The other day Lena and I were sitting on the couch together, as we often do during Gil’s morning nap. We finished reading picture books together, and she started coloring. I turned back to Bread and Wine, a book I find myself reading slowly, savoring, and then caught up in irresistibly, reading faster than I intend, but unable to put down for the sheer joy and beauty of each honest story, each delicious food, each life lesson, that the author shares.
I had come to the chapter innocuously titled “Delicious Everywhere,” and I was totally roped in because she was writing about traveling and eating around the world, two things near and dear to my heart.
And then boom. I hit these last two paragraphs of the chapter, and my heart started to sing in my chest. Every line felt like it was written just for me, a perfect description of everything I feel and act upon in my life, said in a way I’ve always been struggling to find.
And right there, on the couch, in the middle of the morning, I began to cry.
“Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, and specifically why we travel with [our little kids] so often. I think they think it’s easier to keep the kids at home, in their routines, surrounded by their stuff. It is. But we travel because it’s there. Because Capri exists and Kenya exists and Tel Aviv exists, and I want to taste every bite of it. We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood — they love to play, to discover, to learn.
“I want my kids to learn firsthand and up close that different isn’t bad, but instead that different is exciting and wonderful and worth taking the time to understand. I want them to see themselves as bit players in a huge, sweeping, beautiful play, not as the main characters in the drama of our living room. I want my kids to taste and smell and experience the biggest possible world, because every bite of it, every taste and texture and flavor, is delicious.” (emphasis mine)
I don’t yet understand why I love living and traveling overseas so much. Yes, I did grow up mostly overseas, but I didn’t always love it, and when we moved back to the States and I went to college, I was so ready. I was so done with living overseas. I loved living in Virginia and Boston and D.C. for a few years.
But then — as soon as the opportunity presented itself — I couldn’t wait to live overseas again. As Elliott will tell you, we’re living in Italy now because he let me choose where we could live next, and I chose Italy.
And, to be honest, I have really mixed emotions about moving back to the States for our new life in CA. Earlier this spring, Elliott interviewed for a job that would have sent us to Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, and a big part of me longed for him to get that job, for us to plunge headfirst into yet another culture, another language, another city map, another international church, another home away from home.
I am sure there are many sinful emotions tied up in my love of living and traveling and being overseas. There’s pride and a desire for adventure and a longing to be different.
But there’s also a love for it. Learning the road rules, the food cultures, the hand gestures, the clothing staples, the housing quirks, and the right way to check out in a grocery store… I love all that. No matter where I am in the world, I get a thrill from learning these everyday communication techniques, learning how to fit in like a local, learning how to blend my family’s culture and the country’s culture.
And so, because of all these tied-to-my-heartstrings reasons, I’ve loved this chance to birth one of my children and raise two of them — at least for a little while — in another country. Together, Elliott and I encouraged and taught and watched them experience and savor this overseas life too. We watched them play with children for hours who didn’t speak their language, watched their eyes light up with delight over foods we can’t find in the States, watched them hike mountains and swim in oceans and walk on streets where no one else shares their nationality.
Our children’s acceptance and fascination with all we teach them — “this is good” or “this is different” or “this is home” — is a privilege given to parents. For this season of life, I’m so glad that we could teach them that home includes buying olives and eggplants at the market each week, and a handyman who speaks only Italian, and the unbending rule that you must say “grazie” after someone does something kind.
I hope we can continue to welcome the world into our home, in California and beyond, through food, visitors, books, and discussions around the dinner table. I worry that I will become complacent, or that I’ll forget. I fear — because I know my weaknesses — that I’ll become comfortable with familiar and forget the beauty and challenge of living so close to the ground in another culture. I hope I won’t forget.
And I hope it won’t be too long before we pack our bags and move overseas again for awhile. Oh please, God, don’t let it be too long.
Have you ever left a life overseas, and do you long to go back? Any encouragement for someone about to make the transition to the States?
Ahhh…your perspective is so…well…just so different from what I know. It’s not a bad different…at all…just different from anything I’ve experienced! How fortunate for you, and for your kids to get to experience life in such a different way from most of us! I’m sure they will look at the world in a whole different light than a lot of people. Growing up “color blind”…and embracing cultures and others different from them will likely be so easy, and that’s wonderful!!
Sometimes I feel like I’ve missed out, because I’ve lived all my life (so far!!) within a 15 mile radius, with the exception of a few months here and there. I have to remember that this is where I (we) have been called, for now…and I will enjoy it here too! :)
Alica, Elliott and I have said that if we ever pass through your corner of PA, we want to visit you! We have a deep respect for those who live deeply and put roots down in a community, loving it through thick and thin. (See Wendell Berry!) One day we hope to do more of what you have done.
So here we both are, loving these opposite perspectives, which in the end value a lot of the same things. :)
Oh, that would be fun, if you would stop in sometime! Please do! (and Jim enjoys Wendell Berry! :) )
I struggle with this quite often, as we are pretty insulated in this season of life. We have five kids, so travel really isn’t in our budget too often, much less to far-flung areas of the world. We live near both sets of grandparents and countless aunties and uncles, which is priceless to us after having been far away for most of our marriage and 3/5 children. On the flippety flip, though, our kids don’t know much about the world first-hand, and they crave home and simplicity (good things, certainly, but with everything, there’s a negative side too). I’d love to expose them to more, to challenge them more, to put us ALL out of our comfort zone more, but we’re trying to rest easy and confidently in the phase of life God’s put us in right now. LOVE your thoughts from the other side of things, thanks for articulating.
Amanda, this is very wise and thoughtful, and I think when we have five kids (if we have five kids…), we’ll feel much the same. Life is made up of seasons, and sometimes kids are little and easy to uproot and move around with you, and sometimes they need their roots and their routines and their friends. We’ve witnessed that here with older kids of our friends. I felt it myself when I was a teenager and my family moved every two years.
Also, it’s so individual to families, I think, to decide what is right for them and to discern God’s calling. Who knows where both our families will be in 5 years??
I loved reading those paragraphs – reminded me of Peter Spear’s book “People,” which I just gave at a baby shower. I loved looking at its pictures as a kid.
Wow, me too. And that is a *brilliant* baby shower gift idea.
This post reminded me of the same book! Except I grew up with the French version, Six milliards de visages, not even realizing it was translated from English (it’s now called Sept milliards de visages…the earth’s population has grown quite a bit since it was first translated! :)). Loved your thoughts Becca; I’ll need to track down a copy of Bread&Wine soon.
You’d love it, Kelly! It would resonate with so many things you value and love in life and for your family.
Dear, sweet, Becca:
How I can relate! But I can also assure you that wherever God plants you next, He will give you a love for it, too. I am planted for a long time now (5.5 years so far) back at my original Home – Nova Scotia – and He has shown me His love for those in my life here. And the cool thing is that even Rachel, who was 2-5 in India, remembers and is forever changed. I dream and long to go away again, but I am trusting Him that He knows when.
“I dream and long to go away again, but I am trusting Him that He knows when.” That is so beautiful, and I pray it will be true of me, no matter what stage of life or where I am!
Sitting down with this book is (almost) like sitting down with a good friend…so many good things I need to hear and be reminded of. I’ve told myself “present over perfect” a few times this week already! …and yes, as you know, I fully understand both your anxious and hopeful thoughts for your upcoming transition to the States. We are a work in progress…one day at a time!
I wish we could have been reading it when we were living in the same place! So much wisdom that we both love and long to apply more fully to our lives.
I wish that I had words of wisdom; however, so far great adventurous travel is not what God has planned for our life. I do love that book though. I live in the Grand Rapids of which she speaks and love the amazing culinary opportunities that we have here.
Her book has had such an impact on so many! I love how she puts down roots and cares for people no matter where she is… and keeps her friends close from previous homes.
I just finished reading Bread and Wine myself and loved it, too! I have always lived in one state and most of that in houses within an hour ‘s distance of each other and never in another country other than just over the border into Canada. I relish the deep roots and relationships I have because of this, but there is always that part of me that longs for international and cross-cultural experiences and adventures. Someday my husband and I hope to give the gift of international travel to our children, but for now experiencing far-away places through blogs like yours gives me a little taste of what I long for and that is a beautiful gift. Thank you for sharing!
This makes me wish I had written more about living overseas specifically! Maybe I will. I am sure I’ll have a lot of thoughts about it as we transition!
I grew up overseas, too (age 1-17) and I definitely have wanderlust. We’ve stayed stateside for work and family reasons since we’ve been married, but we’ve done a fair amount of traveling and I hope my children continue to have a healthy curiosity and love for exploring the world. We’ve also moved within the United States every year since we got married! I haven’t ruled out “opting out” career-wise for a year or two and living overseas with them before they get too much older–dare to dream!
Wow, you know all about transition! America is so vast and wide and different that many places will feel like a foreign country compared to home. I hope you do get to live your dream overseas one day!
Becca, I discovered your blog together through Design Mom — I am so happy you did a Living with Kids post with her. I’m delighted to know your blog now and can’t wait to scour through your posts like I typically do when I discover a fantastic new blog.
That being said, this post tugs on my heartstrings and is exactly what I needed to read today. I am from a small town in Georgia where families don’t leave and people live forever and ever. Somehow, that’s never been me. I moved to Boston after college, and now I’m in San Francisco. I can see an international location on the horizon, and it is a breath of fresh air to read your perspective and realize that it’s okay to be different than the folks I’ve left behind.
I’m so glad to hear this, Taylor! Spread your wings and fly. I know from personal experience that love always brings me home, but I love to feel that dip and lift as the plane takes off again, too!