Travel Changes You, Then What?

When we started on our journey in August of 2012, we had a plan.  That plan was to be away for 18 months or so, and then return to the USA and return to a traditional life.  We moved to Spain, went through a couple of honeymoon months.  Then into a period of trying to figure out our rhythm and routine in our simplified lifestyle.  We cleansed ourselves from all of the material things we collected in our traditional American lifestyle.  We were now in new territory and trying to find the path for our family.

Wagoners Abroad Kilim Geoforest Park Langkawi Malaysia

As time went on we all got into a groove, we figured out a way to pave a new path for our lives.  It wasn’t picking up our American life and moving it to Spain.  It was finding a new way to live in a new place.  It was full of change and those awkward moments of “How are we going to do this?”  At the time, those moments seemed long and uncomfortable, but then it all started to click.

La Herradura Spain - Flamenco performance

The kids were understanding their teachers at school and beginning to speak more confidently in Spanish.  They were taking part in cultural activities.  Alan and I had a routine at home to build the blog, write ebooks, make friends, and explore.  We became familiar with the people at the local market and shops.  We were getting settled and becoming part of the community.  At school pick up or just around town, other parents would wave hello and sometimes stop for a chat.  After just a few months Spain was feeling like home.  We were showing the kids and each other how to adapt to change through experience.

I remember when our company was about to downsize or reorg, there was a big push to teach people how to adapt to change.  We were all provided a book Who Moved My Cheese?, attended big meetings, and were taught how to adapt to change.  Of course this worked for some and not others.  For me, I already understood change and embraced it.  Knowing that change can be difficult at times, but realizing something wonderful can be on the other side of it too.

Travel Changes You

Change to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone:”

We lived in Spain for nearly 2 years and at the time needed to decide what we would be doing next.  Our 18 months had certainly passed and we figured we had about 12 months of funding left to explore.  We made a family decision to enjoy those 12 months in Southeast Asia, rather than Spain.  We loved Spain, but felt it was a once in a lifetime chance to see a bit more of the world.  We traveled around Europe and had a thirst for more change.  We know travel changes you and we wanted that.  We followed other travelers closely and their made us want to experience a little bit more.

Scorpion Tailed River Cruise Mango Sticky Rice

We have been trekking around Southeast Asia for a little more than 10 months now and we are looking forward to returning to Spain in June.  I am sit here and reflect on all we have done in the past 10 months and think about how travel has changed us all.  How little snippets of life in other cultures, just absorb into your life.  How we have had the most amazing conversations with the kids, because we have the gift of time.

Wagoners Abroad Monk Chat Chiang Mai

Time together to do what we want to do.  To function at our own pace.  I am amazed at how curious the kids are about the world as well as how adaptable they have become to change.  We can just walk down the street and have the simple question of “Why are all of our eyes different colors?”, turn into the most amazing educational experience.  Or we can be shopping at the grocery store and see that all of the pork products are located in their own little shop in the corner, separate from everything else.

The kids just naturally notice these things and perhaps question why they are different, but accept the change.  That was really the big life lesson for them here, how to adapt to change.  Change is inevitable and we can’t always control when or how it happens.  What we can do is help to model how to cope and deal with it when it does.

Travel, helps you create change on your terms (Ha! or so we think).  For the most part, when we travel when we move from one destination to the next we are creating that “change” element.  Of course along with that comes, the unexpected changes.  Sometimes we handle those well and other times we don’t.  Either way, we are modeling to the kids and teaching them how to adapt to change.

Getting into our tubes

It isn’t all about adapting to change though.  It is about how it changes you!  Travel really does change you and it is different for every individual.  When you get to know the local people and accept and adapt to a different lifestyle, you can’t help but change.  Here we are in Southeast Asia and the kids just naturally understand how monks take alms, how to meditate, the sounds of the call to prayer in Malaysia, the impacts of the Vietnam War on people today, eating the local way, and the list goes on.  Each one of these experiences has become part of our life, part of who we are.

Wagoners Abroad eating local in Langkawi Restaurant Ikan Bakar Padang Mastsirat

It is all of the little experiences added together that begin to change you.  Not that change is bad, but you are now just a little bit different from what you were before.  It is difficult for others to understand, as they may not have experienced this change.  None the less, it has changed you.   We are excited to return to Spain, but at the same time a little nervous. We know that exploring Southeast Asia for 11 months will have changed us, but will we still fit in when we return to Spain?  We are more excited to return to Spain than we would be if we were moving to the USA.  In fact, we will be visiting the USA for a few weeks on our way to Spain and I am curious how we all do.

The kids haven’t been to the USA in nearly 3 years.  They don’t remember much, but I think it will become very apparent to them how much travel has changed them.  Let’s hope it all goes well and we can embrace our changes.  I hope they don’t feel more privileged or superior because they have a bit more knowledge of the world.  I hope they don’t feel as if they don’t fit in.  Oh my mind is spinning.  I wouldn’t change any of our decisions, but these next few months will be interesting to see how we find our new groove as changed people once again.  We love this life and want to make it last as long as possible.  Change is a good thing and we love how travel has changed us.

A photo of us just prior to leaving the USA in August 2012.

Officially unemployed - expats in Spain

We have something big to announce soon, and it is just one more way to show travel changes you!  Any guesses?

34 thoughts on “Travel Changes You, Then What?”

  1. Moving will definitely change at least one part of your life -it is inevitable! Everything is fine till you feel it that way. Stay open-minded and enjoy new adventures, places and cultures! That’s my piece of advice to all you who wonder to move abroad or not. Greetings

  2. Right on, Heidi, so true! The changes can sometimes be hard, and other times you don’t even notice them happening, but either way they are real and I like to think they are all for the good. My family has been in Spain all year (in fact, we originally found your blog before we left New York – thanks for the advice on applying for our NIE, you helped prepare us well so the process was very quick and easy for us!) and our 3 kids have seen and learned so much in that time. For that matter, so have we. And I don’t think we’ll have trouble fitting in back at home — except in cases of really drastic changes, I feel like we just develop new sides of ourselves and grow into more complex and interesting people. And then our adaptability helps us to fit in with new groups and in new places! These changes are a gift we are giving to our kids and ourselves and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    If you are up Madrid way anytime over the next year, feel free to get in touch – we have guest room in our place here! (Seriously – after following your travels all year, we feel like we already know you.)

    1. Oh Amy, you are too sweet. I agree with you 100%! We have loved every minute of our gifts to our family.

      We may be up the Madrid way in July, so we will let you know.

      A reader contacted us today asking questions about Madrid with 3 little ones 3 and under. She was asking about daycare/preschool, as they will be located there for 7 months for business. Perhaps I can connect the 2 of you?

  3. I’m always amazed by how little sponges children are. They are so adaptable and I think being able to do well in different circumstances boosts their confidence and their sense of resilience. Both qualities which will serve them well in their adult lives. I’m raising little explorers myself. It’s a grand adventure for all of us!

    1. Hi Shobha! Thanks for the comment. I just love that you are commenting often. I bet you are all having a blast traveling around. Let us know if you want to take part in our “Through the eyes of the Traveling Child” interview series.

      I completely agree with you! The confidence in our kids had gone through the roof, since we began to travel more. Love it!

  4. Heidi, I loved reading this as I am often too scared to just go! We have to stay put this year as we build a wheelchair accessible house for the “future” but I am seriously thinking about long term adventuring one day….as for your big announcement umm movie script ? I have to mention how cute little Anya was in 2012!

    1. Aw, thanks Bron! You will get your adventure one day.

      No movie script for us yet. That would be a HUGE annoucement. LOL This is big. Thanks for the Anya comment. I can’t believe how much they have grown.

  5. Really good post Heidi. Thanks so much for sharing with us, it came at a perfect time as we’re having to adjust to some new changes ourselves that came from left field.

    The ability to help our children see that this world is much more than just what you can see in your back yard is huge for us. I think they’ll be better world citizens because of it.

    1. Oh thanks Marcos. It is tough to see the end of the tunnel when you are right in the change, but it is there. You will get through the change and sometimes end up in a better place. 🙂 The painful or odd parts are what help us grow and stretch beyond what we thought our limits were, only to show us we can always go a bit further.

      Best of luck to you with your changes and the kids too.

  6. Heidi – Love reading your posts and following your journey/passion! I noticed on your counting clock 968 days of travel. How will you celebrate your 1,000 day of travel? Seems like quite the milestone! Take good care and keep smiling! Kathi

    1. Hey Kathi! Thanks so much. You are one smart cookie! Well for now our 1000 day will be in Utah, so we will be with family in the USA.

      1. Ha! You could not tell me your big surprise had to do with 1,000 big ones! Guess it would have blown the surprise! So happy and excited for you and your family that you are living your dream!! Keep dreaming BIG!!! Hugs!!

        1. Hopefully you will like the prizes. 🙂 Still working on a few, but I am thrilled with the options.

          Thanks so much for following along Kathi!

  7. Thanks for the insightful post! I have known Jeanne Welter for 29 years, we went to dental hygiene school together. Your post gave me a glimpse into why she and Ed decided to just get rid of the chains of “stuff” and simplify their life…AWESOME gift you are giving your children too!!

    1. Well hello Laurie! Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. We do think this is pretty awesome, hopefully we can keep it going for a while.

  8. Hannah @Getting Stamped

    Can’t wait to hear the announcement, and I am sure we will bounce into each other again! Safe travels

    1. Thanks Hannah! We are excited on the announcement. We need to get a couple more things in place before we let you all in on it.

      A hint, it doesn’t have to do with any of our future plans and it is about the past.

  9. Heidi,
    Great post!
    You know I understand travel and how it changes us. Only wish I could have taken my children on my journey.
    Jared has the travel bug and speaks often of living and working in Paris ( thank goodness he’s fluent in French)
    We miss you…. But also are excited for you and the life you lead!
    Enjoy! Keep these wonderful blogs coming


    1. Oh thanks so much Suzy! We will be in your area later next month, hoping to be able to see you too. I am sure Jared will see the world, he is amazing.

  10. One Modern Couple

    Amazing post!!
    We think change and adapting to change is so important. We try to bring in change to our lives all the time.
    Ever since we left Canada and made all those big changes by selling all of our stuff and trying to create a business manly focused on travel, we’ve been through so many changes and it’s brought so much good things in our life. One example is you guys! 😉
    We think the kids will be just fine when they head home to the U.S! They are too smart for their age and we think they adapt better than most adults back home.

    Can’t wait for the big announcement! We don’t even know what it could be… any hints?

    1. Thanks we feel the same about you. Hey you even got your photo in this post! 🙂 hugs to you guys.

      Ha! hints? heee heee how about this… milestones.

      Oh and by the way, this comment showed up in our spam folder, which I usually just delete without looking. For some reason I looked, so hopefully you haven’t commented before and never noticed it published. YIKES.

  11. Heidi…that was an excellent post! I think you are spot on with your observations on the benefits of travel and the impact of change. I’ve been blogging for 9 years now but haven’t done anything related to our move and experiences in Spain (other than our Facebook page) because you’ve done such a good job at capturing that already. While we come at it from a permanent move aspect and don’t have kids involved, I still know what you are talking about because I did drag my kids all over the world and they will be here in Europe this summer for yet more global experiences. They only got snippets growing up and not the full all-year-long immersion that your kids have so I don’t know that the change has had nearly the same impact. The time will tell now that they are just starting adulthood whether they embrace travel experiences on their own or not. I wonder if your kids will ever have a desire to settle down or if they are just so used to travel they will see that as the norm. Time will tell for you guys too. We are looking forward to catching up and swapping stories when you get back!

    1. Hey Ed! Thanks so much. Yes, time will tell. As of this moment, Lars has absolutely no intention of living in one place. He of course wants a home in 4 different countries for each season. That sounds good to me. Then I have loads of places to go visit him. Since he is almost 13 and a long way off from living on his own, we will see what becomes of him and his current dreams. Either we have damaged them for life and they will want deep roots in one place or they will have a hunger for travel. 🙂

      When we had kids there were 2 things we wanted to be sure they experienced deeply swimming and travel.

      Swimming, just because we think everyone needs to know how to swim a life saving skill. They were both in the pool at 10 weeks old, so they never had a chance to be afraid of the water or deep end.

      Travel – well that was for selfish reasons. We knew we wanted to travel and just weren’t going to have a kid that didn’t love it too. I know it could have backfired on us, so we did get lucky.

      Thanks for the comment and see you in a couple of months.

  12. Brenda Tolentino

    Great post Heidi! Andrew, Bailey and I really enjoy seeing your adventures in SouthEast Asia and are all taking notes for our own journeys there soon. We’re also excited to follow your next phase in Spain, which is a country we love. As we prepare to travel full time and also live with less stuff, seeing your family’s “changes” helps us feel more confident about the changes to come for us as well. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Brenda, I can’t wait for you to start moving around more. It is the best thing ever! Well, most of the time. We are a little afraid of being in just one spot again too. Hopefully we settle back in Spain well and still continue our travels around Eruope. We have out sights set on Northern Spain and Eastern Europe too. Thanks for the comment.

  13. Thanks for this post, Heidi. I’m going to send it to my husband. We go to Barcelona for 5 weeks this summer to close on the apartment we bought and to enjoy the summer. Then in the fall of 2016, after we both retire and take a couple of camping trips in the US, we move to Spain. Getting rid of all our ‘stuff’ is easier for me than for him. Our small 700 square foot apartment in Barcelona will help. And we can’t wait. I backpacked around Asia and the Middle East in 1990 and realized how little I need and how stuff creates burdens. To have a home base in Spain is perfect for us. As my husband says, ‘We’ll be within walking distance (via train) to anywhere in Europe.’ I was a foreign exchange student in South Africa for a year when I was in High School. I believe travel expands our horizons and our humanity. What a great gift you’re giving yourselves and your kids. Kudos.

    1. Oh Robin, how exciting for you. Thanks for taking the time to comment. That is exactly why we want Spain as our home base again. We just love the people and the country, but also the proximity to so many different cultures. We are loving this gift, we keep on giving ourselves. 🙂 Thanks!

  14. great post! And a question we all think about… what happens when we get home?

    But I think Europe is a great place for travellers to stay. People there are used to change. And everyone is a traveller because everything is so close.

    Love that last picture!

    1. Exactly Sarah, I think that is why it was more appealing to us to return to Spain. We can still have the travel, culture and diversity which we crave and still have a home base too. Thanks for the comment.

  15. Gina - Our Global Adventure

    Great post Heidi. You have really summed up a lot of the thoughts and feelings that we are already experiencing just 8 months after leaving behind our home in Australia. We also wonder what the future will hold for our children and how this experience will impact on them, because the changes that we have seen in them (and us) have already been so profound. Like your family we are slow traveling, living and exploring in a different country. It’s strange even typing that now though, because this way of ‘living’ here in Ireland resembles nothing of the life that we left behind. We no longer strive for more ‘stuff’ to fill our home, we strive for new experiences for our family. I’m sure you will agree, that change alone, whilst our children are young, will change our kids outlook on life irreversibly.

    1. So very true Gina. That is a huge change and the kids already wonder why everyone needs so much stuff. They remember what we had and know what “stuff” we currently have and choose the life of travel and experience over things. We have been at a housesit in Kuala Lumpur the past few weeks and it has been a bit odd for us all. We absolutely love spending time with the dog, cat and even the koi fish. It has been fun living in a big home again with all of the cool gadgets in the kitchen and the like. But for us all it is a reminder of the old life with the stuff. Lars and I are both having the roughest time with it and find it a bit overwhelming. Alan and Anya have adapted just fine, but can live without it too. For me it is a reminder of more space = more places to keep stuff. Even our stuff (clothing, camera etc) have found their way out of our bags and were quickly dispersed around the big house. We leave on Tuesday and I am trying to comb the home finding where all of our things have ended up.

      We travel with 1 plastic cup and plate each and to be here with what seems to be an endless amount of dishes and a dishwasher is overwhelming. When we have just our simple 4 cups and 4 plates, we all do our part to use them and quickly clean our own. That is because it needs to be ready for the next use. Here we are going through cups, plates and cutlery so rapidly. There may be one use of a cup and in the dishwasher it goes, rather than a quick was and use it again next time. I really think the more stuff leads into a bit of laziness and then in turn more work to clean (for me!). Ug, I guess I am just in a weird mental place today. Thanks so much for you comment Gina. I have visited Ireland and can’t wait for Alan and the kids to go sometime. Let us know if you are going to make it to Spain anytime this summer or beyond. We’d love to meet up. Hey if your kids are interested in participating in our traveling child series, just let us know.

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