Freedom to a family who’s worn flip flops or been barefoot since March 2011 is a strange question. We feel free, and yet, ironically, trapped, just like, but so much differently than we did back home.
We always assumed that when we hit the road everything would be different- the kids would never fight, my husband and I would be locked in an never-ending french kiss, and we would be free. Well, geographically, financially, appointment and commitment-wise, we are free.
We go where we want, when we want, how we want. That being said, we’ve been in tropical paradises and felt like in Dante’s Seven Circles, as much as we’ve been in run-down, filthy shacks and felt like kings.
Carving meaning out of total freedom is no easy task. We all say that when we retire, or if only we had one day off a week, or next weekend when we don’t have all of these obligations, then, yes then, I will do what I’ve been dying to get around to for so long.
And yet, how many retirees do you know who go haywire with that sudden void of meaningfulness? And how often do we set out after one goal and find ourselves side-tracked by a dozen distractions and temptations?
After a life-time of being told where to be, what to do, and how to do it, after a career of being evaluated based on external standards and minimum requirements, suddenly, to have total freedom is mind-blowing.
So, how do you do it with a family of five?
Slowly, clumsily, messily, and sometimes beautifully.
You have seasons and flow with them. You have rhythms and you dance with the one that’s playing right now. You have ruts that you have to pull yourself out of and highs you have to figure out how to land from without getting hurt.
You have phases where you’re super social, super active, super seeing, and photographing, and working, and doing. And then you have phrases where you go within, and think, and rest, and read, and reflect, and zone out of everything but that ant crawling on that stone. We do this as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
In the ranch in Costa Rica, we got up early to milk the cows and make cheese. In Siem Reap, Cambodia we cuddled in bed, all five of us, until someone had to pee badly enough to justify stopping the family vegging, singing, and story-telling as we slowly meandered into the day.
In Boquete, Panama we hiked Volcan Baru with great fervor. Like-wise in Koh Rong Island, Cambodia, we pushed ourselves three times on that amazing hike through the jungle to the other side.
In the Ecuadorian jungles, when we lived with the indigenous tribe for seven weeks, we washed our clothing, our selves, and our souls in that river. There the kids went to bilingual Spanish-Quichway school and ran around with the village tribe kids all day. We had zero productivity, zero connectivity, zero volume. Just a few souls cleansing themselves in the middle of nowhere.
Now, in the Philippines Kobi is earning his Dive Master certification with Savedra Dive Center in Moalboal. He gets up early, dives 2-3 times a day, is learning tons, and is living consumed by great passion and meaning.
In Battambang, Cambodia I attended my first 10-day Silent Vippasana Meditation Retreat. For the months that followed, I dove into Buddhism, meditation, and taught Clean Your Soul classes to backpackers at the Garden Village Guesthouse. I exercised, meditated, read, and wrote a book.
Creating meaning from total freedom is a blessed challenge. We’ll take this rare invitation to make our dreams come true, one day at a time, with grateful and open arms. We’ve made big dreams come true, like me losing 15 kilograms and toning my body, Kobi achieving his dive certifications, and the kids speaking multiple languages, getting poverty for Christmas, and experiencing cool stuff like a world education peppered with ancient ruins, varied cultures and religions, and friends around the globe.
We’ve made small dreams come true, like me learning to play guitar, Kobi (who always provided) actually allowing himself to read novel after novel for hours a day, and the kids learning to surf, white river raft, and do poi and chess. They have also met the King of Cambodia and have had the joy of days on end of unplugged play alone or with their siblings.
Our next huge act of freedom is taking upon ourselves the 300+ kilometer Annapurna Circuit Hike this fall. While hiking on the world’s tenth highest mountain for 4-6 weeks, we will face a peak at 5,416 meters at Thorung La Pass, and find ourselves, us five bonding again, but this time with a documentary film crew in tow. We’ll be doing our homeschooling, capturing amazing vistas, and volunteering in villages along the way.
Freedom really means that inside all is quiet and still. Freedom means that I can look at my husband and three kids and be utterly overwhelmed with gratitude. Freedom means we’ll do the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, and then live in Goa, India for six months, and we’ll face this mountain and this tough moment and that joyful one and know that it all passes, it’s all meant to be, and we’re learning every step of the way.
About the Author: Gabi Klaf blogs about her family’s ups and downs in their now third year of non-stop budget world travel. Gabi writes about the untold sides of family travel life. Hugely romantic, tantalizingly sweet, and hysterically funny, Gabi Klaf represents a rare Rubix’s Cube of family world adventure. Find more at The Nomadic Family and GabiKlaf.com