On Thursday afternoon last week, my family of four landed at San Jose Airport in Costa Rica. The country of Costa Rica officially welcomed all citizens of the United States starting November 1st, and arriving in this country signifies an important milestone of a dream long held.
Long before my sons were born, my husband and I dreamed of taking our future children abroad for a year to expose them to another culture. After many years, we revisited that dream and re-envisioned it as a family gap year that would involve visiting several countries.
Over many date night brainstorms, we allowed space for the dream to evolve while in parallel we discussed ways we could change how each of us worked to allow us to be more flexible, working online with reduced hours while traveling. All along the way, we received tremendous support and encouragement from friends and family, which was such a gift.
In January 2020, we officially decided “let’s go for it!” We allowed our full excitement to flow through us and made some concrete decisions that would set things in motion — including deciding to put our house up for sale and also to postpone my older son’s entry to high school for one year, knowing that we would world-school both boys throughout our travel.
All of this was before the covid-19 lockdown started in mid-March where we live. As we became aware of the implications of the quarantine on travel, I initially went into a grief-life depression as I grappled to find solid ground under my feet. How could we not go? How could we not pursue our long-held dream? I went back into therapy — with two therapists using different modalities — and pulled myself back from the edge. I knew I had to continue being a wife, a mom, a coach to my clients, and run my business as best I could with all the unexpected changes and restrictions.
And then two things happened: my coaching colleague and dear friend Lucy invited me to join her and two other colleagues in taking a mental fitness course. And about a month after that, my husband said something so simple it gave me permission to remove the complexity of all the contingency and scenario planning. He said: “we’re going… unless we don’t.”
If you’ve read my newsletters these past few months, you already know the incredible impact the mental fitness course has had on me and my clients. That, combined with this statement from Matt turned everything around.
I was able to shift my mindset away from loss and grief and a profound sense of ground-less-ness to… excitement and curiosity for what was possible. What could we do? Where could we go? How could we reinvent our original plan?
I’ll skip over the numerous versions of plans that followed this shift, and share what has actually happened since that shift…
We traveled in July to visit my family in Iowa, then back East for August and September visiting Philadelphia, Downeast Maine and Philadelphia again. Owing to the graciousness and generosity of friends in Colorado, we then experienced 6 glorious weeks staying on their beautiful wooded property at 9,000 feet above sea level. We took weekend trips to Moab Utah, Aspen and Crested Butte Colorado and many other day trips around the Denver and front range area. We affirmed our deep love of Colorado and plan to retire there.
It became clear by September how much we viewed every single day as a gift. We were — and have been — in a state of amazement that “wow, this is really happening”. We have been blessed with more connection with extended family, following restrictions that kept us all safe and healthy. We’ve been able to provide concrete, tangible help to my parents to recover from significant damage caused by the derecho storm and also helped our friends in Colorado with a wildfire mitigation project on their property.
And now… we are beginning the first (and hopefully not the last) international experience of our family gap year. My children will have the opportunity to build their Spanish language skills as we live in a small fishing village on the NW Pacific coast of Costa Rica. We’ll also continue to learn more about how climate and weather changes are impacting the world and local ecology — just as we have in Iowa (with the derecho) and Colorado (with wildfires).
While we’ve been warned that the WiFi is not as reliable, we are grateful that modern technology and laptops allow us to continue our work and support our children’s learning while we travel. It will definitely be a month to remember.
Where we will go after winter holidays? We have many ideas and wait to see what unfolds on the world stage that may influence our decision. In the meantime, we stay present to the joys of daily discoveries offered to us in our nomadic life.
I share my experience to inspire you. Whatever dream or hope you hold in your heart — no matter how small or big — know that when you shift your mindset to one of excitement and possibility, you reduce your stress and anxiety and thus activate your best qualities of creativity and resourcefulness. Invite friends and family to support you in brainstorming what is possible.