I Know Nothing (And 99 Other Things To Road Has Taught Me)
I thought I would write something profound, deep, meaningful, something reflective, and ass-kicking that takes your breath away, and makes you stop, wide-eyed, and go, “woaaaaaah”. Something really, really mind-blowing should be coming up after almost two years on the road. But, that’s not what’ coming up. What’s coming up is a huge storm of sand specks, flying, blinding me. And like my dearest Dell in Boquete, Panama would say, “I’m standing naked in the sandstorm. Let’s see what sticks.” Yeah, that’s what I have to offer.
As I sit here in The Led Zephyr, officially the coolest guesthouse in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, watching Kobi and the kids play pool, blushing at the thought of the worst fool I made of myself on stage last night, and reflecting, what has the road taught me? I’m hungry, waiting for their garden salad with the mustard dressing. In these nearly two years, I’ve had some amazing experiences that in my wettest, wildest, and most romantic and precious dreams, I would not have known to wish for. I’ve grown, touched light, and fallen really hard on my face, and learned again. As a family, we’ve stretched ourselves, blown up, and re-morphed, more bonded and wise, and respecting the very core fibers of who we are, as individuals, than ever before.
And so, here is my list. It’s just surging up from within in, all that I have learned from life on the road. So much of this, tons of that, and a heap of understanding how little I really know.
1. I know nothing. Everything I thought I knew, every prejudice and preconception about everyone and everything has been torn to shreds in nearly two years on the road.
2. There is kick-ass music in every language on this globe.
3. You don’t need words to say “I love you” .
4. You can deeply fall in love with people even though, and maybe because, it makes no sense to do so.
5. Goodbye always hurts, even if you are joyful and appreciative of it all.
6. If you don’t check you crocs after the rains, you will most likely feel the swishy splosh of a frog between your toes.
7. “Best price for you” is never the best price.
8. Always check the actual price of border crossings, and note that where kids are free, you should not voluntarily pay $45 a kid out of the kindness of your ignorant heart.
9. I can’t sing. I thought I could, but I can’t.
10. We can live without a fridge, a table, a phone, a key, and obviously, sanity.
11. I love laughing, also when it’s really not funny. Laughing keeps me sane, makes me nicer to my kids, looking much younger than I am, attracts people to me, and let’s me be free.
12. Huge tree bats, thousands of them, at dusk, dancing in their own magical flight of frenzy in the King’s Palace Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia are simply magnificent.
13. When they say, “not spicy,” they lie, and probably get a really good laugh out of it.
14. With a smile and a bit of pantomime, kids can make best friends in seven minutes flat.
15. Cambodian men giggle. They also wear pink flannel pj’s on their mopeds and look adorably perfect without all of that machismo we tend to attribute to a ‘real man’.
16. The fact that the waitress/sales person/taxi driver doesn’t speak a word of English does not make him or her stupid. It makes me ignorant of their language.
17. I’m the foreigner, not them, me.
18. If you can find a snickers bar for more than the cost of a meal, but you really want a snickers bar, logic goes to hell.
19. Sex is one uncontainable, powerful force that drives/motivates/maddens/and moves people to rhythms they would otherwise, sanely, never dance to.
20. Costa Rica’s Coco Loco Coconut Lollipops should be illegal when you start eating a dozen at a time. I swear they put some addictive chemicals in there, it’s just that good. If you see the green wrapper, trust me, run! Don’t even try one. You’ll be so sorry.
21. Commercials and the consumerism giants will lie and try to sell people happiness/health/youth/intelligence even in the most rural corners of the globe, and people will believe them.
22. If my life depended on it, I still couldn’t even intellectually begin to explain how to flush the toilets in Japan. If my life depended on it, I still couldn’t even lie to you and bullshit some bogus answer on how to. Too many buttons and nozzles!
23. Night buses suck. They make you feel like an 80 year old just put through the heavy duty load of an old washing machine. Oh, and every detail that made you buy the ticket is a lie, a lie, a lie!
24. A private room for the parents, and a SEPARATE room for the kids, is brilliant!
25. [Directly related to number 24]. Sex is so much more enjoyable after you’ve had to share a room with your kids for months, and, for that next brief period of time, you can make as much noise as you want.
26. I don’t like whiny, complaining, unappreciative kids who think I owe them something and speak to me with attitude. I don’t like them AT ALL. I adore laughing, cuddling, smiling, singing, independent kids who listen, appreciate their lives, and are fun to be around. I like them A LOT.
27. You must be filthy rich to travel the world, as is evident from Dan and Mike from the US, Fiona from Scotland, Chris from Chile, Yuko the Factory Worker from Japan, and a few globetrotting families. So eat your hearts out, we’re rich and you are not!
28. Sweating ALL day is unromantic, not sexy, smelly, earns you pimples in all sorts of nooks and crannies, and makes you able to kill someone who just looks at you funny. (And four cold showers a day offers very little relief.)
29. The Vippasana Ten-Day Silent Meditation outside of Battambang, Cambodia, for me, was the most powerful, soul-cleansing, empowering twelve days of my life.( Day before, ten days silence, day after= 12 life-changing, and long days)
30. Even if you are in a really safe corner of the globe, when you lose sight of your kid, there is that tiny split-second moment when your heart stops and fear chokes you.
31. In Huanchaco, Peru, camping on the beach is free; cold showers are 50 cents; sunsets are priceless.
32. If I don’t sleep the night before, I am not nice to be around. Sorry kids, I suggest you stay far, far,far away from mommy.
33. It is precisely when you need to pantomime that you need vaginal yeast infection medication, that you feel most grateful for the spouse who is willing to go in there in, and quite hysterically, do it for you.
34. Everyone in the world just wants to raise their kids in peace and safety. Everyone just wants enough food to eat, a place to sleep, people who love him around, and maybe a few other little perks.
35. You see God when those street kids, through those layers of filth and torn unfairness, smile. You do.
36. Slooshing through muddy streets, in and out of pot holes, over ditches, being covered in warm rains, walking, in no particular hurry, to nowhere in particular, is enlightening.
37. You never get better at the jet lag thing. Actually, I’m finding I’m experiencing jet lag also from bus rides and boat rides that don’t even cross any time zones. I’m one pitifully adjusted traveler, ain’t I?
38. Even when you travel with young children, you can do all the stupid, crazy, wild, irresponsible, delicious stuff you never did in your twenties (in my case), or that you haven’t done since your twenties (Kobi!), and then, still some new fun!
40. Miles upon miles of virgin Colorado Rocky Mountain snow is breath-taking and incomparable to anything else I’ve experienced.
41. You can joyfully live in the jungles of Peru, in an indigenous village with the river as your laundry machine, shower, only form of entertainment, and private mediation retreat. You can, for six weeks, and you may spend the rest of your life wishing that little slice of your life never ended.
42. Teaching spirituality classes, helping people around the globe find their light, relieve their pain, has been a huge blessing and a humbling honor.
43. If we don’t drink enough water, we will get headaches, be dizzy, grumpy, and, if we’re lucky, throw up.
44. Everything passes. Everything. The greatest moments of joy, and the most painful heartaches, eventually, in their own time, pass.
45. Miraflores is the coolest little corner of Lima, Peru; sunset jogs and sunset with friends on the Malacon’s Pacific breezes fill the soul with quiet peacefulness.
46. In Southeast Asia, bikes, cars, and motorcycles weave in and out in their own intricate, intuitive dance, and if you don’t catch onto the precise, unspoken tempo, you will find yourself smashed, scraped up, and shocked, face down in the middle of the road. (And consumed with guilt at putting your child in danger, afterwards.)
47. Street vendor booths and screaming crowd members will inevitably get burned by ricochet fireworks and paper lanterns tasseled by the changing winds in El Quinche, Peru’s Santa Maria Festival.
48. On the River Napo, in Ecuador, while on white river rapids in that part where they say that no one ever falls out, I did. And in those first ten seconds, you really do lose all orientation of where and who you are.
49. White billowing clouds really do dance with Volcan Baru in Boquete, Panama, and the poor indigenous children living in their coffee fields mountain homes, with dirt floors, rusty metal walls, and clothing four sizes too big, are really, truly happy.
50. If I had known how joyful and free our souls would become while travel, I would have done this years and years earlier.
51. When you get really bored, and can’t play your guitar because Mr. Black from the bus company took it to “fix it” (or stole it, we’re not sure yet), you get out tweezers and creatively shave your legs, picking one hair at a time, for five days straight.
52. When you enter a beauty parlor in Lima, Peru and they promise you lusciously, silky purple hair, they speak the truth. They just forget to mention that it will all wash out within two weeks time.
53. When you enter a beauty parlor in Siem Reap, Cambodia and ask for a little trim (yes! yes! ) they will chop all your hair off, when you ask for all the other things ( bang, highlights, layered hair), they will say “yes! yes!” and do the exact opposite of what you requested.
54. When you stop stressing out and being consumed with constant tension about money, it just sort works itself out, and comes to you, out of love, and in the most creative, and beautiful forms.
55. The absolute, best things we ever gave our kids was Poverty for Christmas, An Uncensored World Education (“Mommy, why is the woman sucking that man’s penis?” Omg, can I die now?), and Lessons In How To Be A Decent Human Being.
56. Tiger Balm is a God-sent blessing when you are covered in bites and itching hysterically. Likewise, tea tree oil is a miracle when your skin is freaking out over other, less obvious reasons.
57. When your son is attacked by poisonous citrus caterpillars in Panama, don’t let him wait it out at home (did that), take him to the nearest hospital (didn’t realize how serious it was at the time, so didn’t do this).
58. Not having a cell phone ring for two years is nothing short of heavenly.
59. When your kids wash their own clothing against that huge flat rock in the river behind the village, you feel like you are doing something very right as a parent.
60. “Sometimes, I miss myself,” our youngest, Solai, wrote for her manta one week. For English, Dahnya wrote, “When I close my eyes, I see me.” Oh. I have much to learn from my kids.
61. Milking a cow looks so much easier than it is. In fact, everything that Don Jose Ramon and Sonia did on the ranch in La Lucha De La Tigra, Costa Rica, including making cheese, hitting fruits off the trees with a rock, and lassoing that colt, looked completely effortless, and yet took us hours of unsuccessful tries.
62. When you realize that you are just another butt in the wind, that no one cares that your butt has been all over the globe, or that your butt sat in university for thousands of hours to earn a Master’s , or that your butt farts in several languages, but that you are just a butt, like everyone else, you begin to be free.
63. Back home in Israel, we ate out once a month, and ordered pizza only on special occasions. On the road, in most countries, we eat out every day, sometimes twice a day, and eat more pizza than I care to admit.
64. Flights with individualized screens make my life infinitely easier. Flights in which my kids are seated far away from me make me ridiculously happy.
66. Nothing my precious, fully-animated seven year old can say for an entire hour is interesting, for an entire hour, or even a significant chunk of it.
67. I love the wind, sunsets, and the beach, anywhere. I love being alone and quiet in them, too.
69. No matter how far I go, I’m always still there, me and all my hang-ups, gremlins, and issues to work through, and the more I travel, the more time and blessed opportunities I have to really progress on the development of all the perfectly imperfect sides of who I am.
70. I love and deeply respect my husband. I am very grateful for him in my life (even though I often write about the opposite).
71. Watching young-twenties guys prey on shit-faced young ladies far beyond their ability to say ‘no’, and stick their tongues down the throats of girl after girl on the dance floor is sickening. Sorry, guys, it’s not studly, it’s cheaper than you can imagine.
72. No matter what I do, they won’t stop growing up, taller, wiser, smarter, away from me, slowly but surely, as they should. We’re giving them roots, and wings, and know they will soar when the time comes to leave the nest.
73. A 5-liter plastic water jug cut in half makes an excellent salad bowl, just as a cut-up milk carton makes the best marker holder, and a broken bicycle basket makes a kick-ass vegetable holder.
74. For me, no white couch, nice designer anything, or even my beloved radio show would bring me as much joy as having blessed time to live my life as I design, as I choose, precisely to the beat of my own drum, according to my own rules and my own pleasing. Nothing compares to that true happiness.
75. In Panama, if they throw eggs on your windshield, don’t stop, and whatever you do, do not turn on the windshield wipers. (It will reduce you to close to zero visibility, which is what they want so that they can jump you). In Peru, if they hold a thick rope across both sides of the road, don’t even slow down (even if your wife is screaming at you to do so!). Accelerate and ram their asses into next Tuesday.
76. Our kids have witnessed children working in fields, the streets, and sleeping in doorways; they have seen drunk backpackers and drug-users get into accidents or otherwise ruin their lives; they have stood on ancient ruins across Latin America and South East Asia, have stood barefoot in pagodas, and have stood wobbly, yet with pride, on surf boards along the Pacific Coast. Their uncensored world experiences, street smarts, and character-development lessons far surpasses anything I believe they could learn regurgitating facts within the four walls of any classroom.
77. Whatever I’m freaking out about today, really, really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Really. I’d be better off just strumming a new song on the guitar about it.
78. Whenever I stop talking about myself and how amazing we are, and I start taking an interest in others, asking about others, listening to others share, magical kingdoms, hidden worlds, and fascinating histories unfold before me. I’m learning, slowly, to shut up and listen, humbly.
79. That your 15 minutes of fame ain’t all it’s racked up to be. We got on the front page of Ynet (Israel’s Number One Online Newspaper, read by 1.5 million a day!) and while we got tons of compliments, we also got 100 comments saying we were abusing our kids and how they should be taken away from us. And, our site crashed for those four days so we got close to zero traffic from it. The Universe does a marvelous job teaching us what we most need to learn. I bow to that.
80. Sweetened condensed milk should be illegal; marijuana, on the other hand, should be legal.
81. TMI! Way too much. There are some things I probably should not have allowed myself to write, but I did, and I’m glad for it.
82. We’ve risked our kids lives doing what we thought were (at the time) good enough choices. But also leaving the front door, morning traffic, and life itself is a huge risk, wouldn’t you agree?
83. When you put together 28 foreigners, a little bit of beach and fresh air, some amazing food, no alcohol or intoxicants whatsoever, and three adorable kids, you can have the most memorable, crazy International Dance Party ever imagined. (When the lights go out, we all started this huge, hysterical tickle-a-thon!)
84. When you’ve never professionally built a sand castle in your life, you may consider not entering a hard-core sand castle competition (go Team 14!) in Huanchaco, Peru. It’s fun, hot, exhausting, hysterical, and stressful when you realize everyone around you knows what they’re doing, and you don’t.
85. I hate snakes, I fear snakes, and having four near-misses of stepping on one has not improved my affinity for them. Oh, and the fact that three were poisonous and the last one was the kind that jumps into your throat and houses himself in your intestines does not help our tumultuous love affair either.
86. Sometimes power outages are the best gift in the world.
87. Whole-wheat bread can be terribly hard to find, and when you do, you end up eating too much of it, especially if its the oven-fresh ones from Johnny’s Bakery in Bocas De Torro Island of Panama. We looked ridiculous taking the boat back to the mainland with 30 of his loaves in tow, and ended up feeding about 1/4 to the starving, black dog that our neighbor felt did not deserve to be fed.
88. When you live in tropical regions, you learn you art of cutting a coconut. I perfected it down to the Zen and Zena of Cutting A Coconut, and still, warn everyone to beware when mom has a huge machete in her hands.
89. Even after losing 25 pounds and [I thought] totally changing my relationship with food, I still will turn to comfort food when I’m upset, overwhelmed, or too tired at night to put myself to sleep. Ugh.
90. Orgasmic food. Gabi’s Definition: Food in which the first bite is unreal, but the second and third and fourth are used to verify if your first impression is really what you thought it was, and when you find out that it was then you die right there, until that next bite. So far, three of them- the chocolate fudge/brownie balls from that little booth in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the club sandwhich at The Led Zephyr, and Oreos and peanuts on vanilla ice cream at Nice Cream in Tena, Ecuador. I miss some of those dearest friends who shared those very treats with us. Miss them very much. (Is that what made the food orgasmic?)
91. Soap is so overrated.
92. Once you figure out how to clean yourself with that vegetable sprayer and NOT walk out looking like you severely lost a water war, squat toilets rock. Oh, and, when possible, face the door so that if (when) someone walks in on you, they see your smiling face and not your other smiling side.
93. The things I most profusely said I’m sorry for, I would do again in a heartbeat. Especially, the time I ditched the internet for almost three months cuz we were too busy fully living an unplugged, exhilarating life in that river-side indigenous village, and later off the beach in a tent.
94. Running on the beach of Sihanoukville, Cambodia in total “Chariots of Fire” fury and grace is beyond exhilerating. Running with those five pre-teen locals boys is beyond, beyond fun. When they all start grabbing and feeling your ass, and no matter what you do (accelerate, stop, tell them to stop, yell “NO!”, punch one) they don’t stop, that is not fun, at all. [I Was Almost Raped Tonight]
95. Reading aloud to my kids D’Aulaires Greek Myths and The Gammage Cup (Carol Kendall) is only out-shined by the pure joy of hearing my Kobi read aloud to them, in cool voices, The Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum), Holes (Louis Sachar), and A Wrinkle In Time (Madeleine L’Engle).
96. Our family is crazy in general, and music-crazy in specific. We love dancing to it (like mad-men in our underwear), creating it (with real instruments or whatever we can bang on near us), and singing it (usually into a broom stick) . I like us that way.
97. Volunteering as a family is the most rewarding thing on this planet.
98. We now have friends from Chile, Peru, Cambodia, USA, Spain, Italy, Japan, The Soviet Union, Estonia (did not know there was such a country previously), Costa Rica, Panama, the Philippines, Canada, Greece, Honduras, France, Portugal, Ecuador, The Netherlands, Turkey, Thailand, Colombia, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Israel.(I may have missed a few.) Talk about educating my kids to be world citizens!
99. When a kindly Korean man from the gym at the hotel in Bangkok gives your kids a huge, totally-irrational-and-impractical-for-backpackers Ikea stuffed dog and your kids fall in love with it, you will lug that thing around the globe. And though the dog is half the size of your children and takes more volume than all of their clothing combined, you like him.
100. Being covered in foam and dancing hysterically in the streets with our kids in the Reina Festivals in Cartegena, Colombia 11.11.11 was unreal, and as I write number 100, I realize that I have another 100 lessons, easily, the road has taught me.
I would be honored to hear which of my lessons vibrate in your frequency the best, and which lessons you learned, so unique and beautiful and different, on your travels through life.
And we’re really working on up-ing our google plus one ranking, so if you read this and like it, please give us a plus one. (All you need to do is have your gmail open to get it.) Thank you!
OH, and read below…….
I am beyond honored to be a part of a priceless community of traveling families, moms and dads, like me, who are growing and learning with their families, as they globe-trot as well. I recommend, with all of my heart, that you read their articles and be inspired by their unique style, flavor, and flair as they share what their world travel experiences have given them.
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Flashpacker Family – http://flashpackerfamily.com/lessons-from-the-road-of-life/
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