After three months of travel things are starting to show wear. Our clothes, our relationships, our mental sanity…
Our t-shirts are pilling. Small holes are appearing in the fabric. The cotton shirts are all stretched out (which Rand brilliantly realized was because washing stretches the cotton and machine drying contracts it, but since clothes are hung to dry in this part of the world, they never have a chance to shrink back down).
After our first month of travel, the “vacation” part of the trip was over and the work part began. At the beginning of July, we met up with Rand’s students in Bangkok. They would begin their study abroad with a month long internship in northern Thailand.
We followed one group of students to Mae La Oop and stayed with them for 10 days. Our time in this tiny mountain town was wonderful and also uncomfortable. The people and the scenery were both beautiful and welcoming. The beds and showers were hard and cold, respectively.
Then we planned to spend few days in Chiang Mai before meeting the other group of students in Mae Chaem. A few days turned into the greater part of a week when Rand got sick and wasn’t up for riding in truck up a mountain on winding roads.
In Mae Chaem, we had meaningful experiences with the local people and sweaty afternoons in one room with one fan, all five of us trying to move as little as possible.
By the time we returned to Bangkok in the middle of August, we were all a bit worn out even though we had a lot of down time in the small towns.
Rand was stressed from the weight of managing the study abroad program and dealing with 3 teenage daughters and a wife who can never seem to leave the room without needing to go back in for one more thing.
Sierra was alternating between depressed and elated depending how her online conversations were going with her friends back home and how many notes she got on her art on tumblr.
Arwen had started to feel homesick as her friends begin fall activities that she won’t be a part of.
My indecisiveness was driving everyone nuts. Apparently, taking 20 minutes to choose a snack at 7-11 is irritating to travel companions. As is waffling about which guesthouse to stay in or which restaurant to eat at.
And Kali’s favorite phrase became “Let’s just go,” whenever I couldn’t make a decision or we spent to much time at a market.
Combine a dad whose patience has worn paper thin, mopey/whiney teenage daughters, and a mom who can’t decide what color toilet paper to buy and you have our family dynamics as we complete month three of travel.
Kali, who normally never makes a peep of complaint, summed up our feelings one night at dinner when she proclaimed, “Family: something annoying that I love.”
To add to the challenges, for our time with the students, we put ourselves on a budget that Rand refers to as “austerity mode.” We want to save money now for travel plans we have at the end of the trip, but everyone knows that being on a tight budget is no fun.
So here we are, stretched out, pilling, with small holes appearing in what we thought would be a wonderful family experience.
And it really has been. I think it’s only natural for family travel or any kind of long term travel really to have some rough patches.
We just need to do what we did with the t-shirts. We need to metaphorically put ourselves in the dryer and reclaim the shape we once had. And also, like the shirts, we need to get rid of the what is no longer working and replace it with shiny new ideas for making this a great year of travel for everyone.