Monthly Archives: January 2012

Good Grief

People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering. ~ St. Augustine

Part of the plan for this trip has always been to include a “wondering” of ourselves. Yes we are going to see a lot of cool stuff and learn amazing new things from interesting people and hopefully return speaking a second language. But, primarily, this undertaking is about knowing ourselves better and loving each other more. A worthy goal we are excited and prepared to embrace, challenges and all, from the moment the plane’s wheels touch down in South America. Interesting then, to find ourselves so engaged in that task already – weeks before we even head to the airport. Just the preparation of this trip has been part adventure, part daydream, part family bonding, and  [large] part personal science-experiment in which our collective and individual hopes and fears and emotions continually run amok at any given time and in any given way. And so here I am, writing as both petri dish and microscope trying to make sense of it all.

This process manifests in each of us differently, and I’ll let Bo post more in-depth if he wishes about the utter Odd-Ness of being, by choice, without a job for the first time since he was 16 years old.  On they boys end, they are having a hard time grasping all that is going on and wondering just how long IS this trip we are taking?? They are acting out more often and getting very tired of the “Mom/Dad can’t play right now there’s a lot of work to do for our big trip. Aren’t you excited? Yes you are!! We are all very excited!!” Vaughn loves kindergarten and doesn’t want to leave his friends or his routines, he’s my schedule boy. Luke loves his place here too and his play dates with his best friend and planning his summer birthday… and both boys find the idea that giving away their toys and learning to live with less will ultimately be a good thing HIGHLY SUSPECT.

For myself, there is a ….pressure… I don’t know how else to explain it, that I feel pressing down on my sternum and seems to swell in direct proportion to my level of emotional discomfort throughout the day. The swells come from major moments of sadness like buying baby gifts for my precious girlfriend’s shower that I’ll be missing over the next year; to the more mundane variety of shock like tucking the boys into their own beds, pouring myself a glass of red wine, and watching Grey’s Anatomy in peace — realizing that in a little over a week I will not have a separate room to tuck the boys into, readily available red wine, OR Grey’s Anatomy.

Other things I’ll no longer have include: a home, a car, a post-office box, an address, a morning alone while the boys are at school, an option to buy anything I want at anytime (not that I do that now, but I could, I have access to things now that I won’t have then), movie night with my friends to watch The Hunger Games, my wonderful monthly book club gatherings, my parent’s visits to share in Crested Butte, my parent’s home to escape to from mud season in Crested Butte, my parent’s nearby period, my little brother’s new college experience (just down the road from the home I’ll no longer have),  singing in my church, watching the 1/2 day kindergarteners become full day 1st graders, and countless other milestones of loved ones that I can’t even imagine yet and will miss sharing in.

Please, hear me when I say we are genuinely thrilled and, yes, excited about our Family Sabbatical! We really are going to see a lot of cool stuff and learn amazing new things from interesting people and hopefully return speaking a second language. And in it we will begin knowing ourselves better and loving each other more. How wonderful is that??!! And I believe that the happiness and true joy of all that we are about to do will be that much stronger, purer, if I allow a moment of honest recognition here of just what that weight is that is pressing in on my chest.

It is grief.

But, it is good grief.

It’s good grief because its existence stems from the massive amounts of love I’ve received and shared with the people and places I’ve been surrounded by here. It’s the best kind of grief there is. And it’s already taught me something. My priorities have really changed now that I’m living in a reality where time is short and love is long. In the midst of all that is yet to be done (YIKES!), this week I had lunch with a couple girlfriends and had friends up for a morning of coffee while our kids skied the hill. In the same week! Normally that time would be spent focused on the laundry piling up, the toilets to clean, the errands to run, and the groceries to buy. But when good-byes are hanging in the air and time is running out- you do what’s most important. And I know that when I’m needing a heart-boost either when I’m south of the equator or in my rocking chair at 80, it will not be pride in the Massive Amounts of Laundry Loads Completed that gets me through- it will be the love shared at times like this week’s lunch and coffee break and fellowship.

Everybody knows this. Not everybody lives it. I didn’t until forced and -good grief, what a way to learn!

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

A Daydream with a Catch

We’ve had the daydream of living abroad with our children for a long time.  The appeal for us was obvious: get rid of all your stuff, live simply, enjoy new places and perspectives, be together and take each day as it comes.  Sounds nice.

In fact, it sounds so nice that we decided to make it a reality and to do it in short order.  After the initial euphoria that comes with such a big decision, we started to read up on and identify steps that need to happen to move our young family abroad.  Very quickly we started to realize just how much work it was going to take to put our life on hold and step into the great unknown.  As a small sample, consider this basic list from the last few months:

  • Research tourist visa for Ecuador
  • Research places to start
  • Research small cities or towns in Ecuador and pick top 3-5
  • Ensure all passports up to date
  • Determine big items to sell (gear, cars, electronics)
  • See what vaccinations we should get
  • Decide first steps and first phase
  • Set up next steps and book travel for Ecu exploration
  • Spanish lessons or courses for all of us
  • Get criminal reports, health certificates and ensure have birth and marriage certificates
  • Look into travel and health insurance
  • Set up seperate bank and CC acounts to provide options
  • Cancel all reoccurring bills, subscriptions
  • Figure out what we’re taking, selling and storing including one of our cars and expensive items like sports equipment, electronics, tools and furniture
  • Bo create plan for transition at work with document outlining suggestions
  • Look into cell phones, internet, banking including atm card cars, credit cards, accountant and taxes including write offs,
  • Set up official will and life insurance
  • Brainstorm on what Jamie and Bo want to focus time on
  • Get suitcases, travel gear, cloths
  • Get all electronics and copy DVDs for boys
  • Tell people at work
  • Tell landlord
  • Tell friends and contacts
  • Tell schools
  • Act on visa process
  • Sell stuff we’re not going to keep
  • Get storage unit and start moving stuff in
  • Set up mail and shipping to be forwarded
  • Research school options
  • Decide on school plans and act on them including meeting with teachers and establishing reentry requirements
  • Have a going away party
  • Ensure have all electronics and non-abroad items, also medical and hardware kit
  • Act on plan for phones, internet, banking, cars, insurance
  • Have plan for boys schooling possibly including home school
  • Provide Dave and Linda acct info and copies of documents
  • Take Lucy to vet and hand off to Dave and Linda
  • Make connections with people who live in places or live abroad
  • Pack up what we’re taking

So one early lesson from all of this: great ideas often come with serious to-do lists!

Categories: From Bo | 6 Comments

The Plan-less Plan

We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve gotten once our adventure went public- thank you! We’ve also been fielding a lot of  understandable questions that we’re going to try and address in these next few posts. I’m taking on the, “Where are you going and how long will you be there?” query.

Well, we are largely “wingin’ it” on this little trek of ours, and doing so on purpose.  For us, the first step in making room in our brains for new thoughts and ideas requires loosening our vice-like grip on the control we’ve previously  strived for and letting our route be guided more by Curiosity than Schedule. So our plan-less plan shakes out more like an outline than anything else. An outline written in pencil. Very light pencil.  This is how I can best describe what it looks like, today…

We are going to South America. For those of you, like me, for whom it is difficult to pull any concrete information about South America from the recesses of a middle school geography memory, here is a map of this remarkable place on the Earth:

Ecuador, our starting place, is the small one along the Pacific coast, north of Peru and south of Colombia. It is a tiny country in a big continent with an unbelievable amount of biodiversity and an indigenous population that still lives and dresses and eats fairly closely to how they’ve always done. Without a doubt pink Dora backpacks, Chinese plastic pez dispensers, and KFC are making a strong stand in Ecuador, but, for now, there is still a local level of authenticity above and beyond what we’ve seen in some of the other countries we’ve visited. That is one of the main reasons we are so excited about starting our journey there.

We fly into Guayaquil just before midnight on Feb 1, where we will spend a couple of days checking out Iguana Park, the Malecon 2000, and Santa Ana Hill. Then we are being picked up at our hotel by the friendly people from Finca Punta Ayampe where we are staying for a couple weeks of pure take-a-deep-breath-holy-cow-what-did-we-just-do-let’s-go-play-with-the-boys-on-the-beach downtime. AND THEN….



That’s all I got as far as any actual plans go.

That would make this the super-light pencil section of this post: we are thinking of traveling up the coast a bit for a stay in Canoa where there is an intensive language school at a hostel on the beach.  Ecuador has loads of wonderful langauge schools, but if one of the choices is on a beach… yeah, that’s what we thought too. After giving our spanish skills a much needed shot in the arm, we will continue on a winding route up the coast, working inland and then meandering our way south through the Andes Mountains.  The places we think we’d like to stop include Quito, Banos, Otavalo, Cuenca, Zaruma, and Loja. I’m so looking forward to that, but almost more so for all the places along the way that we don’t even know yet we want to stop and see.  If we find a community we love and want to stay and immerse ourselves in, we stay- if not, we keep going. And we’ll be doing that for as long as our fincances allow, our best budget-guided guess being in the ball park of 18 months.

Not the clearest answers to the Where and How Long questions, but the most truthful ones I can provide at this point. I promise to provide more details when we get… somewhere,

at … somepoint.


Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Power Issues

“I love you and I know you’re going through a lot of change.  That said, I just want to be clear: I’m not a staff member of yours.”  -Jamie after Bo realizes he doesn’t have anyone to be the boss of because he quit his job.

On Monday, I gave two weeks and told the people closest, who didn’t already know, about our transition. Tuesday and Wednesday, I told friends and many others who my work interacts with on a regular basis. It felt great. We’ve been thinking and planning for a long time and now everyone knows! Without exception, the people we’ve shared our plans with have been supportive and they’ve said they’ll miss us.  At work, they ask what will happen and how will it work without Bo.

By Wednesday afternoon, the plans for finding my replacements at work were in full force. The transitions were announced and I was officially the former boss.  My role was now to advise and not decide.  In a week or so, after the job ends, I won’t even have that role; I won’t be needed like I have been for seven years.  What is it that I do around here?

This is what I wanted.  Minimal commitments.  Ahhh…  But wait, I had have an idea about how things should work and I need to be heard.  So and so could do this better.  This should be done that way.  Why aren’t you listening to me?  At least Jamie and the boys will listen…


Categories: From Bo | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Big Announcement

Dear Family and Friends,

We are so excited to share with all of you the big plans we have for this new year! After more than a decade of daydreaming and months of intensive planning, we are thrilled to announce that 2012 will involve embarking on what we’ve come to call our Family Sabbatical! Believe it or not, that is an actual thing. There’s even a book about it, (I know, I was surprised too). Book or no however, spending a significant amount of time abroad has been such a Big Grand Hope of Bo’s and mine both individually and then, thankfully!, as a couple. Finding this to be a shared desire really fueled a fire within us to someday see it through. Interestingly, in all those early conversations about what it would look like and where we would go, we never once considered this as something to do right then, when we were sans little ones and it would undoubtedly have been easier on many fronts. Not once. We always spoke of this daydream in terms of something we wanted to do with the children we hoped someday to have, as a family.  We are now two darling little boys later and with a number of other factors coming together; on February 1, 2012 we will begin living out what was only imagined 10 years ago by boarding a plane in Denver, CO with 4 one-way tickets to Ecuador.

By sharing with you the date of departure and destination country, I have very nearly shared with you all that we concretely know we will be doing for approximately the next year of our lives. Mind-boggling, yes?!  We are jumping into this intentionally plan-less, which for those of you who know us (and by us, I mean Bo, whose favorite Christmas present to date is the Franklin Covey planner I bought him when we were engaged), know how out of character and comfort level such a leap is. And herein lies our goal: to completely shake up every single familiar thing. Our environment, routine, meal choices, language; to rattle all that is known, save the four of us, and see what the view is from there. We’re aiming to see differently. We don’t expect the perspective to be better or worse necessarily, but we’re banking on it being different. We’re banking on it being different because we believe that’s valuable. We’re hoping the boys will learn a new language and make friends that live in homes and cultures vastly different from their own. We’re hoping to explore, and volunteer , and read, and study, and write, and dance, and eat cuy, (okay, I’m not actually committed to that but Bo and the boys promise to tell me all about it). Force ourselves out of the familiar paths we’re currently on, find that foreign is grazing our fingertips and grab on for the ride. So there’s not much to say at this point about where we will be, just what we will be doing; we’ll be finding foreign.

We’re inviting everyone reading this to follow along with us as we try to use this blog to translate with words and pictures and videos this adventure we’re heading into.

Hope you will join us!


Jamie, Bo, Vaughn, and Luke Stambaugh

Categories: From Jamie | Tags: , , | 35 Comments

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