In this, the first blog entry of 2017, I want to take a few moments to reflect back on what to me was a monumental year. When I think back on 2016 I am nearly overwhelmed with all the changes, the adventures, the emotions, and the memories that our family experienced. It feels almost as if we packed several lifetimes into one year. We started the year in our hometown of Arvada, Colorado with two kids in grade school and one finishing High School. Our life was settled, secure, comfortable and fairly predictable. Our families were just down the road. Our circle of friends was tight and we had settled into a nice routine with regular get-togethers—but all of that would soon change.
At the start of the year, we knew that Ireland was in our future. We had talked about it and the initial approvals were in place. We had the green light, but the first couple months of the year were a limbo phase, a sort of purgatory waiting room before we knew for certain which direction we would head. As we waited for final approvals and clearances we had to go about our daily business and try not to think too much about what was ahead of us. It was a mental challenge to approach each day as per usual and try not to get to mentally wrapped up in what was heading our way. It was something like knowing that a freight train was heading our way and when it reached us, we were going to have to jump on and hold on for dear life. When you know the train is coming, it sits in the back of your mind. You can’t see it and can only maybe hear a faint whistle blow in the far off distance; a soft reminder of the impending chaos rolling down the very tracks you are standing on.
And then the train came steaming into view. Approvals started coming in along with immigration clearances. Paperwork started to roll in. Meetings were scheduled to start talking about movers and budgets and housing and schools and look-see trips. The train was pulling into the station but not to stop, just to slow down enough for us to jump on. And we jumped. And we landed. And the next thing we knew, we were hurtling down the tracks at full speed. I had to drop mid-project the work I had been doing for my friend Joey so I could focus all my time on coordinating the biggest move of our lives.
I traded my tool belt for my Project Manager’s hat and got to work planning the logistics of uprooting our family’s life, packing up our home, finding us a new house to live in in a country I had never even been to or considered and making sure everyone had a soft place to land when we hit the ground in Ireland, and all the while trying to keep our everyday lives running smoothly. The kids still had school. Lisa still had to work full time. I may not have had a quote-unquote job, but I was working full time every day.
Weeks turned into months and our persistence and hard work paid off. We managed to find a wonderful place to live, found an amazing school for the little girls, bought two cars, coordinated a huge graduation party for Mekenzey, packed up the house, shipped a few crates of stuff, said our goodbyes, got on a plane and moved to Malahide, Dublin 13, Ireland.
It took six months of planning and preparation to get to Ireland and another month to detox from the effort. It was like planning a wedding times 10. Going into the whole experience you have no idea what it takes to literally change every aspect of your life. But once you start, there is nothing to do but to do it. The move itself was a very cathartic experience. When you are forced to go through all of your stuff, all your belongings, all your earthly possessions and sort them into three piles—store, move, ditch—you put a lot of things into perspective.
Starting life over in a new country with only four boxes of “things” forces you to re-evaluate what you “need” to get by in life and what are the “nice-to-haves”. I would say we did a good job of picking out the necessities and shipping them over. Minus some new bedding and few odds and ends, we pretty much had everything we needed in the four crates we shipped. Granted, we rented a furnished house, so furniture was not something we really had to consider, but everything we really needed fit into a relatively small space.
Our first month in Ireland was spent in a temporary accommodation and we knew we had one more move ahead of us. Knowing that gave us motivation to keep our lives simple. The more “stuff” we acquired the more we would have to move, so we lived as minimalisticly (is that a word??) as we could. We bought food, wine and a few books. We didn’t even have proper internet for that first month, only what we could tap from our phones (and that data was eaten up rather quickly). It was like a crash diet from our opulent overindulgent American lifestyle and it felt amazing. We discovered a calming joy in living simply.
Living on the beach certainly helped the transition, I won’t lie. There is something wonderfully refreshing about waking up, grabbing a book and cup of coffee and walking out to a gentle breeze blowing across the sea and through the dunes, carrying with it that inimitable smell of salty sea air that hits your nose and immediately makes you close your eyes and breathe in until your lungs are completely filled, followed by the natural “ahhhhhhh” of your exhale. Do that every day for a month and you can’t help but relax.
Learning to live in Ireland has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life, and I think each member of our family would say the same. The people we have met, the friends we have made, the places we have visited, the memories we have made have all raised our appreciation of life to the highest levels we could imagine. Yes, we all miss our family and friends, but to have this experience where each day brings a new experience or a new challenge or a new memory is one that continues to fill us with gratitude and joy. Knowing that this is not a permanent move is part of what makes it so special. We tend to take for granted the things that we think will always be there. When you know that something is temporary you tend to savor it a little more. You want to take full advantage of the situation while you have it because before you know it, it’s gone. It’s why we love vacation so much. It’s why we love having visitors. It’s why we love wine.
At this point, Ireland is a two-year gig and it is our intention to take full advantage of our time here. Instead of putting more money into a savings account we buy plane tickets to Spain, France, Holland, England, Germany and the list continues to grow. Creating memories from experiences such as the ones we have has infinitely more value than that money could ever have sitting in a bank. Showing my kids famous artwork in the Prado museum in Madrid, or learning to navigate the Underground in London, or using rudimentary French to order food in France are memories they will carry with them the rest of their lives. When we were in France two weeks ago, after her ski lesson, Adison said to us, “Today, when I was taking a run down the hill, it hit me that I am in the mountains in France! AND I live in Ireland, and I thought, ‘Wow! this is so cool! I can’t believe this is really happening.’” Lisa and I just looked at each other and smiled. She gets it! She had that thought of complete appreciation on her own. I think, personally, that may have been one of the best moments of this whole adventure. To hear in my kid’s own words that she appreciates what an amazing adventure we are on makes all of the effort and discomfort of change worthwhile. Instead of just coming along for the ride they are beginning to see just how amazing this world is and how blessed our lives truly are.
I know not everyone gets chances in life like this, but I wish it could be so. I will close this entry with a quote from one of the great writers of all time, Mark Twain, who, like any great writer, has a wonderful way of putting into words thoughts which summarize the most beautiful concepts in life. He said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Get out of the house! Go see the world! Have your eyes and mind opened to the beauty and wonders that are out there! Your life here on this earth is a miracle, and though a lifetime may seem like a long time, it is temporary. Take full advantage of it while you can, because tomorrow is never guaranteed and today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.
Peace and love