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Traveling Family Returns

Family travel starts again . . . in a very different era.

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My wife isn’t who you think she is. My wife isn’t even who I think she is.

She doesn’t seem to want a house, she’s not a townie, she has little interest in mortgages, car payments, retirement plans, and all that other stuff you trade away life-time for.

My wife had a nice apartment in Maine in her parents’ house, a nice school to send her kids to, a local job available if she ever wanted it — potential building blocks of a nice sedentary life. But she was bored, ultimately. She wanted to go to Europe; she wanted to join me.

Whether she wants to admit it, traveling is part of her identity. It’s what she’s always done, albeit often somewhat accidentally. She never set out to be a traveler or to live abroad. But one step lead to another, and here she is: many years in with me.

My wife, daughter Petra, and baby Rivka met me in Berlin three weeks ago.

I didn’t believe that she was going to get on that plane with two kids — one six years and the other 10 months old — but she really did it. I was actually joking when I made the suggestion. She called my bluff, and here she is.

As I watched her pass through the arrivals gate in Berlin with bags hanging off of her in all directions, pushing one kid in a stroller and guiding the other, I was truly impressed. I couldn’t believe that a person would do something like that. It’s not like I had a home in Berlin. My wife arrived in Europe to be with me as I traveled around on the western portions of the New Silk Road, doing research for a new book. Which is to say, she joined a person who has no clue where he’s going. Perhaps Poland, perhaps Belgrade, perhaps Turkmenistan.

My wife got pregnant with our first child on day one, for the most part. We traveled through Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Middle East as she gestated.

After our first daughter was born, we traveled with her across the USA, through Mexico, Central America, Colombia, the Dominican Republic.

Then when Petra was around two and a half years old we moved to China, and our strategy changed: My wife would work and Petra would go to school and I would travel around by myself doing research for an array of projects. Our first base of operations was in Jiangsu province, the second was in Xiamen. It went on like that for three years. The strategy worked, and for me it presented two very different worlds that I could jump between as I fancied.

Then last June my family made a moved to the USA so my wife could have our second daughter at home. We planned for this one. Well, I tried to avoid the issue for a couple of years, but then my strategy of coincidentally being out of country during potential conception days was uncovered. I drew it out for five months before getting busted — not bad.

Rivka was born on my wife’s mom’s living room floor like her sister. The girls remained there for the next year as I made research trips to China, Central, South, and Southeast Asia, and then Europe.

When Riv was ready to move my wife packed up her bags.

We are testing if three parameters can be met as we try life on the road together again:

1) Are we all having fun?

2) Can we afford it?

3) Can I get all my work finished?

Three weeks later all three are still to be determined. We went from Berlin to Prague to Warsaw to Terespol (on the Belarus border) to Sosnowiec to Krakow to Warsaw to Belgrade, where we’ll probably be for the next month.

Filed under: Europe, Travel Diary, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

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