Our time in Costa Rica is coming to a close and we’re headed for Honduras this Summer, which means, according to the map below, we’re moving from the country that does happiness the best to the country that rocks homicides. Awesome!
We’ve all got a lot of feelings bouncing around right now–excitement, nervousness, curiosity, anxiety, grief. I’ve enjoyed Costa Rica more than I thought I would, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the lifestyle we’ve chosen and about raising kids in that lifestyle. Lately I’ve been thinking of some things I’m hoping our kids are soaking in, both about being nomads and just about life in general. The challenges that we face as nomads are some of our most important teaching tools, that’s something I’m trying to remind myself of more often. I think the move has gotten me thinking of some of the lessons that are most important to me. So I’ve decided to sit down and write a letter to our three amazing nomads …
Dear Liam, Aisleen, and Riley
1. Try your best to go into your new host country with an open mind, let it be what it is, find out what that is as time goes on. I don’t have to tell you that moving is tough, and it’s even tougher when you’re leaving a country you love because you’ve had so much fun and so many cool experiences and you love your house and your friends and your teachers and leaving all that? Ick. Leaving Ireland was painful for all of us and we learned it’s hard to be open to a new country when it feels like half of you is still in the country you’ve come to love and call home. Remember that first trip we took to downtown San Jose? We caught the bus by our house and rode it to the end of the line, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of our host country. I was kind of excited to find out there was a pedestrian street downtown, I had in my mind Grafton Street and Henry Street in Dublin–tree lined, peppered with beautiful statues, shops, flowers, buskers, hustle and bustle. I thought of Temple Bar, on the edge of the river Liffy, with it’s ancient cobblestone pedestrian streets, or of the many little offshoots of the three, like this charming narrow mews …
But, of course, that’s not what we found. Because it was San Jose and not Dublin. I had this ideal in my head of what a pedestrian street looked like and, because the one in San Jose didn’t live up to that ideal, I was pretty let down. I don’t know if you guys know but when we got home I cried. Now, I wasn’t really crying just because the street in SJ wasn’t my cup of tea, I was crying because my expectations had been dashed and, really, I just missed Dublin. I’ve learned, though, over the past two years, that expectations can sometimes be pretty harmful and it’s better to just accept a country for what it is. Which leads me to the next thing I hope you guys are learning …
2. Do not compare your host country to other countries, especially the ones you love the most. Boy was I bad about this when we moved here, and I’m sorry because I know that wore off on the three of you, I find myself still doing it occasionally (though, hopefully, mostly in my head). It accomplishes nothing and only leads to feeling resentful towards the country that will never live up to the favorite–which really isn’t fair to the country or to your happiness. So, kids, be fair to yourselves and to your present home, only in doing that will you find joy.
3. Be open to the unique gifts each country can give you. Every country, even the toughest to live in, has gifts to give and if you’re not open to receiving them you’ll never know what they are. All those hours we’ve spent body boarding in Jaco, the monkeys that have shaken trees around us, special people we’ve met, hikes we’ve taken in the rainforest at night with fireflies lighting up the night and sloths sleeping over our heads (and who knew hummingbird butts were so darn cute!) and so much more! Liam, you’re on a first name basis with an enormous crocodile! Aisleen, you spend hours every week helping to take care of animals who need you desperately. Riley, you have become a master tarantula spotter. Me? I got attacked by spider monkeys. They didn’t kill me, I’d call that a gift, and I got a great story out of it! These are all gifts, and incredible ones at that, so remember to be open to receiving!
4. Try to find something beautiful in your host country every single day. Keep your senses open, be conscious of the world around you. Take a moment to sit in the grass and watch the butterflies, stop on the hill in front of our house and close your eyes to feel the warm breeze on your face, hug a friend or a teacher, watch hummingbirds play–just allow yourself to do something to remember what a beautiful and interesting country you live in.
5. Find the humor in the eccentricities. It’s so easy to get frustrated when things don’t work properly (like the eight billionth time the internet goes out or when we lose power), or when you’re dealing with an infrastructure that could use some help, or the fact that there are too many cars for the roads; it’s perfectly understandable and okay to be frustrated by those kinds of things, they’re frustrating! But try, also, to see the humor in them. A tree branch stuck in a pothole that is big enough to swallow an elephant (the Costa Rican sign for “Warning! Major pothole!”)? That can either lead you to roll your eyes and cluck your tongue or it can make you laugh and recognize the world is a funny, wacky place and, sometimes, you just have to laugh, either because it’s actually funny or because, if you don’t, you’ll beat your head against the wall–doesn’t matter the reason, just do it. I promise it will always make you feel better!
6. As your dad and I tell you, you represent America, this is an honor so remember to be a positive example of our country to our host country. All three of you have been amazing at this, I am beyond proud of you for being aware that people will judge our country, and the people in it, based on your behavior. It’s not entirely fair but it is the reality of the situation. Keep up the good work!
7. Find a way to give back to your host country by volunteering or helping out in some way. It’s always good to bring more kindness and compassion to the world by giving the gifts each of you has to offer and I know you’ve all enjoyed doing this! I am so proud of your compassion and kindness and your willingness to share those things!
8. Living in a foreign country isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely simple, but people who don’t live the kind of life we live don’t always realize that. So when people look at you cross-eyed if you are venting a frustration, or talking about how you didn’t get enough sleep because the bar next door was so loud and the roosters kicked in right when it quieted down, or your morning was tough because we got caught in a monster traffic jam that turned the roads into a parking lot, try to remember that not everyone understands the unique challenges that go along with living overseas. You live in “paradise,” after all, so what the heck do you have to complain about? Everyone has bad days, and it’s okay to vent about them (necessary, even, because it’s a way to get it all out of your system so you can move on), whether you live in Costa Rica or Ireland or the US bad days will happen. Every post has its challenges and you know that creating a life in “paradise” is a lot different than taking a holiday there. So don’t take it personally if people don’t understand, or if they belittle your experiences because they don’t think you should be complaining when you live in “paradise,” just remember they have different life experiences. I encourage you to seek out people who understand your lifestyle and vent to them–they’ll get it and that’s all you’re asking. And don’t ever be hard on yourself for being frustrated or upset, it’s just part of being human.
9. Remember that you are you no matter where you have landed in the world. Hold on to your core, your beliefs, your center. I’m not saying don’t be open to change, it’s important to grow and change, but each of you has such a special core and remembering that is crucial. Your core, along with our family, gives you your stability and when everything around you spends so much time in a state of flux hanging on to who you are will make you solid. When we first moved here we faced a huge challenge with Aisleen being bullied–new country, new language, new culture, norms we weren’t used to, some negative things we weren’t prepared for. One of the ways our Aisleen, and our family as a whole, got through it was by being true to who we are and not adjusting our core beliefs to fit the situation. So stay true to yourselves, always.
10. Remember that our roots are portable. We live kind of a weird life, things happen in our lives that, when you stop and think about them, make you recognize our frame of reference is not the same as it would be if we were settled in a neighborhood in DC or Minneapolis. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. With our nomadic life comes a lot of goodbyes. And where is “home,” anyway? It’s so hard to be away from family that we love–both blood family and family that we’ve picked up along the way. I know that sometimes it feels like there are parts of you scattered all over the globe and that’s tough but we always, always have each other and we have proven time and again that our roots are like steel! In five months we will gently uncover those roots once more and move them to a new country. It will not be easy, we will have challenges, we will very much miss the people we’ve come to love here, but we will make it work, we always do. And Honduras will hold many more gifts for us as long as we’re open and willing to receive them, I promise this. Above all else, remember that your dad and I love all of you with our whole hearts and as long as we are together we will always be home.
All My Love,