You might be wondering why we have made such an enormous, possibly risky, and decidedly untraditional decision. It started with a seed planted in 2006 (yes, we’re old). Chris and I cuddled by the fire in our awesome San Francisco apartment, lulled into romance by the melodic MUNI rumbling in the background, and made a choice that changed our lives forever – to live and work in Mumbai, India. Intellectually this felt like the most illogical decision we could have possibly made. We had been nursing an on again-off again relationship for years, had re-found each other living in the same geography, finally had what seemed like a perfectly urban and love-filled life, and then decided to throw it all away for an adventure that we knew would challenge every part of us. As it turned out, the next two years of our lives were ground-breaking – for our relationship, for our careers, and for each of us as people. And we swore during that time that we would take this risk again if kids came into the picture, to go against the flow of what feels ‘normal’ or what one should do, and instead step out (as fearlessly as possible) into the great unknown.
If I sit down and really try to draw out why we are doing this, here’s what I’ve got. It’s raw and vulnerable, and in sharing this, it’s very unlike me. But it’s all part of the adventure, right?
The world is big. Vancouver is a wonderfully safe and easy life. Not for all, but for us. It is not lost on me the very privilege that this statement embodies. My kids explore our neighborhood freely and are habituated to a certain lifestyle. I have an immense amount of gratitude for this life and for the luck that has accompanied us in settling here. I want them to know that the world is a much bigger place than they ever thought it was. That their perspectives – the food they eat, the beliefs they hold, or the right way to live their lives – is all subjective. That there is no right way to be or live, that they have more choices than they believe they do and that choice is context-dependent, that judgement is myopic, and that there are many, many ways to make the world a better place.
Career. I am forty-four years old with a successful career. I did everything ‘right’ to climb the ladder. I went to prestigious schools, I worked my way up in the various jobs I held, and then I co-founded a strategy + org change consulting practice that worked with both big and small philanthropies around the globe to address some of the most insidious and entrenched social, political, and environmental challenges. I saw the inner sanctums of wealth and power and privilege. I advised on what to do with that privilege. And then upon reaching a certain point of mastery in my craft, I burnt out. I saw my cracks, I saw the cracks of philanthropy, I saw the cracks of striving and ambition, I saw the cracks of midlife, I saw the cracks of white supremacy and patriarchy and my roles perpetuating them, and the more I looked around, the more I hit points of paralysis, apathy, and directionlessness. I have no doubt that I will get back to making the world a better place, but I need a drastic change of perspective and some rest to start anew.
Myopia. I have grown myopic in my own world. The world of children and their/our everyday struggles (Children: are they challenged enough? Should I push ‘x’ to do ‘y’ extracurricular activity? Did we remember to send them in pajamas for pj day? Me: I need to exercise more. What can I cut out of the endless juggle to be less tired? I really should make more of an effort to be social. Family: are we able to make ends meet financially? What do we cook for dinner tonight? Did we spend enough 1:1 time with our kids?). And the days keep coming. I can’t see outside of them. What is really a priority, what really matters, how to live life with purpose.
Project management overload. I have overly mastered what I would call the ‘life project manager’ role, so much so that I forgot the rest of me. The project manager is an incredible juggler. She can balance the needs of three children, her company and clients, her marriage, everyday bureaucracies, making sure all of the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed. She almost never misses anything. She has mastery over the chess board, and she anticipates at least three moves ahead, if not more. There’s only one problem. I’ve become so overly identified with that role, it’s become all of me. I know intellectually I am more than that this well-assembled, accomplished project manager, but it’s hard to shed that skin in my current life.
Presence. Obie, my oldest, is 11. He is securely in the tween world, where both he and I can sense so much newness on the horizon. Speaking of shedding skin! He is between worlds – a child and a teenager. Figuring out when to individuate and when he needs to feel secure in our arms. It is somewhat of a cliché, but I am starting to notice time and what I lose in walking four steps ahead. My impeccable checklist forgets how to be, how to have gratitude, how to appreciate my life and my children and my partner and my career, how to be firmly grounded on terra firma while simultaneously being able to witness time’s movement.
- Adventure, together. Our family thrives when we adventure together. Whether it is a hike, an outing somewhere, or a restaurant, there is a sense of collective growth. It’s not a one-directional, parents-educating-the-children growth. It is a sense that we are all taking an uncharted and glorious step together. We have been safe and shielded and cocooned for a long time. Covid of course exacerbated this. What does it mean to learn and grow together? I can’t wait for Obie to choose the itinerary for which Thai wat to visit, or Emmet (our middle) to help us learn about the cultural and political history of a town in Vietnam, or Asa (our youngest) to make sure he gets the right amount of change back from the gelato shop. And this learning and navigation of the unknown does not stop with our kids. Chris and I both want to step into this adventure as learners, to be reminded of the enormity of what we do not know. Adventure will clearly entail hardship and monotony and claustrophobia (read: family of five ALWAYS together!!!) and maybe even some sketchy travel blips. I am certainly not unaware of these eventualities. But I sense that there is something for all of us together in this adventure, for us as individuals and as a collective.
Some facts, if you are curious, of how we are doing this:
- Education. The kids are enrolled in a BC-based online educational platform called Self Design. They will be paired with a learning consultant who will craft customized lesson plans for them on a weekly basis, drawing on our travels. It is free and publicly funded.
- Finances. We are renting our house to an awesome family. This (along with savings we have squirrelled away for this adventure) is funding our trip! We plan to – with a couple of small exceptions – travel and live humbly.
- My Work. I am taking a sabbatical over these 10 months (read: not working). I think of it like eating ginger between pieces of sushi, or a really deep palate cleanse, or a drawn-out dip in purifying waters.
- What Will We Do Every Day? Besides adventuring, the kids will likely do a couple of hours of schooling in the morning, and we will all try to join local activities or exercise classes when we are based in a particular locale. Ironically, our hope is that we will get better at doing – and planning – less.
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And if you have contacts or have been to any of the places we are going, be in touch!
Sending you all love and adventure for the year ahead.