Structure without Boarders – Finding Meaning and Purpose during Long Term Travel
On top of Quensland
It is surprisingly easy to derive meaning from a job.
A job provides bookends for our day. A job gives our days structure, it provides us with a beginning, a middle and an end.
We can look back after a long days work and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, knowing that we merely survived or that we made a positive impact in somebody else s’ day.
Parenting can provide a similar form of structure.
With newborn babies it is more difficult but as infants grow beyond endless feeding, changing, playing, pooping, napping, bedtime, feeding, crying etc. etc… To morning afternoon evening and night, with feeding, playing, napping, feeding, wiping, playing, feeding collapse rinse and repeat.
Watching our children thrive is where we can derive some sense of accomplishment.
Both are jobs with bosses, and sometimes having a boss isn’t as bad as it seems. Even if it is a 4 month old in diapers.
Structure Without Boarders
However monotonous it may seem; home, a job, church, gym, school, grocery shopping, community or social engagements… These things can provide more than just security, they deliver a sense of meaning and accomplishment that once removed can be difficult to replace.
When we left for Dubai airport on our way to South Africa three months ago I had a grand plan for how my days would unfold.
As with most things, this has proven to be an idealists’ dream.
1. Write in the morning as my wife and children joyfully self-actualized their desire for homeschooling.
2. Spend our days traveling in the early mornings and mid to late afternoon, tramping through cities, discovering new foods, meeting new people, experiencing new cultures.
3. Enjoy dinner together as a family, lay our heads to rest together at night, satisfied from our day on the road looking forward to tomorrows adventure.
This paints such a pretty picture doesn’t it? Looking at this list now I can’t help but say “did you really think it would go down like this?” Yes I did, call me an optimist, plus that’s what all the family travel blogs said would happen 🙂 .
I like to hold onto this dream and believe that it will happen, if I just wait patiently enough.
My wife and daughter have had difficulty finding a roadschooling routine through no fault of their own. With constant travel and a nomadic lifestyle comes the grind of packing up and moving every 2-3 days. Check out times are early, bedtimes are often late and it is difficult to develop a consistent morning routine.
Planning takes up a lot of our time. Finding an affordable holiday park or hostel for a family of 4 is complicated, sometimes stressful, costly and can be a time suck. Not to mention, pricing out and planning transportation, excursions, developing itineraries and grocery shopping for meals for 4.
Kids like routine. I notice the worst days for my daughter are the days we arrive at a new place, even if she loves it, the constant transition and change has been tough on her, and it makes me sad when she is frustrated.
Any picture I had of waking up, pouring a cup of coffee and taking in the fresh morning air with inspiration pouring through my fingers and into my Lenovo keyboard is gone. Writing has been difficult and curating content online even more so. Internet speeds are horrible, data caps are ubiquitous, doing research for articles can be almost impossible, and when you are crammed into a small place with 4 people with different agendas… Well you can see my point.
Boarders to Entry
While trying to do “everything” I am afraid I have done nothing well, and I often feel like a failure.
On our medical trip to Haiti last year I felt something come alive inside me, I have tried to replicate this through travel and it worked at the beginning, as we travel more I feel self indulgent and am burdened by the need to give back more, I am not sure how to solve this yet, especially as a family… but my wheels are spinning.
I continue to struggle with a poor self-image. This holds me back, but I am working on it.
Purpose and Meaning
One of the best parts of travel is that if you open your eyes wide enough, you will realize just how nice you have it. I am so thankful for this, thankful for every moment of time, thankful to have this opportunity while my kids (and I) are young.
Life is precious and I live a blessed life.
The greatest challenge in my life has been to find a sense of meaning and purpose, as well as belonging. I feel closest to this when I am surrounded by family and friends, or when I am involved heads down in a new project, especially one that helps others.
Taking a year off from my “normal life” and developing a consistent, meaningful routine on the road has been difficult.
What does this mean? I don’t know, but I am confident that out here somewhere there is an answer.