Today was a day of mixed emotions and much travel.
Three years ago, when we first entertained the idea of taking leave of normal life for a whole year to experience the world, there was an amusing cavalier attitude because it was unlikely to actually happen. As time went on and we found our way to commit and make this dream possible, we had nothing resembling concrete expectations. In fact, as we've reflected regularly for the last two months, our expectations prior to leaving (even during highly detailed planning sessions) could really only be described as "feelings."
We wanted to experience the world. We wanted to take this opportunity while the kids were young enough to be excited and old enough to remember. We wanted the opportunity to take in the world together and both reconnect our nuclear family while witnessing in awe the connectedness of the world on which we live. We expected it to be awesome and we expected it to be hard. Those goals and expectations are wonderful, but vague.
In the beginning of this year, after planning south-east Asia, we realized some things. Two adults with three kids would be a lot to manage (some places only allow two per-room including kids, some countries don't really have taxis that take more than four people, etc.) We realized that while we'd manage that, it would mean being "always on" and never allow an adult (or a child) to really be alone to reset and revitalize. Date nights with just the old-folk would be rare and experiencing adult-only things would be nearly impossible. This led us to the idea of bringing a nanny and without changing our vague expectations we engaged Michelle and life kept hurtling forward.
Much of what Michelle brought to the table came exactly how we (vaguely) imagined it. Stress levels were down due to the 1:1 adult:child ratio. Children enjoyed time away from parents and parents enjoyed secluded sleeping arrangements, time alone and many nights out on the town. It was great. But something wasn't right and it took quite some time to place it.
All of our expectations, no matter how vague, revolved around the nuclear family and that's exactly what we were not. In bringing a helping hand, despite all of the advantages and perks that came with it, we sacrificed the context of the original dream. We had inadvertently moved the goal.
After some rather painful reflection that taxed many of us, we realized the devastating truth: we must return to a nuclear unit to pursue this dream. This morning the Schlossnagle family said heartfelt goodbyes and apologies to Michelle at the Copenhagen airport as we headed for Berlin. The rest of the this trip will not be the same without her, but it is the trip we need.
One thing that is hard to express is how thankful we all are for the two months she spent with us. Michelle changed each of us for the better and helped us find a part of us that we had lost. Thank you.