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living a dream: chapter 1


Since the first days we held Oliver and two years later, Lucy, Paul and I held a dream to someday travel with our family to another country for an extended period of time. Back then, at the very beginning of our journey as parents, everything was new and everything was possible.

Fast-forward twelve years, to the cafeteria at North Junior High, to the parent information night for incoming seventh graders.  I was sitting in a metal folding chair, surrounded by other parents of incoming seventh graders, watching the “Where Everyone Belongs” (WEB) video, ugly-crying in the semi-darkness, astonished that Oliver is already in junior high.

I came home, walked into our kitchen, and accosted Paul as he was cutting vegetables.

The time is now. 

He kept cutting. For what?

To travel with our family.

He stopped cutting.

It is easy to dream when it is years away and in abstract. Standing at the doorway of a dream is a different story. There is never a swath of money, waiting in the underwear drawer to be spent.  It is never convenient to find care for four chickens, one cat, two dogs, and some fish, as well as a house and two independently-owned businesses. Nor is there ever a space of time that magically opens up and makes it easy to leave your life for an extended period of time.

It is way easier to back away from that door. After all, big dreams come with big risk, and over the years, we had grown comfortable with our lives. In fact, we loved our lives and didn’t want to throw a wrench in things and screw up.

Our dream brought us to the edge of our comfort zones, but the urgency of life and the swift passing of time pulsed through me, pushing us forward, through both his and my fears.

When Paul said things like, What if my business stops?  What if we end up going into debt and we can’t recover? and What if we go broke? I held my own billowing fears inside, and with bold tone reassured him, We are going to be fine!

I wasn’t exactly sure of it myself, but I knew we had to do it.

Paul and I are two scrappy, resourceful people, so I didn’t worry about the practical things he worried about.  Instead, I feared the more nebulous things, such as, What if the plane crashes over the Pacific?  What if one of the kids gets hurt or sick?  What if Dharma (our 12-year-old blue healer) dies while we are overseas?

As the months passed, scary what if’s dancing in our heads, we forged ahead, one step at a time:

First we picked the date we would leave and the date we would return.

Then we checked with Oliver and Lucy’s schools to determine what we needed to do to pull them out for six weeks.

Then we bought our plane tickets.

Forward we walked toward Uncertainty, carrying both the weight of our fears and the beauty and lightness of our dreamscape.


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living a dream: prologue


At the end of December, 1995, I left the snow-filled streets of Minneapolis with a backpack, $500 cash in the back pocket of my Levi’s, and a work visa, and boarded a plane to Australia. I was 23 years old.

I had never been out of the country, except for a stint in Mexico my senior year of high school, and I had just graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in journalism and no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I had time on my hands and dreams in my heart. I wanted to see the world.  And learn how to surf.

I intended to travel for three months and ended up staying a year. I would have stayed longer, but the lady who worked at Qantas Airlines told me if I didn’t leave by December 30, 1996, my flight would expire.

As my plane departed New Zealand, through which I hitchhiked for a month at the tail end of my year in the Southern Hemisphere, I vowed that I would return to that magnificent country with my someday-family.

22 years later, on January 2, 2018, I boarded a plane to New Zealand with my family–my husband, our 12-year-old son, and our 10 year-old-daughter, and we spent six weeks rambling through the North and South Islands of New Zealand in a camper van.

This is the story of living a dream…(stay tuned)


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