At the end of 2018, I was thoroughly exhausted from all the traveling, and decided that we would cut down a bit on the traveling for 2019. But, as it turns out, a little rest goes a long way for this ambitious planner, and so, as we close out 2019, I am here to report that we traveled even more this year than the last. 🤪 BUT, our travels were slower paced, more intentional, and therefore less exhausting.
I don’t know how it’s possible, but Bridgette and I were somehow able to hit 24 destinations in 11 different countries, take a total of 33 flights, and stay at 12 hotels + 10 Airbnbs. What these stats fail to convey though, is how our travels have become a deeper journey on self-discovery, on understanding the narratives of others, and on unearthing a profound perspective of a world that’s so much bigger than Silicon Valley. Choosing this worldschooling lifestyle has become an attempt to not let our society’s expectations of us dominate our lives, to recognize that there are many ways of living, and to admit that we are in an unquestionably fortunate position to have choices.
If there is a single, most defining event of 2019 for our family, it is that Alan has become a follower of Jesus. For years, he has been an Atheist, and a bit anti-Church because of his own negative experiences in the past. While he was supportive in Bridgette and my faith journey the past few years, he himself wanted nothing to do with Christianity. It has truly been a miracle to witness first hand how God worked through the many angels He placed in Alan’s life to change his perceptions and his heart. Finally, after so many years of private prayers from Bridgette and I, from our Christian friends and family, and from my church group…Alan declared to me back in May of 2019 that he was ready to accept Jesus in his life. Since then, I have continued to watch his faith grow in the most amazing ways, and it’s indescribable how transformative this journey has been for him, for us, and for our whole family. In hindsight, the most beautiful part was Alan’s own discovery process, which was very much on his own, and away from Bridgette and I. This has made his faith so much more solid because it didn’t come from the pressure of family, the pressure of a particular church, or pressure to conform in any way. It was purely his own journey, and his own relationship with the Lord.
With that, here’s our recap in pictures and captions for 2019! I always have fun doing this post because I get to go through all our pictures from the year and be reminded of the wondrous memories we have made. This is especially important as I try to put everything in perspective to have renewed energy for another nomadic year ahead!
January 2019— We rang in the New Year at home in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then shortly took our first trip of the year as a family, to Shanghai, China! We were joined there by my parents and my sister’s family and spent 2 weeks exploring both Shanghai and Suzhou. To conquer the cold, cold weather, we ate way too much dumplings, noodles, and hotpot!
February 2019— We stayed in the Bay Area most of this month, celebrating my birthday, my father in law’s birthday, Bridgette’s birthday, and Chinese New Year. Our cousins from Hong Kong came to visit, so we spent a few days in Lake Tahoe with them, where Bridgette braved the black diamond slopes for the very first time! It helped that her cousin Sherwin is even more of a daredevil than she is, haha. We nearly got stranded in the blizzard after a day on the slopes when a road block stopped us and declared that our tire chains were too weak to continue onwards. We managed to get through after some scheming and made it back safely to our cabin!
March 2019— I got to celebrate Alan’s birthday with him at Shadowbrooks in Capitola, and it was so nice to have time to catch up with one another. Bridgette spent the first and the last weekend in March up at Mount Hermon. The first weekend there was with her friends, and the last weekend was a special Mother/Daughter retreat for her and I, together with our friends Gloria and Taylor. In between, we took a week long trip to Bogota, Colombia and a 3 day trip to the island of San Andres, Colombia! What started out as a worldschooling trip for us to Colombia morphed into a large group trip with extended family and friends from different parts of the world. While many people worried about our safety to a country that’s most well known for its drug lords, we were protected so fiercely by the local police force and private security that it turned out to be our safest (and one of the most memorable) trip ever, which you can read about here. We also experienced our craziest layover in Mexico City, and got to explore Guadalajara in one day.
April 2019— We got to rest up for 2 weeks at home after Colombia, before we flew to Hong Kong to visit the Chuangs. We intentionally timed it to be Brianne’s spring break week and together, we spent a fun week at the Club Med in Sanya, which is dubbed as the Hawaii of the East. We also did day trips to Tai O and Hap Mun Bay beach, neither of which we’ve ever been even though we’ve traveled to Hong Kong a hundred times. Oh, and if you’re up for a good laugh (or eye roll), click here to read about my horrific encounter with a “cockroach” that probably traumatized Bridgette for life, thanks to the great protective mom that I am (NOT).
May 2019— The beginning of May was spent back at home catching up with family and friends, with laundry, with sleep, and with a million errands. There’s a lot of “catching up” that needs to be done when you’re gone for weeks at a time. For the last two weeks in May, we were off again. First stop was Boston to attend my dear cousin Celine’s Masters Program graduation. It was both Bridgette and my first trip to Boston, so it was fun to explore the city, with Celine taking us around to some of her favorite places. We then rented a car and drove up to Quebec City, Canada with Celine and her family to explore a few days in the French speaking province. After that, we bid farewell to them, and Bridgette and I continued onwards, driving to Montreal, Canada to spend several days there, and then flying to Charleston, South Carolina where we spent 3 days learning more US history than I ever did in my years of schooling, or so that I could remember!
June 2019— We always stay put this month to welcome the Chuangs’ 2 month stay at our home, and it’s what we look forward to all year long! This year was extra special because my brother in law Brian was on a sabbatical from work and got to join us for the entire summer. While having all 7 of us under one roof would inevitably include a lot of messiness and chaos, we welcomed all of it because this little tradeoff was well worth the quality time we got to spend together. Alan, Mimi, Brian and I started this thing call the “Round Table” about 10 years ago, when the four of us would sit around a table at night, after the kids are in bed, to have these lengthy, deep discussions about a lot of different topics. We would have these round table discussions at least once or twice a year when we were all together, but ever since Brady was born, we just have not been able to find the opportunity to do so. We must have stopped for about 3 years, but we finally resumed this summer and it was fantastic!
July 2019— A summer trip with all 3 kiddos is always in order, and this year, we picked Cancun and Playa del Carmen since Brian really wanted to see the Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. We spent a week in Mexico, where our cousin Celine joined us from Boston, and had some pretty cool adventures in addition to an unexpected accident while swimming with whalesharks. The rest of our July was a mix of fun outings back home– the girls’ annual week at Kidder Creek camp with Mount Hermon, strolling through our favorite Farmer’s Market, indulging in our favorite food trucks at Presidio Twilight, taking Brady to as many playgrounds as possible, and lots of board game nights! We hung out with our cousins quite a bit, which always includes a lot of laughter and wine. 🙂 Mimi and I also took the girls to San Luis Obispo for our annual girls’ trip while Brady stayed behind with Alan and Brian.
August 2019— After sending the Chuangs back to Hong Kong on the first of the month, Bridgette continued her summer adventures with another week at Mount Hermon with her friends, and pool time with her cousins Sherwin and Maddison. We missed our friends’ Nancy and Kevin’s big birthday bash in Vegas but got to attend their beautiful celebration luncheon in SF. At the end of the month, our dear friend Fiona came to visit for a few days from Toronto and we had a blast around the city together.
September 2019— As the rest of the world went back to school, so did Bridgette. She kick started her 7th grade year with a trip to Tokyo, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. Mimi, Brian, and Brady joined us for part of our Tokyo trip, and Bridge and I got to stay in a capsule hotel for the very first time! Our week in Bangkok was quite eventful. We did our first ever health check up abroad, learning so much about medical tourism. We also ventured outside of the city to get a flavor of what rural and village life is like in Thailand, which was very memorable. We returned home mid-September, only to remain on Asia time for the week because we flew right back across the Pacific Ocean one week later to Bali, Indonesia.
October 2019— We were thrilled to have Alan join us on the Bali trip. The first week was spent in Ubud, where we attended the Family Adventure Summit, a conference/retreat for worldschooling/traveling families. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We met and bonded with other families from all over the world, learned a ton from those that have been on the road much longer than us, and were inspired by many different life stories. After the Family Adventure Summit was over, my sister and her family joined us in Ubud for 2 more days before we drove down south to the Kuta area. There, we spent a relaxing week at the most extraordinary ocean side villa with a few of our cousins who traveled to meet us from SF and Hong Kong. We arrived back home in time for Halloween (ofcourse), and Bridgette morphed into a lovely little Red Riding Hood. Our friends Karen and Vasilis came to visit us from London and Greece, and we got to be tour guides for them all over San Francisco. Bridge finally got to visit Alcatraz for the very first time!
November 2019— Mimi took a very short trip to San Francisco to get her license renewed at the DMV, giving us a chance to hog her all to ourselves for 3 whole days. She and I finally got our sister’s night out where we dined on delicious sushi and chatted for hours. On the same evening that she left, Bridge and I also hopped onto a plane again, for our very last trip of the year, Europe bound! This was a special trip because it was the very first trip that Bridgette planned all by herself! We started in London where we spent some time with our friends-who-are-like-family Betty and Karen, then flew to Edinburgh, Scotland where we explored (and partially hibernated) for a week, then flew to beautiful Amsterdam in the Netherlands for another week, before ending our trip back in London. For our last weekend in London, we enjoyed amazing homecooking at the Tams’, got assaulted by an Uber Pool passenger, and spent one night with Bridgette’s worldschooling bestie Ruby, whose family happened to be in London the very last night that we were. We returned home just in time for Thanksgiving with our extended family!
December 2019— What a treat to get an entire month at home for the holidays! At the Family Adventure Summit in Bali, we were encouraged to discuss as a family what values were important to us, and what steps we needed to take to live out those values in our lives. After much reflection and discussion, we decided that the three areas of improvement for our family included being more generous with our time in serving others, being more intentional in cultivating community, and being more proactive in helping those that are in need. We realize that while we tend to be generous with our money, we have room for improvement when it comes to being generous with our time. So, for the month of December, we were fully committed to devoting as much time as possible to be with friends and family, and to serve around our community. Through a number of phenomenal local organizations including SF City Impact, Youth With a Mission, Samaritan House, and Ecumenical Hunger Program, we served hot chocolate and engaged with the homeless community in Tenderloin, we assembled hygiene packs for the homeless, we delivered Christmas gifts to the homes of low income families, and we helped to sort and distribute grocery items to families in need. It was a really humbling experience to get up close and personal to these communities that we normally turn a blind eye to. It required pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone for sure, but the experiences opened our eyes and our hearts to the social issues right here in the Bay Area. We are really motivated to serve more, beyond the holidays, and that is one of our big goals for 2020!
Growth. It’s hard to come out of a year, much less a decade, without any kind of growth. Our family’s biggest growth has been our perspective. We’ve gotten better at pulling ourselves back far enough so that we can understand the bigger narratives around us. We’ve been surrendering a lot more control, because we know that there are few things in life that are truly within our control. We’re more intentional in how we spend our time, and really cherish our time with family and friends, and especially with each other. This last decade was certainly not lived in vain. There were really high highs, and really low lows. But isn’t that the ebb and flow that is life? As I look back and reflect on the last 10 years, I am able to recognize how all the challenges that felt hopeless and unbearable at the time were all opportunities for our personal growth. Growth in love, growth in character, growth in courage, growth in faith. And for that, we cannot be more grateful because it has shaped us to be who we are today, in 2020.
While there’s really nothing magical about January 1st, it brings a remarkable amount of hope and motivation for everyone. Let’s carry this spirit of new hope, renewed energy, and refreshed goals with us each and every day ahead! Happy New Year/Decade!