Packing, Packing, Packing!

Imagine: you have the opportunity to take a year off to travel, to see the world, to be free. Go ahead, close your eyes and day dream a little. Let your inner Anthony Bourdain take over…

Other amazing prints and products featuring Jane’s original designs are available on Finn + Remy’s website.

The initial thought is exciting, enticing, maybe even a little romantic. But once the decision is made, once the notices are given, the flights are booked, the rooms reserved, once the initial euphoria passes and reality sets in, an inescapable and monumental hurdle presents itself–PACKING!

Are you dreaming of a tropical paradise like this? So were we, but there is a lot of work to be done before you can get there…

Now, I know what you are thinking, “yeah, packing for an entire year of travel could be pretty hard.” Oh my dear friends, packing for a year of travel is easy. Just pack the same clothes you put on everyday when you get home from work and throw in whatever you wear on the weekends for good measure.

You only need a week’s worth of clothes at the most, plus the same toiletries you would pack for any trip. For everything else, just follow this simple rule: if you can’t carry it, you don’t pack it. Besides, if you really need it, you can probably buy it where ever you are going. (And it will probably be cheaper there.)

What I am talking about is packing as if you are moving, except your stuff isn’t going with you. That means going from this:

Having more room to store stuff probably means you will store more stuff!

To this:

95% of all the personal property we own is in this box! :-O

To this:

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To say that we are fans of Osprey is an understatement. I absolutely love their packs! Our Camelbak day pack is the only non-Osprey pack (other than Finn’s backpack) that made the cut for this trip.

For me, this adventure really only presented two real issues, and both of them dealt with the house. Because we had no desire to sell our house, the first was getting it leased out to great tenants. Fortunately, with the help of Zillow, we quickly struck gold on the lease and found tenants for our house who are great fit in just a matter of days!

Of course, the lease was contingent on us actually moving out of the house. That lead to my second concern, packing! With Jane still working, the task largely fell  to me to accomplish. That’s not to say Jane didn’t contribute. To the contrary, she gave up many of her nonworking hours to help pack. But unloading over 3,500 sqft into a 10′ x 20′ box is no small task. It meant treating packing like a job itself.

In many ways, it is not the large objects that present the greatest challenge. The over sized sofa, the solid wood dining table, and the king sized bed are all big, heavy objects. However, they only require a little muscle and a few well placed furniture sliders to take make quick work of them.

Furniture sliders are clutch! They are cheap, available online or at any hardware store, and save you time, energy, and unnecessary scratches on your floors.

The real challenge is sifting through the years of accumulated stuff that just seems to permeate every drawer, cabinet, and closet. Where did it all come from? Where should it all go?

Why did we buy these? Why did we think needed them? They had to go…

One thing was clear, when you are paying by the square foot to warehouse your possessions, you don’t want to pay to warehouse future trash. Yet it is not always easy to make a call on what stays and what goes. There is a surprising amount of emotion that gets tangled up in and intertwined with mere objects. This begs the question:

Do I own my stuff, or does my stuff own me?

To help sort out this dilemma, we tried to assign things into three general categories: Keep It, Sell It or Give It Away, or Throw It Away. We started with the “easy” stuff, like clothes we haven’t worn in recent memory. I purged my side of the closet first as an act of good faith to encourage Jane to do the same. She reciprocated by selling or giving away her maternity clothes. However, when I finished, she quickly pointed out the many items that I kept despite having not worn them in years. I, of course, also found it easier to identify what she needed to toss.

In truth, I have irrational and sentimental attachments to objects like t-shirts from my youth. They serve no purpose other than to hang in my closet and remind me of roads previously traveled.

It’s not that there is no value in having some of these objects around. But now we are challenging ourselves to step off of the Yellow Brick Road and blaze a new trail. That means being willing to unburden ourselves from many of those  comfort items.

Meditating on this point, my eyes suddenly gained new clarity. Many of these  nostalgic possessions that were cheap to keep around, filling up our house and occupying otherwise empty space, were not just ties to the past. They were anchors, holding us in place. They were preventing us from breaking free and starting our new adventure. So, they had to go.

Getting rid of that first torn, old t-shirt hurt, tossing those old birthday cards stung, giving away our boys’ baby clothes even made me feel queasy. But the more we got rid of, the more liberated I felt. Even though we had only lived in our house for four and a half years, it literally took weeks to go through each room, closet, and drawer of our house. To physically touch, sort, and pack or dispose of every single thing we owned.

No long sleeves necessary where we are going, so we paid it forward and gave away mountains of baby clothes, many of which were given to us by dear friends and my sister.

Until finally–with lots of help from Jane, my friends Chris, Mike, Allan, Treon, Seth, and Danny, and our parents–it was done. Everything was in its place. Everything was packed.

And once it was all done, our adventure could finally begin.

On our first hike (of many to come) at Soco Falls, NC.

Unmoored from our belongings, we are now free to wonder again. Free to create new memories in new places with new friends.

Our first expat meet up in Puerto Morelos, MX. Check out our friends’ blog: Sessions Around the World.

Food Poisoning in Mexico is Pretty Much a Given, Right?

Jane at our new favorite restaurant: La Ceiba de la 30 (DAC Playa Del Carmen)

Jane and I are both relatively seasoned travelers. We know that traveling always carries with it an increased risk of food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses–no matter where you go. After all, each of our microbiomes are unique and delicate ecosystems. Any disruption is likely to produce some negative effects.

However, the risk of food poisoning can be higher than 60% when traveling to developing countries. With that in mind, before we left, Jane made sure we stocked up on rehydration powders, like Pedialyte, and also brought some activated charcoal with us. Little did we know how quickly we would be using them.

We got into our condo in Playa Del Carmen at around 6:30 in the evening. This is exactly the boys’ dinner time (and now ours as well). Everyone in the family was, let’s say, in a bit of a blood sugar low. So, as quickly as we arrived, we dropped our packs and headed for the nearest taco restaurant we could find, which was about 45 seconds from our building.

It was our first dinner as a family in Mexico and, despite the slow service, it was fantastic! I consider myself a bit of a taco connoisseur, but I have never had tacos al carbon or tacos al pastor that were that good in my life. And the salsas–AMAZING! We feasted and feasted. With every bite the realization was setting in that we had truly begun this epic journey and that it would be every bit as much of a culinary journey as it is geographic.

Sufficiently stuffed, we paid our tab and successfully navigated the hundred or so steps back to our condo. We unpacked, tucked the boys in, and then finally prepared ourselves for our first night in our new (temporary) home. That’s when it began to hit me…

First, it was the achiness all over. I initially thought it was just  soreness due to the travel and hauling a bunch of bags (plus a pack-n-play) around. Then as I got into bed, I began feeling cold. The air from the wall mounted system poured down on me at a balmy 27°C (that’s 80.6°F), but it felt like an arctic blast. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get warm and pretty soon I was shivering. It was so bad that the chattering of my teeth actually woke up Jane. I was so cold that I made her turn off the air in our room and in the boys room. Yet I still felt cold and was shaking uncontrollably.

Jane reached over and felt my forehead. “You’re burning up,” she said. “No, I am freezing I argued.” Except, my stomach felt like a fire was burning within it. All of that glorious salsa had set my insides en fuego. I could feel the war raging in my digestive track. It went on for what seemed like hours. “Is this what life is going to be like in Mexico,” I asked myself. As the seconds slowly marched on, I feared that our journey may already be over. If we can’t even eat one meal here, how can we stay?

Finally, after what felt like ages, I waived the white flag of surrender. Kneeling before the porcelain throne, I committed myself to the inevitable and I pulled the trigger…

My friends, it was a moment of defeat and despair that I do not wish to describe. When I finally returned to bed with my stomach now empty and my pride shattered, my wonderful wife reminded me that this would be a good time to take some of the activated charcoal and rehydration powder we brought. Except, I was not allowed the sugar-sweetened Pedialyte, which must be reserved for the children. Instead, Jane mixed up the unflavored adult version for me.

It turns out, electrolytes pretty much taste like what they are replacing–sweat! So, here I was, in an unfamiliar place, in an unfamiliar land, fighting off a fever, cold chills, achy joints, and recovering from having just puked my brains out. My only lifeline toward recovery was a large glass of sweat juice and two capsules of charcoal…

By the grace of God, I finished the concoction, which tasted worse going down than my taco dinner did coming up, and I eventually fell asleep. The endless night slowly turned to morning. Fortunately, our boys were unaffected by the affliction that seized me, but that meant that they woke up pretty much at dawn.

Jane was an absolute hero. She got them up and fed. I could hear them talking and playing in the next room. Finally, Finnegan snuck into our bedroom, and asked, “Dada, Mama says you don’t feel very well?” “No, son, I am a little bit sick,” I responded. “Can I kiss it so it feels better?” he asked. “Of course, son.” And with a little borrowed strength from my three year old, I was able to get out of bed and get the day started.

It was right about that time that Jane looked at me, hand on her stomach, and said, “uh-oh, I am not feeling very well either.” Mexico, it seemed, had claimed another victim…

As the day wore on, we slowly nursed ourselves back to health. As we began feeling a little better, we reached out to our parents to let them know we were settled in and doing just “fine.” Jane’s parents were very upset that we had only messaged them once the night before when we landed at the airport. In fact, her mother was so upset, she claimed that she couldn’t sleep the whole night. Indeed, she had worked herself into such a frenzy that she developed stomach cramps and a fever. Not much later in the day, the report came from Jane’s dad, he too was sick. The symptoms were all the same.

We were beginning to suspect that the culprit was not the Mexican cuisine we had the night before, so we reached out to our friends that attended Remy’s one year birthday party the day before we left. We learned that nearly half had developed food poisoning. The symptoms were all consistent with gastroenteritis! By the way, experts recommend avoiding spicy foods if you have gastroenteritis because it exacerbates the problem.

So, in the end, it was not the food in Mexico that made us sick, it was one of the last meals we had eaten in Texas just before we left. And although it provided for a very rough start to this adventure, everything has been on the up-and-up since those first couple of days.

Most importantly, we have had no issues with the food in Mexico. In fact, nearly every single meal has been well beyond our expectations. Much more on that in the coming days…

Quick Recap of a Very Busy Month!

About a month ago, we were in the final push to move out of our house and turn it over to our tenants. We were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, purging unneeded and unwanted clothing and furniture. Jane was still working every day. The boys were still in daycare. And I was calling in every favor for help from friends and family to finish the move. It was hot, hectic, and humbling.

Jane & Jonathan saying good-bye to our home in Texas

By sheer force of will, we managed to finish the move. Most of our belongings that once filled our 3,500 square foot home were compressed into a 10′ x 20′ box. What didn’t get stored there was either crammed into my truck and sent to South Carolina with my dad, or tucked away in closets and crevices at Jane’s parents’ house. We were down to a car and a few too many items to bring along for the big trip. But we didn’t have time to catch our breaths, because Jane’s last day in the office was also the same day we left for a road trip to visit my family in the Carolinas. So with a quick good-bye, we bid farewell to our beloved home, piled into the car, and headed east.

All packed up and piled in … only 13.5 hours to go!

We met my parents, sisters, and their families in Maggie Valley, NC, where we shared a beautiful mountain home for several days.

(Almost) the Whole Family! It’s so rare to have the opportunity to spend so much time together with so much of your family. This was truly specially.

There, we climbed mountains, played in streams, and chased waterfalls. At night, we sat in darkness, perched on our porch atop the mountain, and stared gazingly into the magnificent night’s sky. Without the ambient glow of big cities to which we are so accustomed, the celestial wonders of the universe were able to shine through. We could clearly see the Milky Way, as well as Mars and Jupiter. Our stay also overlapped the beginning of the Perseid Meteor Shower and, as a result, I saw more “shooting stars” in three nights than I have in my entire life.

Jane & Remy on the trail at Soco Falls, NC
Jane & Remy at Soco Falls, NC

Alas, all good things must come to an end. So, once again we loaded up the car, and traveled to my parents’ house in South Carolina for a few days. Then it was back up to North Carolina to visit some more with my sisters and to let the cousins play together, which was the best part of the entire trip!

Cousins playing like brothers

Before too long, we were heading back to Texas. It’s about a 14 hour drive, so we split it up into two days each time. On the drive out, we drove over Arkansas and Tennessee with our overnight stop in Jackson, TN. For the drive back, we took the southern root through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. For propriety’s sake–and also because we love the Johnny Cash & June Carter Song–we stopped over in Jackson, MS. For anybody that is keeping count, that’s nine states in just ten days!

Happy Birthday, Remington!

Once we were back in Texas, we rushed to tie up loose ends before we left the country–doctor appointments, wills & POAs, insurance, farewells,  Remy’s first birthday party, and our final cut for packing! Whether we were ready or not, August 19, 2018 finally arrived, which meant it was time for us to leave!

Finally packed! We are full devotees of Osprey and love their packs. The Osprey child carrier is amazing!

And so began our journey, stepping firmly Off the Yellow Brick Road…

A New Path – Stepping off the Yellow Brick Road

Most of our lives we have followed the path set before us. From  school to college, to graduate school, to career, then car, home, and children. We like to call this path the Yellow Brick Road. While staying on the Yellow Brick Road has not been without risk, it has largely been known and  predictable–comfortable, if at times routine.

And while we have come to many intersections along the way, we have not strayed from the Yellow Brick Road. Now, however, we stop, pause, and  consider.  Should we continue down this path? There is no fork in the road, pushing us to choose one direction from another. There is only the knowledge that if we continue down this path, the one we have traveled thus far, we know where it will lead.

There is no off ramp here, no merge lane, or rest area. But we are ready for a change, ready for a challenge, ready for uncertainty and excitement. So, we are stepping off of the Yellow Brick Road and making our path through the world.

Won’t you join us along the way?