“Sunsets, like childhood are viewed with wonder, not just because they are beautiful, but because they are fleeting” – Richard Paul Evans, The Gift
Sunsets have long been one of my favorite things. I will stop whatever I am doing to rush to watch the fading sun. I especially love to see the reflection of the waning light over the water. I always rush to grab my camera or phone, attempting to capture the fleeting moments before they disappear. I’ve taken hundreds of sunset pictures, from beaches, balconies, airplanes, mountains, freeways, parks, & my own backyard. My photo library is filled with pictures like the one above. I’ve been late to dinner, left the table mid-meal, and even cancelled a reservation just so I can sit in awe of the glory that I see in a sunset. My family calls it my obsession. I think they are right, but let’s not tell them.
Yet each time, I am disappointed with the photo; it’s just too two-dimensional. It fails to capture the sounds, the smells, the true depth of colors and the warmth on my face. Still, I repeatedly snap away. Typically, these sunsets mark the end of a day well spent- in some new place, filled with new experiences, and surrounded by loved ones. A sunset brings me such joy, but there is also a tinge of regret or loss that lingers once it is complete. That day is done.
So it is with parenting. I have countless photos of my children growing up- as babies, toddlers, school days, birthday parties, dances, homecomings, graduations and our many travel adventures. Yet, these pictures only tell part of the story, leaving the sounds of their voices, baby smells, sleepless nights, illnesses, arguments, meals shared, laughter heard, the feel of their hands in mine and emotional depths of the moment to my faulty memory. While these photographs bring such joy for the moments captured, there is sadness for a time gone, by that cannot be repeated. Truly, the days may seem long, but the years are short.
It is out of this feeling that time was just passing by too quickly, our family was living on a treadmill and we just could not slow down, that my husband, Tom, began to ask, “Can we just stop all of this? Can we just slow down time, go somewhere, travel, just be together & leave all of this craziness behind?”
At this point, our daughter, Mattie, was about to start high school, our oldest son, Ketrick was in middle school, and our youngest, Aidan, was in first grade. The older two kids, while they love to travel, balked at the idea. Our oldest didn’t want to miss all of the rituals of high school, leave her friends and worried about how schooling would affect her transcript. Our young middle schooler, didn’t want to leave his friends, our home, and quite honestly, didn’t really want to hang out with only us for months at a time. The feeling might have been mutual. Our youngest, however, was all in! “When can we go?!”
What began as a seemingly outrageous thought years ago, grew into a real plan over the last 7 years. Next year, we will have two kids in college and Aidan will be in 8th grade. The kids all feel about the same about taking a “year off” as they did years ago. The older two are content with plans to stay in traditional school, albeit college now, and Aidan is still all in!
We have spent the last couple of years dreaming about how to make this crazy plan work. Where will we go? How will we travel? What will school look like? What can we afford to do? How will Tom juggle travel & work? How will we best support our big kids if we aren’t always here for them to come home to? Will they resent not coming? What will we do with our house? What about the dog? What volunteer commitments do we need to tie up so we can freely leave? What if our teen loves this & never wants to return to traditional school again? What if he hates it & wants to return to school a month later?
I have read countless blogs, books and articles about families who did just this- unplugged and hit the road! It is out of my gratitude for their willingness to share their journeys and as a response to my mom’s plea to start a blog, that I will use this space to share how we are answering the questions above and share our travels. I have no presumptions that anyone other than our parents will read this blog, but if you’d like to come along, I invite you to subscribe. Follow along to Keep up with the Karstens as we embark on this year of wandering and wondering, while we chase sunsets, make lasting memories, and vainly try to slow down time.