After an extended furlough we are now in the final countdown before heading back to Africa. Yes, we have just 10 days left before we board the plane and head back overseas.
As I sorted through our possessions and began packing the suitcases I was reminded of the pioneer settlers packing up their covered wagons in preparation for heading out West. It always amazed me how they managed to fit all their belongings in the wagon, but packing up suitcases is very much like that — if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t come along.
A lot of thought and consideration goes into packing. We have the next 3 years to consider and with two little ones who have a lot of growth and development ahead of them there’s a lot to think about and plan ahead for.
Many of the day-to-day items can be got there . . . clothes, shoes, diapers, food, etc. There’s a lot that we don’t need to take with us because it is readily available there. But I’m thinking more in terms of the education and development of our children . . . books, videos, puzzles, games . . . things that challenge the brain and encourage learning and development.
There’s also health to consider. When you live 3-4 hours from the nearest hospital, in an area that is high risk for a wide variety of health issues, this is certainly something to consider and prepare for.
There are also items that are specific to living cross-culturally . . . language learning resources, community development tools and materials, and little “luxury items” that help bridge the cultural gap and help us feel more at home and “in our element”.
I think of Laura Ingalls Wilder and how her mother had a special china doll that she carried around with them wherever they went . . . whenever they would settle in a new location she would set up the doll on the mantle piece and that simple gesture signified that they were “home”.
With all the traveling that our family does, we often feel like we are constantly in a “state of transition”. This can be very unsettling for our little ones (ages 1-month and 2-years). I’ll admit, it feels very unsettling to my husband and I as well.
One thing we are careful to do when traveling is to have specific items that we take with us that help to instill a feeling of “being home” wherever we are. Most of these items are geared towards helping to keep a consistent bedtime routine. I’ve noticed that for all of us (the little ones included) traveling around and being in new places can be fun and exciting during the day, but when evening comes there is a need to feel “at home” with a sense of security in the “familiar”.
So, we have specific books, blankets, pillow cases, and a favorite doll or stuffed animal that travel along with us wherever we go. We also have an MP3 player that we set up to play familiar music to sleep to. The music helps to drowned out the strange and unfamiliar sounds of a new environment, and the “comfort items” help to instill a feeling of “normalicy” wherever we go.
It is certainly a challenge to feel settled and “at home” when living in a constant state of transition, but it is possible if you’re intentional about it.
As our countdown begins, the packing commences, and we look forward to our upcoming travels, I just keep thinking about that doll on the mantle piece and the crowded covered wagons and I find myself smiling — there are so many similarities between the life we live and the lives of the pioneers.