Return to Pennsylvania

This is the last post describing what we lovingly refer to as “The Big Trip”. For those of you who have followed the whole journey, thank you for your patience in all the time that living life has made it hard to find time to write. If you’re new, we welcome you to read older posts about this amazing trip that changed our lives. While we started this blog as a way to document this particular trip, we have big plans for it in the future! So stay tuned, because the Lindstroms are definitely staying “on the road”!

On Sunday, November 18, we buckled the kids in the car in Virginia and started the final leg of the trip, back to Hatboro, PA, where we’d started the trip exactly 91 days earlier. There were those who said we were crazy to undertake such a journey. There were those who predicted we would give up and turn around after a few weeks. After 13 weeks, we could honestly say that we’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

But it was too dramatic and extraordinary a trip to just fade quietly into the night. Or perhaps more accurately, that’s exactly what happened on that last drive. We suddenly had problems with the wiring to the trailer, so that the lights weren’t working properly. We were so close to the finish line, to suddenly have electrical problems was frustrating. But even though we were so close, the sun was going down, and we knew that I95 between Baltimore and Philadelphia is no place to drive in the dark with an unlit trailer. The only solution we were able to find, finally, was to connect the trailer to the hazard lights and blink our way home. And so the last two hours of our trip were filled with the clicking and blinking of hazard lights. Perhaps that is as it should be.

It was hard to process the full impact of our adventure right away, as we filled our last few weeks in the US with visiting friends, celebrating Thanksgiving with family, and last minute shopping trips. It was a wonderful way to conclude our journey. We have the rest of our lives to discover all the ways that we grew, changed, and bonded as a family as a result of this experience. We will never be the same.

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“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered” – Nelson Mandela

On the eve of return…

Tomorrow we are heading back to my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. I know the blog is dreadfully behind and if you’re only seeing my blog posts, you’d think we were still in California. We’re not. With the exception of tonight’s post, I plan to “go back” to California and continue to add each post in chronological order of what we did on the trip. I don’t know how long it will take me, but the thing is, this is just as much for us as it is for anyone who’s reading it. This is our record of a life-changing experience, and I want to create it to be something we publish and keep forever. So it will take the time it takes. My only hurry is to record it all before memories start to fade and “real life” starts to invade the feelings of being there and the lessons learned.

But tonight I am taking a step out of chronological order to reflect before it’s all “over”. Yes, we will still be in the US for another 2 ½ weeks and there are still many things we are looking forward to doing. But we will be back on familiar turf, staying in one place for more than a few days and generally changing the lifestyle we’ve gotten very used to over the past 3 months.

It will take us weeks and months to process, digest, reflect on and begin to understand all that we have seen and done. It would be premature for me to try to summarize this trip in a few sentences. Instead, tonight I want to share how I feel about it ending.

Someone asked me today if we are anxious to go home – not to my childhood home but to our apartment in Sweden, where all of our stuff is and where we can return to “normal life”. I’m honestly not. (That’s not to say that I’m dreading it though.) Am I tired of sleeping in a pop-up camper that doesn’t have it’s own bathroom? No, not really. Am I tired of cooking 1 or 2 pot meals outside on a propane stove (using a flashlight after daylight savings ended and it was dark so much earlier)? Maybe a little. Are we starting to get tired? Yes. But most of that has just been these last few days, when we started sleeping inside and our kids haven’t slept very well. Are we sad that it’s over? Yes. Definitely. Making the last “left turn” to drive north from Florida was like a kind of a grieving process that I wasn’t expecting. I was more sad about spending our last night in the camper than I was about the last house that we moved out of. I guess I was expecting to feel “done” with it all by now, but I don’t.

But all good things must end. Someone once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” And I do. Part of me still can’t believe we did this. It has been amazing. We will continue to look back, and share memories, and process all that we have experienced. But it is also time to look forward. To prepare for what lies ahead. To decide what’s next. Being away for this long can really clean your slate, so to speak, and enable a fresh start. What have we learned, and how have we changed and who do we want to be now going forward? Those are all questions that we need to answer in the coming days and weeks. It’s a really exciting and yet slightly intimidating place to be.

So that’s what I’m thinking about on this the final evening of our 91 day adventure. Well, that and that I really hope our kids will sleep well tonight. Thanks for sharing in this journey with us!

Can you have too much fun?

This morning I was ready to cancel the whole trip. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure we won’t. But this morning I got a little reminder of what my kids are really like when they’re over-tired and overstimulated. Not just later that day but the day after and sometimes the day after that. I won’t go into detail – if you have kids you know exactly the kind of day I’m talking about. And if you don’t, well, you might still want to someday.

Yesterday was the celebration of the Swedish midsummer holiday. We spent the day outside enjoying beautiful weather at a community gathering. There was music, games for kids, traditional maypole dancing and lots and lots of sugar. A little slice of heaven for someone who’s soon-to-be 3. When we came home, we lacked the energy for the battle of the bathtub, but something had to be done about that wonderful paste that forms when one mixes sweat, sunscreen, dirt and candy. Backyard inflatable pool to the rescue! Add a little shampoo and everyone’s happy. Except now we’ve multiplied the tired. Recognizing the importance of getting some non-sugar-based food in her belly, we broke all the rules and let her pick her own dinner to be eaten while watching Elmo on the couch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and microwave pizza, down the hatch. Start to finish, it was a little girl’s dream day.

Then this morning, the 3 year old version of a hangover. And really, it seems to happen every time we do something fun that’s outside of our normal routine, though to varying degrees. And somewhere in all the yelling and tears, the thought struck me today that we’re in the midst of planning 90 days of fun. Is this going to be too much fun?

We want to be very careful about setting a maintainable pace for our travels and experiences, but exactly what that is we’ll have to figure out by trial and (unfortunately) error. How will we handle discipline when she doesn’t have a room to go to when she needs to settle down? How will she react to an ever changing “normal”? Today, I’m feeling nervous about this trip more than excited.

I’ve started a new category of posts called “Before and After”. It will be a chance to write about how we anticipate certain things will be, both positive and negative, and then follow up on those things at the end of the trip. I hope that in a few months I will be writing about how well all of this worked out and how impressed I am with our kids.

Family photo in front of the maypole 

Tired kiddos in their backyard bath