've done.  The places have been awesome indeed, but they aren't the sum of our adventure.  We haven't just been to those places, we've experienced them, and in doing so, they have changed who we are as individuals and as a family.  They are now an inseparable part of us, never to be taken.  I look forward to a cold winter night many decades hence remembering with Heather—Spencer's broken armCharlotte's cut, and everything in between.  We will always have these experiences: they have changed who we are, and will continue to do so long after we return home.

If I've learned something over the last few months, it's that we can do hard things, individually and as a family.  People are kind and generous, and we should return that kindness in turn.  Things will work out, even if not in the ways we expect.  We may not be able to do everything in the world, but we shouldn't be afraid of doing something.  And as a family, we should not shy from the unfamiliar, the difficult or the uncomfortable.

Maybe the adventure isn't over after all.

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