Our family enjoyed a bit of whirlwind trip through Europe this summer. It all started when someone on our documentary team found us an incredible deal on flights. $639 for one-way flights to Edinburgh, Scotland for all FIVE of us! Our original intention was only to spend a few days in Scotland, meet with the team for a week in Southern England, and then head back to San Miguel until the Family Adventure Summit.
But it turns out Marie’s friend Ayisha was visiting Denmark, and they missed each other so much. So we decided it would be worth our while to stay in this part of the world and visit some friends. After our meetings in the UK (which were so productive and resulted in an awesome teaser-trailer!), we visited old friends near Brighton, new friends in Belgium, spent a couple weeks in Denmark, and then did a road trip through Sweden before flying to the summit.
We’re so glad we had this time to spend with friends. I’m continually reminded that the most amazing part of travel for our family is the friendships we form along the way.
The following excerpts are all taken from my past Weekly NOW email series and chronicle the fun we had in Europe this summer. If you would like to sign up to receive the weekly email to hear about more our projects, travels, and learnings, you can do so here.
From Mexico to Edinburgh!
This week, we flew from Mexico to Edinburgh, Scotland! We had an almost day-long layover in Hartford, Connecticut, where we met with a sweet couple who interviewed us about our traveling lifestyle and did a photo shoot of our family for a project they’re working on. Layovers are so much more enjoyable when you have great people to hang out with.
So far, we’re loving Edinburgh! Even though the buildings are all basically shades of the same color of medieval brown or gray (the opposite of colorful San Miguel de Allende), the shapes, layers, and feeling of the town come across as very charming. It seems around almost every corner there is another large ancient church, picturesque pub, or winding path.
The town is quite walkable, and we’ve enjoyed the picturesque bridges along the river path where we’re staying near Dean Path, just minutes from the center.
We’ve also met up with another traveling family, the McCabes who have been here the past two months. We became quick friends as they graciously invited us into their home, shared meals with us, and showed us around the city, including the fantastic Natural History Museum, which has free entrance year round.
Lesson: I love how travel gets us out of our ruts and into new places. And the highlight, as usual, for us, is in the people we meet. The kids have had lots of fun play time, and we’ve enjoyed hours of great conversation around dozens of interesting topics. When was the last time you had a social interaction that inspired you with new ideas and helped you feel connected, and how can you create more of those for yourself?
A Meeting of Minds
It’s been an amazing week here in southern England. We’re working on a large and exciting project with some other great families. I still can’t reveal many details until we’re further along in the process, but it’s very fulfilling work.
[Update: This is the film, Into the Wind, and the teaser trailer has now been released! It’s a film about seven families intent on living their truth with purpose and adventure. It highlights the unprecedented opportunities that now exist in our world for families to choose the kind of life they want to lead, and gives the viewer the chance to consider how they want to move forward.]
We’re loving the connections we’re making with these families, and the fun we’re having exploring the beautiful forests and towns nearby.
I was also surprised to learn how affordable food can be in the UK when shopping at budget supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi –it’s Trader Joe’s quality food for 1/3 of the price. It’s quite a relief after our previous experience in London.
Lesson: I’m reminded again about how fulfilling it is to move in the direction of your dreams, even when there are obstacles. Whether it’s a career change, a big project you want to take on, or a new place you want to live or travel to, don’t let fear or finances or the status quo hold you back. What dream can you step toward today?
Visiting Long Time Friends in England
What a fun week it’s been visiting with the Clark family again here in Southern England. It’s been three years since our last visit and it’s fun to see how much the children have changed, and how quickly they picked up their friendships right where they left off.
Emily and her friend Ben spent most of their time singing together, and even went to a recording studio to record two duets. We also drove to various places and shot some video footage that they later put together into a music video!
Our daughter Marie was inspired by Laura’s gymnastic skills and spent hours practicing flips and other tricks on the trampoline, along with Aysia. And all of us went to a rock climbing gym as well. I found it quite difficult, and my hands hurt a lot on the rocks. But I did walk across the entire slack line (tight rope)! (As did Marie, Ben, and Zoe.)
During our stay, there was cookie baking and dessert making, cardboard candy dispenser making, video watching, indoor Segway riding, and many fun games the kids came up with. We also all enjoyed several fantastic meals together prepared mostly by Martin, coupled with wonderful conversation and laughter.
Lesson: I was reminded again this week of how rewarding travel is when the focus is spending time with people, rather than just seeing places. Martin also owns the highest rated event production company in the UK and he gave me a lot of great ideas for improving the Family Adventure Summit. Who do you have yet to meet on your travels?
New Friends in Belgium
For most of this week, we were in Belgium, visiting some new friends we’d met on a Worldschooling Couchsurfing Facebook group. Like couchsurfing.com, this group helps you find people to stay with around the world, or to open your home to hosting other travelers, but it’s specifically focused on families. There are currently over 2100 members, and I was so glad that this opportunity popped up for us to stay with Nina and D and their two young kids.
We’d been wanting to visit Belgium for quite some time, and Nina was so generous with her time in showing us around Bruges, Ghent, Blankenburge, and Oostende. (My favorite was Bruges – very charming). I definitely got my fill of delicious waffles and chocolate. The waffles were incredible, especially the sweet ones. And while the chocolate was wonderful, it was similar to chocolate I’d had elsewhere – I guess Belgian chocolate has made it around the world enough that you no longer have to go to Belgium to try it.
We had many great discussions with our friends, who are wanting to leave Belgium for other parts of the world they feel more called to. As unschoolers, they don’t feel supported in their community, and are in restaurant jobs they are not passionate about and that leave them feeling drained. A talented writer and voice actor in his spare time, D began applying for online voice acting gigs while we were there, and is feeling more motivated to finish and publish his book. I’m excited to see how their journey unfolds.
Lesson: So many people remain stuck in lives they don’t enjoy because they don’t see other options. But there are always other options and most of us limit ourselves more than necessary out of fear of change, of the unknown, of failure, or even of success! Where are you holding yourself back, and what small action can you take toward your dreams today?
Home Exchange in Denmark
This week, we’ve been in a lovely home exchange in the quaint coastal town of Gilleleje on the northern tip of Denmark. We came to Denmark mostly to visit Marie’s friend who is staying not far from us. And they’ve had a great time connecting.
For the rest of us, it’s been a time to recuperate from all the socializing and travel we’ve done for the past few weeks and to work hard on the finishing touches for the Family Adventure Summit. I can hardly believe it’s less than 2 weeks away!! I’m so excited for all it’s turning out to be!
Our house here is right next to some beautiful woods, and just a few steps from the beach. A large grocery store is just a 5-minute walk away. And there is a trampoline in the backyard. It’s really everything we could have asked for. And we’ve taken advantage of these lovely surroundings on good weather days, in between working.
Lesson: I’ve been so focused on my work this week, that I haven’t spent as much time in nature or with my wife and kids as I’d like. I know this is important for all of us, and I’m making a change today. But after the summit, we’re also hoping to find another home exchange for a couple weeks somewhere in the woods of Washington or British Colombia to be away from people and just connect together. Know anyone who has a place like this they want to exchange for a couple weeks in Bali or Mexico?
Road Trip Through Sweden
This week we’ve been on a road trip through Sweden! Our daughter Marie (age 12) has been studying Swedish on her own for the past year or so, and we wanted to give her the chance to visit while we were in the area.
This country has some beautiful countryside! Colorful farmlands with wildflowers dotting the roadside. Walkable forests for miles. And serene beaches surrounded by the cutest little coastal towns.
We visited a megalithic circular stone monument reminiscent of Stonehenge near Ystad, stayed with a friend we’d met online who’s a devout member of the Baha’i faith near Norköping, explored a free science museum in Stockholm, and many other things (all while wrapping up last minute preparations for the Family Adventure Summit)!
Oh! One big annoyance about Sweden (and Denmark): beds tend to have individual duvets for each person. So when couples share a bed, they don’t share the covers. The advantage supposedly being protection from an overheating bed companion or cover stealer. But if you actually want to cuddle with your beloved (which is the point of sharing a bed, right?), this makes it very inconvenient!
Lesson: Our Baha’i friend shared many interesting perspectives with us about her faith and beliefs. She also lives in a rural area almost off the grid and has a lovely garden, which is where most of the food she eats comes from. The compost toilet was quite advanced (and not smelly!). Staying there reminded me again of how nice it feels to live closer to nature, and how little is needed for sustainability.