We’re in Africa! Just outside beautiful Cape Town, South Africa to be exact. Cate is working on a post about our time here to date, so watch for that soon. In the meantime, some observations about being a nomadic family…
In another 24 hours, we’ll start our sixth month on the road. Closing in on half a year. That’s a lot of time and distance from our regular lives. Enough time in this suspended reality to be lulled into feeling this is our regular life. We’ve grown accustomed to being together 24-7 in close quarters. Accustomed to constant change. To lots of time spent in transit from one place to another. Our own version of trains, planes and automobiles.
And yet, though our location keeps changing, we’ve settled into our own routines and patterns. Our own ways, individually and collectively, to find our equilibrium. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, the equilibrium is decidedly off. Some of the patterns are less-than-charming (Sibling bickering, anyone?) But all-in-all I’ve been surprised by how smoothly we have settled into a nomadic existence.
One of the most liberating things has been travelling light (as light as you can as a family of five). We have a backpack each, plus a bag with our floor mats and sleeping bags (for the nights when there are fewer beds than Fab 5’ers). We have our clothes, our technology (one laptop, two iPads and one iPod), our honorary family members (otherwise known as Cow and Wrinkles) and not much else. And we have bought next-to-nothing on the road, ‘cause a) who wants to carry more stuff around and b) there’s next-to-no room anyways.
I’ve noticed a few things with this “lightness of being” existence:
You value the things you have. When Cen and Meskie recently got a small rubber ball each, you would have thought they won the lottery. Huge excitement. Many invented games. Hours of entertainment. Ditto for a single marble and a tiny toy truck Cen found somewhere a few countries back. As for me, I picked up a pair of slippers at the Holiday Inn back in Singapore. You know those “disposable” ones they give you to use during your stay? (Or at least they do in Southeast Asia.) They’re intended to be a stop-gap until you return home to your comfy slippers. Well, I have extended the life of those flimsy suckers from a couple days to months. Having probably cost about $.02 to produce, they’re so stretched out that I have to walk somewhat like a clown to keep them on my feet, but I lovingly pack them up each time we change locations, ‘cause bare feet and cold floors are no fun.
You get creative. The kids are forever inventing new games to keep themselves occupied, and using whatever materials they have at their disposal. I am always on the lookout for free reading material. Book swaps at guesthouses? Free pencil crayons with the colouring book on the flight? Score.
Shopping (other than for food) feels a little foreign. Today in Cape Town we bought a small gift and a bathbomb for the kids to use during our guesthouse stay here. I also had to pick up some new contact lens solution for myself and some hair gel for Cen (have you seen the length of his hair!?) It felt like so much stuff. Almost excessive.
I’d like to think we’ll carry these new ways of being over into our regular life back home. The reality is the pendulum will inevitably swing back somewhat. Hopefully not too far.