We have now completed four months of our family sabbatical. One month ago we left familiar Europe and traveled to Hong Kong, China and Japan. The kids had their first bout of homesickness (read here) and we struggled at times to have a predictable routine, leading to more tantrums, especially related to homeschool. Above all, we made many memories as a family, good and bad. We also met up with another world traveling family from our hometown in Kyoto, which was very special and it was great to compare notes.
Caffeine and Optimism
I’m now one month into an experiment to eliminate all caffeine, including tea and chocolate, to see if this will help me with my self-diagnosed premenstrual dysphoric disorder (read here) and make me a more upbeat person. It is too early to tell if the experiment is a success: during the appointed days this month, I was still very irritable, but not deeply sad, which could be progress.
(After four months of travel, the kids all needed new shoes from all the walking)
Finding Myself through Writing
In our first month in Asia, I took concrete steps towards making writing a bona fide hobby. I haven’t had real hobbies since I choose to combine a full-time career with parenthood. For the past twenty years or so, I focused on my marriage, kids and career, while choosing to neglect hobbies, exercise, and, sadly, friends.
In theory re-connecting with former passions, will make me happier. Earlier in our trip we discovered that both the Danes (read here) and the Dutch (read here), two very happy nations, tend to have a rich extracurricular life.
During each month of this year, I set myself a small goal related to writing (read here). In October I wanted to read a book about writing, and improve my vocabulary. Then we met Lenka, one of our former au pairs (read here) and she inspired me to look into online writing courses. I couldn’t find anything free, but discovered several paid options and decided to sign up for an online travel writing class by Gotham Writers.
I was nervous. The expense was not authorized by my trip-mate (husband) and I didn’t know that I could fulfill the commitments to make it worth the money, while on the road. Submitting my first assignment to my peers also gave me the jitters, especially as the only non-native English speaker in class. Fortunately, I have been able to keep up with the homework and just for making me feel like a teenager again, this class was worth the money.
I am eagerly looking forward to new assignments each week, and I have been reading a lot of travel articles, and book (fragments) for (and inspired by) class, including ‘The Elements of Story’ by Francis Flaherty. I now know that my favorite genre is called ‘travel memoir’, and that I have no interest in earning money from my travel writing (which is kind of liberating). All I want is to share a story of family travel and self-improvement, in the hope it might be useful to others contemplating such journey in the smallest of ways.
Experiences, not Stuff
Meanwhile, the kids are also making progress towards personal transformation. We’ve been emphasizing ‘experiences, not stuff’ (see here). During a recent visit to Kyoto Studio Park, where we learnt how Samurai movies are made and were able to pretend to be ninjas, Eight exclaimed at the end of the day: “This was a great day for ‘experiences, not stuff’, don’t you think?”