When I first starting dating Mr. King in my early 20s, it was a time of massive transition for me. I had just finished with graduate school, moved back in with my parents while I hunted for an apartment downtown, started working in the corporate world and was trying to figure out what in the world this life would be about. What’s it going to look like? I would always ask him “What’s the purpose of life?” over and over. His answer was always the same “To be happy”.
“Really?”, I said, thinking it’s a simple answer, but “What if I don’t even know what that looks like or really feels like? What if I’m not really sure what I want to do.” I had some sense of our ability to create our own experience, but never really put it to the test until the wide open world of being an adult presented itself and I scrambled to find the balance I desired.
The last six years have been a beautiful unfolding of paradigm shifts of what is possible, what I am attracted to and what I tire of. It’s always been a life full of new learning experiences, projects, cultures, cities and skills to learn.
In the past 3 years we’ve traveled in Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia. By traveler or nomad standards, this isn’t a lot of countries. Our trip to the Philippines was a defining force that we are NOT full time travelers. In fact, it makes all of us miserable (except Miss I…she’s perpetual sunshine).
Traveling is fun, but it can feel like a full time job sometimes. Being at home is great, until you need some variety and zest.
So how do you find the balance?
You feel for the balance.
And right now, we are feeling our way to base ourselves for the next 5 years in Bali to continue to seek opportunities, soak up local intelligence, play by our own rules and create value in this world.
We can accomplish these anywhere, but have chosen to live abroad because it provides a more vivid and free lifestyle without conforming social norms that tend to passively permeate consciousness. We’ve had a home base in Costa Rica, Belize and Bali and we’ve found that having a home base and traveling from it to be the ultimate lifestyle for us at this time.
That’s right, I’m coming out of the closet and joining the web parade of exploited introverts!
That fact is we enjoy being a home, a lot. We enjoy doing those things that cannot be when constantly traveling, like gardening, construction projects and passing along these loves and skills to our children.
Benefits of having an international home base
Enjoying the fruits of our labor
I grew up with very handy parents. My dad could build and fix anything and my mother’s garden should be on the cover of magazines. These are important skills of self-sustenance that I enjoy and want my children to acquire, along with the work ethic and patience that is required. Having a home-base where we spend a majority of the year, gives us the time to put in the effort and reap the rewards.
I was lucky that my parents were so tuned into nature. Being immigrants from a farm in Poland, they had a keen understanding and respect of the earth. Studies show that Western Urban children grow up so closed off in man made environments that their brains never form a deep or complex connection to the natural world. I would have failed as parent if I didn’t pass this appreciation and love on to my children. So….
Last month we expanded our property and developed a large garden area with a fire pit. It’s a centerpiece and we often find ourselves making a spontaneous fire as friends drop by. It’s also been a project of patience and growth (although things grow massively and quickly here). Little seedlings turn into plants that bare fruit. We’ve planted eggplant, 6 different kids of tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, squash, pumpkin, basil, celery and the list goes on. I love waking up in the morning and heading to the garden while G searches for the female flowers of squash that could use a little help in pollination, or as he calls it “making magic”. And Miss I will school you on when you pick a tomato, a lesson she learned after she picked a tiny green one and tried to eat it. It’s nice to be still so that we can enjoy the growth and processes that are happening around us.
Being able to take apart things seems to be natural for children and adults…the trick is to figure out how it goes back together. Making something of your own design, by your own hands has got to rank up with one of the most appreciated things we do. Since we will be living in this home for a few years, we’ve made changes, constructed shelving and designed furniture to suit us. Currently, we are in the middle of splitting our massively large bathroom into 2 bathrooms and remodeling the kitchen. It’s going to be beautiful and it’ll be a great project for all four of us.
Comfort – it’s good for the soul. Traveling to new places is addicting. Figuring out new foods, where to sleep, what to do. It’s exciting and exhausting. Yet even when we travel we look for comforting things such as travelers like us, comfy beds to sleep in and recognizable food. But coming back home to familiar is awesome too! The familiarity of knowing where your favorite foods are, knowing where to buy this and that and what is and is not available helps rest the brain and allows us to focus on other things. Running into friends randomly feels like community. At some level, we crave the familiarity…enough to be comfortable but not enough to be bored.
Traveling constantly requires loads of energy focused on research, reservations, transportation and things to do. I tire of it quickly. We travel internationally every few months and still usually play it by ear or plan very, very last minute. At home, I don’t have to wonder where we will eat our next meal, how do I get from here to there and will the children tire before we can rest?
Staying at home is easy, especially with the way we’ve set up our life in Bali. The ease of a lifestyle that includes staff to maintain the home, cook and take care of our children when we work, makes it feel like a resort. We come back home to what most would consider a vacation.
Friendship & Consistency
The internet has allowed us to connect in many ways, but it really doesn’t allow us to connect fully and we enjoy consistent live-person relationships. The downside is that our current location has many transient families. They are here for 1 or 2 years and then move back to their original country or move on. As my children grow older, I assume having regular friendships is going to be even more important, but right now they are content with the few regular friends they have here and know that other friends are around the world just waiting for us to visit them.
I also enjoy having a bit of routine: daily yoga classes for me and weekly ceramics, art and dance classes for my children provide a nice time stamp on the week, something to look forward to and skills to hone.
Depending on the location of a home base, it can be very cost efficient. Our lifestyle expenses in Bali are a fraction of what they would be in the US. The benefit of living in a country where the US dollar stretches and the labor costs are low are many. We have full staff to take care of all the domestic duties of cooking and cleaning. The children have a lovely nanny that plays with them, sets up art projects and dives into their pretend worlds.
We have rented our home in Bali for the next 5 years at a great rate. It is a big investment, since contracts in Bali are almost always paid upfront. However, our home has income potential and house swap potential too. Soon, we will be doing our first two home swaps with families from Perth, Australia for two months. We also have the option of renting out our home when we travel. We like it so much, we’re currently remodeling it to make it nicer for us to live in…which pleases the landlord.
An international home base is a balance of travel and home.
By living in a culture that is not our own, we get to peel back the layers to gain an insider’s look into the economic, social and spiritual effects that offerings and ceremonies have, the passive-aggressive nature behind beautiful Balinese smiles, and the *interesting *logic in their minds. Instead of simply observing the culture, we get a sneak peek behind the smiles and costumes. Living in Bali and experiencing the preparation for Galungan, Kuningan and Nyepi traditions has been cool.
*written with raised eyebrows
So there you have it…my confession that I am a Home-body and really always have been, but have found the perfect balance for happiness…for now.
What about you? How do you balance the need for adventure and comfort, for travel and home, for new and old…..