When Travel is Torture: Adjusting your Expectations and Comfort Levels

We flew out of Baltimore on a 7 pm flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. Final destination Amsterdam, Netherlands. I deliberately planned this flight as a sleeping overnight flight. By leaving at bedtime I thought for sure that my children would sleep and wake up magically refreshed in Amsterdam…I know you can see where this is going. The children did sleep three of the five hours of the first flight, but when they woke up to enter the Schengen security in Iceland they did not go back to sleep on the second flight. Instead, they spent four hours making best buddies with an Icelandic farmer who had pictures of her ponies.

At this point, you are probably wondering what I did, but the answer is nothing. Gauging what is within my control versus what definitely is not is one of the most challenging parts of traveling. When we landed in Amsterdam I had some very irritable children that were then struck in the face with fierce cold and a very long wait for our bags. The result is the photo below, my oldest son falling asleep with his pack on next to the baggage carousel.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectation and comfort levels

Adjusting Your Expectations

As Americans, we tend to look at Europe with eyes studded in gemstones. Everything about Europe seems glamorous because “only the wealthy can afford to go.” Europe is not as glamorous as we believe it to be. Actually, most Europeans are prone to believing the same about America because as Americans we live in a land of convenience. Most of Europe is without the conveniences that most Americans take for granted. Also, many Europeans do not think twice about what they are missing because it is the way it has always been. They have always been without certain amenities and therefore don’t need them.

As an American coming from a home that has things like a microwave, dishwasher, and dryer there was a learning curb for me on how to run a house well without those things. I was humbled and empowered, but FIRST I was made very uncomfortable. I had to find extra time in my day for things like hanging laundry. When a child was hungry after the meal had been cleared away, I had to re-dirty dishes in order to heat leftovers back up on the stove top. It was not easy if anything it was frustrating.

How My Comfort Levels Changed

Now, I find myself hand washing dishes because it’s the natural next step. I find myself wishing for sunny clothesline weather. There is an adjustment period when you travel. It is very possible to find places that accommodate those standards, but it is not the norm and definitely not an authentic European experience. You will also pay heavily for amenities like that.

Instead, I challenge you to make cost-effective plans that allow for a lot of learning. It will give you a plethora of stories to tell. Some of those stories are really funny now that I have amenities at my disposal again, but mostly I now miss the simplicity that is spending extra time caring for your things. It sounds silly, but you appreciate your belongings more when you spend that additional time caring for them.

Adjusting Comfort Levels

We finally made it to Denmark via train and then had two bus connections before we were dropped off at the beginning of a road leading through farming fields in a blizzard.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectations and comfort levels

In this photo, you cannot see the snow blowing sideways. You cannot see the child in front of me crying nor can you hear my elderly grandmother cursing my name. There’s also a child on my back and one following me crying about his gloves not fitting right.

We are walking to house number 71, the first residence we come across on this road is number 4. . . This is the type of situation that I spent months researching trying to avoid. This photo was one of the scarier days. This was early on in my Euro trip and there was no food at our destination so I had to turn around in the cold and hike back to the nearest market in the snow.

It Doesn’t Always Go According to Your Plan

Sometimes, despite your researching efforts, the dots don’t connect perfectly. I was told the bus would take us right down the road from the hostel. It did not. I was told the weather would be a low of 54 degrees. It wasn’t. There were no taxis, no uber, no help to be found so we did the only thing we could and we walked. We were wet, cold, highly uncomfortable in a country where we didn’t even know the word for “hi.”

It all worked out, but that day I definitely had to do a few things that I never want to do again in the name of adjusting my expectations and comfort levels. Now, I can laugh hysterically at the entire experience, but only because we survived. This particular experience would begin the conditioning that I needed to withstand many uncomfortable situations in the months to come.

When Travel is Torture you Adjust and Overcome

As cliche as it sounds, there are very few things in this life that come easily and without discomfort. I am confident that many of you have done something that really really sucked in the name of getting the job done. Traveling is ALWAYS worth it, but if you are anything like me, you need to cut costs where you can. I could have rented a car. I could have hired a car and driver. I could have taken a $60 taxi, but I didn’t. Instead, I  mapped out my plan and didn’t plan on awful weather and country roads.

Things happen. They will happen if you choose the adventurous route. That is part of the adventure. Adjust your expectations of what the world owes you and focus more energy on what it doesn’t and you will suddenly have lower expectations. You will also have a much better time if you lower your expectations. Enjoy the journey no matter the weather or road and get out there.


Foreign Feelings

I have been trying to write this post for quite a long time. It is a difficult subject because I do not want the whole post to appear negative, nor do I want anyone to think that we aren’t having a wonderful time, but this post needs to be written as well. Everything about raising three children ages 5 and under is difficult, I would be down right lying if I said that was easy, even with 21st century amenities. Here, abroad, I am attempting to survive and thrive in this parenting thing without things like; dryers, dishwashers, cooking utensils, English speaking friends, sports and a yard. I love living abroad, but I do not love every moment and the kids definitely do not love every moment. This post is about the realities of full time traveling on our emotions. 


Recently, I discovered this acronym F.E.A.R Feel Everything and Realign. Unlike so many of the military acronyms that I am constantly surrounded by, even when abroad, this acronym has been fueling my strength for days now. It may be the best way to describe this experience for those not experiencing it and visualizing through my facebook and instagram posts. Everyday abroad I feel great joy for the opportunity to expose these children to a world outside of the gates of Camp Lejeune. Everyday I feel like I am failing as a homeschooling mom (Lux is having a very hard time). Every day I feel brave, strong and usually incredibly lonely. Everyday I hear Lux say he wants to go ‘home’ to a home that doesn’t exist for us anymore and I question whether or not he will be better or worse for this experience later. Everyday I ease drop on English speaking conversations in the hopes that they will speak to me and I’ll get that adult interaction in my native tongue that I so desperately need. Everyday I see something new in a location that I adore and it recharges my motivation tanks for the next day. 

I’m only able to write this now because it took my mother visiting and her asking the hard questions for me to be able to put into words the holistic experience here. I would do this again, absolutely. I would do it differently for sure. A huge part of this year of travel was to jump feet first into the deep in and learn how to swim abroad with small children. I have learned SO MUCH. A lot of it has been learned in a very difficult way. I expected that and as a result I am better armed to make future plans, but again I would be lying if I pretended that this was easy. So for the sake of giving a full picture I’m going to give you an update on each member of this mottly crew as we are all feeling everything and realigning (F.E.A.R) differently. 


Updates on the Bradbury Boys

Luxor: Lux is a difficult guy to figure out. This is what I know; he considers ‘home’ anywhere that includes Greg so in his mind that is North Carolina. He is incredibly smart, but hates all school work. He is also super lazy when it comes to my attempts at unschooling so he is going to have to adjust somewhere. He has learned to read, but ‘doesn’t want to.’ He wants friends, but does not want to put forth any measure of effort to make them and mostly he only enjoys what I refer to as vacation days. So the days where we do touristy type activities. Simultaneously, he is the first person to walk up to people on the beach and tell them that he full time travels and is a worldschooler. He basically brags about it and basks in the attention it gets him. I think he will benefit the most from this experience, long term as he will be the one that remembers the most. 


Rhodes: Rhodes is easily pleased. He requires spaghetti and the beach and he is typically happy. He misses friends and daddy the most, but plays very well on his own and enjoys planning our next weeks, months and moves with me. He is doing so well with school work and getting more efficient at many things. He is my child that notices the boats, animals, people, buildings and seems so enjoy the culture like his mama. 


Atlas: Mister A.J. is growing in leaps and bounds. He is a foodie, loves all the Greek food. His favorite thing is the beach and videos from daddy. I do feel like this was a strange age to travel with him as he would greatly benefit from toys and social interaction right now. I am having to seek out ways to stimulate him for this portion of our trip because he is bored. He knows almost as much Greek as he does English. He is ‘speaking’ non stop, but only about six words are actually understandable by anyone other than me. 


Mama: I am almost as busy as I’ve ever been. I am trying to pump out a couple of blog posts a week, lesson planning based on our location, I took on a project as a columnist for Daily Mom Military Magazine and now have four articles due per month and deadlines. . .I am also in charge of the finances for the first time in our marriage. Trying to cook abroad, running a house that isn’t mine, moving out of our house in the u.s. and trying to be a decent friend and wife to boot. I am also neck deep in research for my upcoming project in Italy. The most difficult part is trying to keep all of these children happy. I feel that I have to be loving the experience every single day in order for anyone else to enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure on me to put the smile on so to speak and realign my feeling quickly. I have a gypsy heart, I love traveling, I love seeing the kids light up with curiosity and wonder, I love fueling their little passions with real life experiences. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am already planning the next huge trip. I love this journey for it’s beautiful and ugly moments.

Feelings of Freedom

The things going right and the things going wrong are about even, which is how it would be in the states as well. Rarely is everyone happy regardless of where we are. I am at peace with that realization. I have come to the realization that it is ok if some days I am the only happy one. There are many times that this journey feels selfish because I am the one that wants to live abroad and the one that ultimately made this choice. We are trying to find our balance between mama’s dreams, well rounded happy children and worldly children full of wonder and compassion for everyone and everything on this earth. We will get there and this extended trip has given me a better idea of what ‘balance’ may look like in a few years. 

Soon, I will be writing an article titled “Living vs. Vacationing.” where I will go more in depth as to how our days are organized and how we find the balance between being tourists and wanting to be locals. For now we are focusing on taking in as many experiences as possibly and feeling everything and realigning for the next adventure.