A Travellerspoint blog

August 2011

And 4 becomes 5...

Talk about changes to your comfort zone - in a couple of hours, our 4-person (and 1 dog) family dynamic will be altered to include a teenager from Chile (Anne gave the story here). Given that our kids at still pre-teen (tween?), this will be a bit of a change. Oh yeah, and there's the Spanish/English language aspect as well...

That said, I'm looking forward to this adventure. Anne and I went to our AFS orientation, and, while listening to the other folks there that have been host families before, I think this will be a really cool opportunity. It will be different, and there will be challenges, but I believe this will be an overall positive experience (you get what you put into it, right?).

Juanchi's Room

Here's my quick list of the upcoming change areas:

  1. How we do what we do - not only does Juanchi not know anything about our household and how we operate, he's from another country and probably isn't familiar with a lot of what we all take for granted. There's going to be a lot of explaining about "what time do we sit down for dinner?", "how does the washing machine work?", and "do we leave the toilet seat up or down?"
  2. Another seat at the table - part of the responsibilities of the host family is to cover room and board for the student. So, in addition to a full makeover of Leah's room into Juanchi's room (see pictures), we'll also be including a new person (and tastes) into the mix for meals. Cons - he could be as picky of an eater as Alex is. Pros - we could expand our taste boundaries based on his food experiences.
  3. Mom's Taxi - the kids are not yet at the point where we have to drive them all over the place (Anne might disagree, since she runs the taxi service in our house), but since one of the guiding rules of AFS is "No Driving", having J as part of the family means more places to go. Good thing that Ballard High is within walking distance...
  4. Communications - with a non-native English speaker in the mix, we're not going to be able to yell from room to room give directions remotely. We talked last night about the need to be clear in what we say (and how we say it), as well as to try to repeat the request back (e.g. "Leah - please feed the dogs. Sure mom - I'll feed the dogs"). Not only will this be a nice change from our current mode of conversation with the kids (which include some level of grunted replies and exaggerated sighs), it will help ensure that Juanchi has correctly processed the request (rather than just smiling and nodding, without actually comprehending what we're saying). If we all do it this way, it can only help.
  5. Stuff - Juanchi is going to come with a bag (or two) of clothes, but will need to buy more essentials here. Since America is the land of happy capitalism, I'm sure he's looking forward his first trip to Target. In fact, he emailed Anne the other day asking whether he could purchase "large underwear" in the US. Once we figured that this meant boxer shorts (we think), we assured him that he can get that here. But of course, there's going to be a range of purchases that he wants to make - a bike, a cell phone, a laptop, etc etc. Helping him with these purchasing choices (and assisting him in the actual purchases - whether by driving to the store or getting him set up for Internet purchases) is going to take time and effort.
  6. He's a teenager - I was thinking that we were at least another couple of years away from meeting with high-school counselors and picking out courses, dealing with teenager social angst (on top of new-country-far-from-home angst), and overall teenager attitude, but here it is already. Since we've already been talking with Juanchi on Skype quite a bit, we're reasonably confident that he's a solid kid, but there's going to be a whole new world of teenager-related experiences that we'll have. At least it will get us prepped for Alex and Leah...

I'm sure there will be more challenges - things that I'm assuming will be "no big deal" probably will be a big deal, and the big items may not be issues - but overall, it's going to be an adventure. I just hope that he likes dogs...


Posted by noahv 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged juanchi Comments (0)

Travel Lessons

What I learned from 2 weeks traveling


We (the four of us) just got back from 11 days back East for family reunion/vacation time, followed by 3 days camping near Mt. Rainier. I learned a couple of things along the way:

It's fun

  • Traveling is fun. Going new places and having adventures is fun. Being with my family is fun. Living life and laughing is fun. Even dealing with the stress of traveling is (kinda) fun.

It's tiring

  • Being away from home, and outside of your comfort zone is tiring. Being on airplanes and in cars for hours at a time is tiring. If we're going to be tired after 12 days away from home, what's it going to feel like after 12 months?

It takes energy

  • It takes energy to remain calm, to not stress over the inevitable bumps in the road, to remain in the moment and just...enjoy it. But it's a good sort of energy to expend.

It's easy to pack too little / too much

  • I ended up with more socks than I needed, but no deodorant. I think the kids mentioned at least 5 times that they wish they had brought something (usually something that we had reminded them to bring as we were packing, but either didn't make it into the bag, or they decided they didn't really need it). Anne is further ahead than the rest of us with "test-driving" travel clothes that she wants to bring on the trip (Ex Officio and Patagonia seem to be leading the pack), but I'm still throwing jeans and cotton socks into my bag...

It costs money

  • Traveling (especially traveling on vacation) puts us into the "sure why not - we're on vacation" spending mode. If we're going to survive a year on the road, we're going to have to be as cost-conscious (if not more so) than we are in our "normal" lives now.

Less is more

  • Making a conscious effort to focus ourselves on the moment, to limit what we think we need to do / where we think we need to go, will help us really enjoy where we are. Anne and I are lucky that we both share this sentiment - we are very aware of the lesson that spending more time in fewer locations will be more fulfilling than screeching through in full-on "European Vacation" mode.

Comfort (and Reliability) is King

  • It's easy to think of this in terms of your gear, but I'm extending this thought to the family as well. The more comfortable we are with each other, and the more that we feel that we can rely on each other (especially in times of stress), the higher probability that we're going to survive the trip without killing each other...

Framework and Flexibility

  • Knowing where / what we want to go / do is important, and having a framework itinerary is key to making this happen. The flipside is that we want to retain some flexibility to embrace the unknown, and go along on the adventures / opportunities that will present themselves during the trip. This is the piece that is both the scariest, and the most appealing to me.

It's fun

  • Because really, that's what it's all about. We're doing this now because we want to do it, not because we have to. As long as we keep reminding ourselves that "this is fun", it will be.

Now you tell me - what are some of the lessons that you've learned from traveling? How do you deal with being outside your comfort zone (or how do you create a comfort zone on the road)?

Posted by noahv 22:29 Archived in USA Tagged thoughts Comments (2)

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