This is my sixth and final post for Volume V of the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries: All the Love. Dan and I have been so honored to be a part of this series with so many inspiring parents. We hope you've enjoyed following along with us on this journey, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the support we've received over the last six months. My previous posts can be found here: strength, understanding, surprise, vision, and bliss. Dan's last post will appear on my instagram page (@outlawnotahero), and you can read his previous posts by searching the hashtag #danslingdiary. Thank you again new readers and old alike, as well as a special thank you to Sakura Bloom for being such an amazing company to collaborate with. We've loved being a part of your story.
My sweet little Oswin,
It feels very fitting to me that our last post for the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries is on the theme of travel. It is something that your Papa and I hold most dear. It is something you've been doing since you were born. It is something that we are constantly either planning, doing, or recuperating from.
It is, I believe, one of the greatest gifts that we can give to you. And it is, at its core, a combination of the five themes we've already discussed in the sling diaries: strength, understanding, surprise, vision, and bliss.
I've never felt as vulnerable or empowered as when we're traveling. To be a stranger in a strange town can be exhilarating and scary, and depending on the choices that you make it can quickly turn into a game of choose your own adventure. To order a meal in another language from your own, to not offend with your own customs, the choice to wander with or without a map. It can be scary. You may stammer your words when ordering your cafe au lait in French. You may end up on the wrong train in London. You may end up with the wrong toppings on your pizza due to being lost in translation in Italy. You may play a little bit of charades to attempt to make yourself understood at the panini counter. It can be humbling as you learn what it feels like to live outside of your comfort zone, even if just for a short while. But trust me, that cappuccino, pizza or panini will taste really good afterwards, because you found the strength to speak to those who might not understand you, in your own words.
Finding your own words, your own voice. This brings us back to the theme of understanding, one that is a universal necessity whether you tap into the wanderlust in your blood or not. Whether you're in Germany or your hometown, to learn to find and appropriately use your words is something that we often spend our whole lives doing. We have to work at it. Sometimes we're unsuccessful. We keep trying. In the same way that travel can shock us out of our comfort zone, remind us of how small we are in a big world, it can also help to remind us of how big our intentions are. Learning to find your voice in a foreign land can help to strengthen that voice when you need to stand up for yourself, or others, when and if the time comes. Learning to understand and be understood is a tool that will serve you your whole life, whether traveling or not.
Surprise is maybe my second favorite part of travel. Even when we return to a place we love, there are surprises to be had. A new cafe. A new exhibit at the museum. Experiencing a different season. Randomly finding yourself at a Queen cover band concert on the beach in Italy. Saying yes to adventure and saying yes to not sticking to a rigid travel agenda can bring you upon some of the most delightful and surprising things, both in travel and in everyday life. Keeping the surprise in your travel plans is probably the best piece of advice I can offer to you Oswin. Sure you can hire a tour guide, or print out a schedule that you find online of all the things you just HAVE to see while in a certain city, but honestly, that way of travel has always bugged me. The experience is yours and yours alone. If you want to spend the day exploring on your own, finding things on your own, by all means do it. Some of the best places we've found while traveling have been places we've stumbled upon. Yes, I have seen the David statue in Florence, yes it is quite lovely, but I have also found a small restaurant that served up the best truffle gnocchi I've ever had in my life. Which do you think I was more excited about? Let no one tell you that your experience in a city was flawed because you didn't see oh-my-God-the-most-amazing-this-and-that-ever-to-be-created-with-the-three-hour-wait-to-get-in.
Oh and speaking of food, always ask the bartenders, servers and baristas where they would eat, their sage advice has never steered us wrong, especially when it comes to local cuisine.
Travel may influence your vision for the future as well. I'm at a point in our lives where I consider most things that we do to be travel, because even after five years in SwitzerFrance I still find so much that is foreign and new to me. When we moved here, Oswin, I had just finished graduate school. My master's degree is for a field within the health professions. But I've found my true career passion while living here, while "traveling" in SwitzerFrance: fig trees. Specifically, propagating fig trees. Had you told me five years ago that at the age of 32 all I'd want to do is teach yoga and grow fig trees, well I would only have agreed with you on the former point. When my vision for the future changed, by moving here with Papa, my heart and mind were opened up to many other possibilities of things that I'm actually interested in. By traveling to France, by being open to our new surroundings, (a farming village at the foot of the Jura Mountains), I opened myself up to the possibility of loving every aspect of my life, of trying to control less, of going with the flow and where my interests lie. Had we never taken this leap, this leap into expathood, I would possibly never have even learned what a fig tree looked like, let alone find my passion for them and all things that can be grown. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have discovered that. New experiences, can change your vision and hopes for the future, and opening yourself up to new experiences and possibility can help you find your true happiness.
The bliss of travel is one that I don't think can be easily explained, but something that one feels. Because enjoying traveling and finding bliss in travel are two very different things. There are places on this earth that are just different for me, that put me at ease, that relax my entire body and soul. Some of these are unexpected to me, some not so much. Sitting on the beach by the Mediterranean in Vernazza, Italy, having a cappuccino at my favorite cafe right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, our weekly Sunday Market in Thoiry, brunch at my favorite spot in Philadelphia. All have a certain something that I just feel. I can't wait to see Oswin, as you continue to grow and travel, what places on this Earth will give you bliss. I hope that one day we can have a cup of coffee there.
But if I could add one more theme to this list, and one that is actually my favorite part of travel, it would be this: inspiration. Sure, travel can broaden your horizons, in terms of empathy towards others and pushing you out of your comfort zones, but to see the goods that others create, to taste the regional fare, to drink the wine that has been made by a family for generation upon generation, to learn about the flora and fauna, to see the places you've read about in not only history books, but favorite novels, well, that for me is the most amazing and mind blowing part of travel. Travel has made me want to learn more, read more, create more. I want to know every flower that grows on the Jura. I want to recreate the meals we've had in Budapest, Brussels and Lyon. I want to continue to learn French. I want to take all the trails to the top of all the mountains. This inspiration isn't only limited to our current experience Oswin. Whether we return to the United States one day or not, I hope that Papa and I are able to instill in you the wanderlust to travel to the places that tickle your fancy, that inspire you, that make you want to live and laugh and love and eat and create. I hope you always see life as travel, whether you're going to an outdoor market in Philadelphia, or one in France. I hope you always take pictures like a tourist, no matter what city you're in, just as your mama does. I hope you read about the places you've been, learn the histories, appreciate what and who has come before you. See the beautiful in all the places you go, and seek the inspiration that gets you out of bed in the morning. Surround yourself with others who do the same. If I've said it once, I'll say it a million more times: make your life beautiful, for you. And at least once in your life, pretty please, get lost in a new city. It will do your soul a world of good.
Pictures taken in Bourdigny, Switzerland