We are a family of four – Cole, Valerie, and 13-year old twins, Natalie and Tanner. Our original roots are in Utah. Valerie and Cole met in high school (cue the music…Roar for Orem High), but did not take a liking to each other (quite the opposite) until a few years later when we were students at BYU. After we both graduated (Cole in accounting and Valerie in Social Work), we moved to the Washington DC area for Cole’s work and for Valerie to attend University of Maryland-Baltimore, where she graduated with her Master’s degree in Social Work. We intended to stay three years. We were far from family, living in a very different environment, and tight on funds at first, but we were making a start and having a great time doing it. We ultimately stayed 13 years – four in Maryland and nine in Virginia – and loved it.
After 13-years in the D.C. area and now with Natalie and Tanner (age 2 ½), we were offered the opportunity to move to the Netherlands for a new job. We thought we would give it a try for three years and ended up staying for eight years, thus continuing our pattern of underestimating our timing in a given place. That experience left many deep impressions on us and our children. We learned to appreciate there are different, but equally meaningful ways to live from what we had experienced growing up in the States. We became more aware of and more interested in other cultures. Valerie and Cole had lived outside of the US (Valerie in England and Cole in Italy), and together we had traveled to Europe a few times, but while living in the Netherlands, we took many opportunities to travel together as a family. Our love of travel and new places reached an alarming level when Cole managed to go over the allotted six weeks of vacation each year.
Cole was offered a job in Miami, and although it was really, really hard to say good-bye to our life in The Netherlands, we knew it was time to move into the next phase of our lives. As we had been warned, transitioning back to the States was more difficult than acclimating to the foreign culture of the Netherlands. We came to enjoy many things about south Florida—we swam in our pool, Valerie played tennis as much as possible, Cole biked 50 miles every Saturday morning, and all of us became certified scuba divers. We intended to move to Miami for three to four years – similar to our two previous places. Now, exactly three years later, we have decided to move on (evidently we’re learning to follow pre-agreed plans better now).
- Food: Homemade cherry pie and anything with lemon
- Activities: Traveling, tennis, reading, college football, piano, visiting historical places
- Holiday: Easter, Thanksgiving
- Movie: Chariots of Fire, Warhorse
- Book: Anything by Wilkie Collins, Biographies
- Music: Jon Anderson, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Phil Collins
- Saying: “Studies show…” (followed by whatever point she is trying to make – the kids love this)
- Avoids if possible: Hot cereal, Costco (proud to say I am not a member there)
- Food: Anything with pesto sauce
- Activities: Riding bikes, scuba diving, basketball, being outdoors, jazz concerts
- Holiday: Thanksgiving
- Movie: Groundhog Day, selected scenes from the Pink Panther movies
- Book: Anything by Charles Dickens
- Music: Brad Mehldau, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Steely Dan, The Who
- Saying: “Don’t worry, be happy”
- Avoids if possible: Gift shops, the mall, badminton
- Food: Chicken and rice, spaghetti, any gummy candies
- Activities: Horseback riding, basketball, playing baritone sax and piano, snowboarding
- Holiday: Christmas
- Movie: Andy Griffith series, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter movies, War Horse
- Book: A Wrinkle in Time, The Limit, Hunger Games trilogy, Harry Potter series
- Music: BYU Vocal Point, Hudson Lights, Bruce Hornsby, Beatles
- Saying: “Jimmered!”
- Avoids if possible: Early morning flights, loud noises (fireworks and bursting balloons)
- Food: Penne Alfredo, cantaloupe, dark Chocolate, Icees
- Activities: Skiing, scuba diving, most sports, reading, playing piano and sax
- Holiday: Christmas
- Movie: Life of Pi, Andy Griffith series, I Love Lucy series
- Book: Life of Pi, Artemis Fowl series, The Limit
- Music: Beatles, BYU Vocal Point, Journey
- Saying: “Wow! Golly! That’s something special”
- Avoids if possible: Olives, (we’re trying to cure that), dressing up, hot weather
Our plan is to take a year (June 2013 –June 2014) and visit all seven continents, several countries, and a lot of U.S. states. Valerie looks forward to visiting historical sites of any kind, Cole plans to sample the local ice cream shops, Natalie will try to ride (and try even harder to buy) a horse at each location, and Tanner will figure out a way to avoid the hot weather and stay longer in the cold and rainy places.
Our itinerary is constantly evolving, but our general plans include:
- Road trip from Florida to Utah, with many stops and visits along the way
- Relax at our Sundance cabin in Utah for a few weeks
- Seattle (to visit some friends!)
- Alaska (Natalie’s top travel destination)
- Continental Europe
- Tanzania (safari)
- Eastern Europe
- South America
- Antarctica (Tanner’s top travel destination)
- New Zealand
This is the hardest question of all to answer because there is no single answer. We’ve been talking about doing something like this for many years, but maybe thought it was more of a dream than a possibility. After living in Florida for a few months, we realized just how much we missed traveling to other countries and cultures, and we wondered if we could make our travel dreams come true. “Sometime in the future” became “maybe in two years this would be possible” and the more we thought about it, the more we could see our dreams becoming reality.
We think the ages of our children and their year in school is ideal for an experience like this – they are old enough to understand and learn from the experiences we will have, and they can carry their own luggage! They look forward to being 8th graders in the newly established Reese Academy. We intend to provide for their education through a combination of online school courses, homemade courses and life experiences. We are all in relatively good health (although a couple of us are feeling our age at times). Financially, we are in a spot which allows us to do this. Cole has completed what he set out to accomplish at work and is looking forward to a break to consider other avenues in the future and enjoy a slower pace for a while.
Despite all the signs pointing towards “go”, the decision has been difficult and we have made and re-made it a few times. Natalie and Tanner will have to defer music and other lessons (both enjoy playing piano and sax), they will have to say goodbye to good friends and will miss the social aspect of school during this year, including organized sports. Valerie will not be playing too much tennis and Cole will park his bike for the year. There are many advantages to being “settled” in one place which we will forego and being on the road all the time will surely present its share of challenges and stress.
However, we are looking forward to a unique opportunity to spend a lot of time learning and serving together. By putting ourselves “out there” together, we hope to stretch ourselves and come away changed. We think we will gain a greater reverence for all of God’s creations and will see ourselves differently in the big picture. We expect to meet many interesting people, make some new friends and become re-acquainted with some old friends with whom we will have the pleasure of meeting along the way. Possibly most importantly, we think we will grow closer together as a family. We have chosen a theme of “Learn and Serve” for our travels. We don’t view this as a year-long vacation – we hope to learn many new things about ourselves and the world in general and we want to be able to provide service to others – both via pre-planned opportunities and impromptu opportunities that come along the way.