Stretching Beyond Comfort Zones

I’ve been a single mom traveling internationally with two girls for about 14 years now. Perplexed looks are often the norm–especially from hotel staff because they are the most aware of the travel arrangements. I rarely meet or see other single moms traveling with their kids. Even living overseas with single moms who have chosen to live in a foreign country with their kids rarely travel during holidays except to return home.

I honestly haven’t given it a lot of thought, and that may be the problem, I just do. These girls have expired passports with baby pictures, and they are always renewed within a year of expiration. We didn’t travel much when they were little, a few trips to Panama, and as they got older Mexico and the Caribbean. Then they started scuba diving and it was every summer in the BVI.

When we moved to China, it was like the green flag at Daytona was being waved in front of me. I put the pedal to the metal and we were off. So many countries close to South China, and decent airlines with low prices. I’d see our school holidays, start searching the Internet for deals, find one, buy the tickets and then we were committed. I did think a few things through having traveled for so many years with my girls and learning some lessons the hard way…by God’s grace was there never anything more than an anxiety attack on my part…but for the most part I will buy the airline tickets and then ask the girls, “Guess where we’re going?!”

I think I got my gumption to travel while attending high school in Panama. I lived on a military base during a tense political climate, and saw many families who would coward to even leave the base gates. The Canal Zone was pretty safe, but even going around the Zone would give them anxiety. The thought of going into Panama City or the beautiful beaches or rainforest areas was beyond them. I, on the other hand, was friends with several Zonians whose families had lived in the Zone for generations. They would take me all over, and my parents didn’t live in fear so we’d go out as a family on weekend excursions all the time–it was amazing to experience Panama. Then, military conflict actually did make leaving the base gates difficult and then these families were transferred to their next assignments.

I thought how sad it was for those families who lived in fear of the unknown and never got to experience and fall in love with the Panama that I did. They lived there the same amount of time as me, and yet saw nothing more than what they probably saw when they lived on a military base in the U.S.–a military base. They dealt with a lot more stress than they would living on a U.S. military base, but got little reward from it. Also, seeing how quickly things can change made me understand that time is a finite measurement (no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get more than 24 hours out of a day). I learned that when opportunities arise you often do have just moments to take them or let them pass.

I was thankful that my parents didn’t allow moments to pass, and we took advantage of opportunities to experience Panama. When I look at my daughters today, I want them to have the same memories of living in China and know that when opportunities arise we quickly evaluate and then take action. It’s led to some amazing memories and adventures. It’s also allowed us to grow individually and as a family.

My two girls have normal sibling rivalries, and are not best friends during our daily existence. But for the last week they’ve been scuba buddies and going out on the boat without me. It warms my heart to see how they come together when we travel as a family, and gives me the reassurance that when tough times hit that they will be there for each other. Travel has offered our family the best, quick lessons on coming together through good and bad times and learning to stretch one’s self beyond normal comfort zones.

I’m writing my stories with the hope that it’ll inspire others who think stepping out of their comfort zone is beyond them either due to family circumstances or illness that a little adventure is just a decision away.