Language Barriers_1 (because, duh, there will be many more “episodes” to post)

One of the BEST things about traveling is the language barrier.  For example, when I lived in Paris 1999-2000 there came a moment when I spoke French so well that I really could communicate with anyone. Anyone!  It really was a fine moment in my life.  I had such confidence.  My sweet French roommate Estelle, who contributed greatly to my French learning since she refused to speak English with me (EVER), invited me to go with her to Poitiers, France to visit her grandmother. Now, this is her beloved grandmother. Who she speaks of every single day. This grandmother lived on a working farm where Estelle’s uncles also worked alongside many hired hands.  When we arrived I could tell right away that everyone was really excited that Estelle was there and that she brought her American roommate with her.  They were so curious about me and American culture and American life.  Grandma showed us around the farm, around the house, before we all sat down at three long picnic tables off the kitchen.  Everyone came in from the fields for this lovely lunch with Estelle and her American roommate.  And I had center stage. CENTER!  They asked me about movie stars.  And guns.  And politics.  And Bill Clinton’s escapades.  And then we turned towards calmer waters; what was my own grandmother like? Where did she live? What did she do?  I remarked that many, many things are similar in America.  Everyone was listening to me with rapt attention. They were all slowly eating while I spoke in my magnificent French, “for instance, my grandmother also has freezers like grandma here in France….freezers full of…” (now, I’ll just digress here a moment to tell you a secret–lots of words in French are the same in English, just spoken with a French accent.  Lots of words that end in –ion or –ive for instance. So, because I was so advanced in my French at this moment, I dug around in my brain for the word for food that you freeze. Preservatives. That must be it. Now, back to the story…) …”freezers full of preservatives!” SILENCE.  “Preservatives!”  ODDLY SILENT AND NO EATING.  “PRESERVATIVES!” I now notice that Estelle is bright red and is slowly shaking her head, “non” to me.  Meanwhile I’m thinking, what is wrong with these people?  One of Estelle’s uncles then asks me, in beautiful French, “do they work better that way?” And it is then that I realize that I have been shouting–SHOUTING–“condoms!” “condoms!” “CONDOMS!” at these utterly divine French people.  Needless to say I think the fine people of Poitiers are still laughing about that funny little American who insisted her grandmother had freezers full of condoms.  And, for the record, my own grandmother LOVED that story.   Language barriers.

So, here we are in 2014 and I still haven’t learned much. I scheduled to get my hair cut and colored yesterday and instead of preparing my vocabulary ahead of said adventure, I took a nap. A NAP!  Now, my Spanish is absolutely shit compared to my French and so I didn’t enter the salon with any bravado. In fact, I was quite sheepish because I realized while on the way to the salon I didn’t even know how to say “cut” in Spanish.  Or specific colors to describe the kind of highlights I wanted. Or layers. Or not too short. Or shorter.  Or darker. Or lighter. Or really even WTF are you doing to my head?  So…I did in fact get highlights and a haircut. But…you could say it wasn’t a typical salon experience for me. mmmm.  Not exactly.

xo

addy

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Wanderlust: How I Became a Traveler

People often ask, how did this travel thing begin? Why do you want to travel? Where have you been before? The answer is pretty straightforward. Although I was raised by parents who didn’t have the means to travel my mother had a baby brother and a baby sister who were famous in my household for their international exploits.  This aunt and uncle seemed mythical to me as I grew up–popping in to visit us from around the world where they were studying, traveling, biking, living.  (My uncle lives in Kyoto, Japan and my aunt lived in New Zealand until she died).  I grew up just kind of assuming that I would, at the very least, backpack Europe during college. Taking a backpacking trip seemed obligatory to me as part of my college experience.  And it was.   Except my “one obligatory backpack Europe trip” turned into many, many adventures (and cost me lots and lots of money plus interest as many, many almost all of these adventures were financed).  The summer between my sophomore and junior year of college my childhood best friend Carmen and I took off for 2 months of train travel across Europe with nothing but our backpacks, passports and good American attitudes.  I have more stories from that trip than can fit on this blog and so I’ll keep most of them to myself, for now.  They are typical American backpacking stories and they are extraordinary backpacking stories. But after that first trip, I was hooked.  Like a hormone-driven teenager, I could not get enough--travel, that is.

The following January, I found a cheap ticket from Seattle to Paris ($350 rt) and took off for Paris solo during winter break.  The following March was my 21st birthday and my mom and I celebrated with a vacation to Wales where my (previously mentioned) baby aunt lived.  The following summer I studied abroad with an ASU honors college program for 6 weeks in London, Edinburgh and Dublin.  During our three day weekends I traveled to Wales again, to Glasgow (where my baby aunt had attended veterinarian school and had some good friends who hosted me), to Galway, and, against my professors’ wishes, to Belfast (alone, during July, the month of  the “troubles”).  When the program ended, I backpacked around Eastern Europe.  The following summer I spent A MONTH driving around Ireland and Northern Ireland and that next fall I found myself studying at La Sorbonne in Paris.  I WAS HOOKED.  Seriously.  But here is why I love traveling: cultural capital. Information. Steep learning curves. Perspective. FOOD. PEOPLE. LIFE.

To date, my adventures:

Mexico (duh)

Canada (double duh)

England

Wales

France (favorite)

Italy

Spain

Portugal

Switzerland

Austria

Germany

Netherlands

Hungary

Czech Republic

Poland

Scotland

Ireland

Northern Ireland

Greece

Turkey (second favorite)

New Zealand

Puerto Rico (just foreign enough to count)

Bali

Hong Kong

Fiji

South Africa

Chile

Where next?

My bestie Robin and I have decided that we are going to celebrate our 20 year friendversary (friendship anniversary–why should we only celebrate romantic anniversaries?) by kicking off an annual “girls trip” somewhere fantastically foreign.  Our inaugural trip will also coincide with our 40th birthdays–only a month apart–in the spring of 2016.   Where should we go?

xo

addy

 

Cajón del Maipo

Last weekend we were invited by our new friend Francisco (Josh has a Yakima-based colleague who employs Francisco, a Chilean, to do design work for machines that Josh often sells as complimentary equipment to Giro machines) to spend time with him and his family in Cajón del Maipo—a place worthy of its fame and reputation. We were delighted—both in an escape from the city and the chance to speak lots of Spanish! He traded cars around and he and his girlfriend Jimena even managed to pick up all five of us including all three children in their bulky, big, un-easy American car seats and drive us out to his parent’s home. Now. His parents live on a golden little piece of property that is surrounded by rising hills that look somewhat like Santa Barbara, CA and the outskirts of Phoenix. But somehow prettier and more sensual. They even have a swimming pool and a little yurt separate from the main house where we slept. It was fantastic. It was lovely. It was the kind of weekend that I know we will talk about for the rest of our lives. We were gobbled up by this family. Francisco and his sister (a pediatric neurologist) have yet to bless their parents with grandchildren. Francisco’s mother LOVES children. Before retiring, Christina ran a daycare. She marvels in children. She is warm and loving and funny and everything a foreigner like me wants when I’m struggling to feel like my children are safe and secure. Francisco’s father LOVES children. Victor teased Francisco all weekend about his great need for grandchildren; that all he had left were his dogs. He would take Carter’s hand and they would go and look at the orchard, at the garden, at the pool. Our three children were loved on by the spirit of all grandmas and grandpas from the world over last weekend.

And we needed that. And so did they.

And we needed the wine and the food—THE FOOD!—and the conversation. We had a typically late Chilean BBQ dinner that started at 8:30pm and lasted until far past 10. I even managed to joke and be a bit of myself in Spanish during dinner. Oh, what joy that is! When we finally all got ready to go to bed, Christina asked me what time our kids normally get up in the morning? 6:30. And I said it with regret. Yes, I did. Because I knew this sweet grandma-wanna-be was NOT going to be pleased to get up at that hour. And indeed she proceeded to show me where all of the food was for breakfast so I could help myself in the morning.

We slept in the yurt. Kind of. Those kids. Too excited to be sleeping all in one big room. Big kids in one big bed together. Giggling and carrying on until much, much too late. And of course they made me a liar. They were up at 5:30. FIVE thirty.

And so we boiled some water, drank our Nescafe (Chileans LOVE their instant coffee; we do NOT) and tried to keep the kids quiet and entertained in our yurt. Around 7 I ventured out to the main house and hit the kitchen for cereal bars for the kids and hard boiled eggs for me and Josh. At 8:00 we ventured into the house and sat at the nicely laid breakfast table and had bread, honey, and hard boiled eggs all the while insisting the kids whisper. EVERYONE else in the WHOLE ENTIRE house was STILL ASLEEP.

When Christina got up around 9:00 she asked me what I wanted for breakfast. Because I had not yet learned to speak in the past tense—this was Sunday, I’d learn it at language school Monday—nor did I know how to say “already” I could not, for the life of me, explain to her that I had already eaten breakfast. TWO TIMES.

And so. We had eggs for breakfast For the third time. And I loved them.

Later that day we drove up into the mountains and experienced the awe of the Andes that people always talk about. Francisco’s father Victor had somehow received a special pass to drive up into a normally closed area where there were no people, no traffic, no houses, just a long straight road straight up a canyon that seemed to go forever. There were herds of goat and sheep, guarded by dogs but no people. There was the constant muddy river flowing beside the gravel road. The Andes are barren, dramatic, and shocking mountains that seem to rise straight up from the floor with no warning, no foothills. They angle upwards in dangerous and awesome ways. The colors of the rocks are breathtaking. These aren’t my mountains. They aren’t my husband’s. We are children born of the Colorado Rockies and the lush Washington Cascades. And still. These mountains are so severe and desolate and incredible. We saw Andean Condors—several—and could not believe how massive they were. We stumbled upon a ghost town with one lone tree and terrace upon terrace of beautifully made stone staircases that led nowhere. I was quite taken by the staircases. I marveled at them. They were so beautifully made and were literally all that was left of what must have been a village built for workers—long since departed. Christina had, of course, packed a delicious picnic lunch and we ate under the unforgiving skies of the South American sunshine, shifting to stay in the shade of the tree.

We slept all the way back to Christina and Victor’s. And then we all swam in the chilly pool in the late afternoon sun and smiled long and slow smiles. And I wanted to hold that weekend in my mind forever. And I hope I do.

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A Rant. A Shift.

So, here’s the deal, I’ve traveled before. And by travel, I mean, TRAVEL.   20 countries? 30? I’m not sure. But I’ve been out and about in the world before and so my complete and utter cavalier attitude about our trip to Santiago? Warranted, right? I’ll also freely admit that every time some asshole friend of ours would suggest we were biting off more than we could chew I’d get even MORE cavalier and MORE certain it would all be fine. Your doubts are like a dare to me.

But, so, I can be humble. I can admit when I’m wrong.

We had three surprisingly easy flights: Yakima-Seattle-Dallas-Santiago.   Our kids are 15 months, 4 and 5.5 years old and they were CHAMPIONS. They never screamed, slept most of the 10 hour flight to Santiago and were, in general, great sports. Our first clue that Chileans love children is when we were ushered through a VIP line for passport control ahead of hundreds of other weary travelers. Seriously. The government agent GUSHED over our kids. If she had stickers or suckers she would have handed them out. Have you ever gone through passport control anywhere ever and had them be more than stern and unpleasant looking? Me neither.

Grabbed our bags, our kids, found our van, got to our apartment and snacked and slept.

Then we looked around a bit. And I slowly began to disintegrate. And by disintegrate I mean uncharacteristic, debilitating anxiety. I couldn’t stay in the apartment; I couldn’t leave the apartment; my kids aren’t safe; we’re ruining our kids; how can we live here; I can’t sleep; I’m starving; the food is gross; where is all the good fucking food?; there’s going to be an earthquake; why won’t the kids behave? Is this what culture shock feels like? Is it because of my advanced age, as my husband has humorously suggested? I’m no longer some freewheeling 20something hitchhiking in Turkey. WHAT IS THIS FEELING?

The apartment is in a very undesirable part of town. Noisy, dirty, poor, lots of construction, tiny sidewalks and ridiculously fast traffic. Reasonable for me to have some anxiety, right? Have you ever met my 5yo son? The one who can be standing perfectly still and all of a sudden he is sprawled on the ground four feet away because, well, because he’s a puppy-boy and his feet got in the way or there was a grasshopper or …? And here we are walking down narrow sidewalks with no barrier to extremely fast traffic and he doesn’t understand why his mother is losing her shit mind about him not holding her hand.

Or our daughter Quin. Oh, lovely Quin. Boundaries you say? Let me push them. And the mellowest baby in the world who takes two naps and goes to bed with no crying, no fussing? Not sure where she disappeared to. So, we’ve had some rough moments with our otherwise darling children.

The apartment is small. Ok, we can live with that. But it is also UNSAFE for our kids. Here’s something I never thought of before Santiago…how unsafe is an 11th story balcony to three adventurous children? Or big bedroom windows with no screens that open up to…AIR 11 floors up? Especially when we need to open said windows as it gets hotter and hotter and hotter here in spring-summer Santiago? Yeah, you can see why it is reasonable for me to have some anxiety.

These past 10 days have been surreal. The layers of culture shock are many: jet lag, enormous city, different language, different culture, tiny apartment, new schools, bus, metro, walking, walking, walking, dog poop everywhere, eating out almost every dinner (because we’re not creative enough to cook in our teeny, tiny, miniscule kitchen), grocery shopping (where I’ve found ONE gluten free thing), upset kids and whacked out (yeah, that’s the best descriptor I could come up with) parents. I walk around all day wondering what is wrong with me. Here I am in Santiago feeling like I need to be medicated because all of a sudden keeping my children safe and alive seems ENORMOUS. And I’m supposed to relax long enough to LEARN SPANISH and ENJOY MYSELF?

YEAH RIGHT!

The best three hours of the day are in our Spanish immersion school where I have discovered I LOVE learning. And guess what, Spanish is similar to French. Our kids are in a lovely daycare a 15 minute walk away and they are adjusting well. Of course, I bawled like a baby the first day I dropped them off until I realized they were safe and happy.

Most importantly, Chileans are friendly and interested in us. Every day someone stops to talk with us, to learn about us, to help us. EVERYONE loves our kids. I have slowly repeated “estoy aprendiendo espanol” everywhere I go prior to muddling out a half English, half Spanish sentence. People are so willing to help and correct my sentences and repeat and repeat and repeat when necessary. They have a twinkle in their eye as I slowly state my needs or interests. Almost every word that comes out of my mouth though seems to first form itself in French, then English, and then finally Spanish.   And we LOVE SPANISH and the kids are starting to speak it organically.

We are solution oriented. We’ve found a new, much larger apartment with a balcony and windows that have safety nets (common here in Santiago) and is in a much nicer neighborhood and walking distance to both schools.   Next week we will not walk 15 minutes, take a bus for 15 minutes, then walk another 15 minutes to school every morning and every afternoon (yeah, ok, so I also underestimated the stress of commuting).   I’m ok with the fact that I’m not a badass traveler anymore; it’s ok that I want to be in a shiny part of town where we all feel safer and happier.

We are laughing again. My husband is all of a sudden really funny again. My kids are endearing again. I’m sleeping. We just ordered sushi for delivery again (baby steps). My husband and I sit and do homework together every night. It’s kind of cute. We are embracing being the village idiots. We are living inside Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day (please read it if you love me). We just calculated that if all five of us in our Spanish class were let loose in the city that together we’d manage to speak Spanish almost as well as a small child, maybe not a school aged child, but for sure a preschooler.

Sushi is here. Spanish homework after. And tomorrow will be even better.

The TO DO list

Type-A, you think?

  • How much are plane tickets? This is the greatest line item cost in our total budget. We opted to buy the tickets instead of using miles but with better planning we could have easily used miles for 2-3 of our 5 plane tickets. Miles needed to fly to South America are considerably less than miles needed to fly to Europe. At one point a round trip miles ticket was only 40,000 miles. It took us literally months to decide on our plane tickets and purchase them. Yes, sometimes we have analysis paralysis.
  • Get all of the kids their own frequent flier numbers since they’ll now have some serious miles to record (and later use).
  • Order a gluten free meal for my flights.
  • Arrange a shuttle from the Santiago airport to our Santiago apartment.
  • Figure out our cell phones and how to use them there with SIM cards or rent a new Chilean phone upon arrival. Turn off all the appropriate roaming settings on our iPhones so we don’t have enormous charges on accident.
  • How much does it cost to rent an apartment? It varies but some are as inexpensive as $400/month up to several thousand depending on size and location.
  • How do we rent an apartment—through an agency? VRBO? Airbnb? We went with Airbnb and rented a furnished 3 bedroom apartment with a gym and a pool, 900 sq ft for $900/m.
  • Ask our apartment host to do some light grocery shopping for us so when we arrive with three tired kids around noon Santiago time after 20 hours of travel we can feed them a banana and put them down for a nap.
  • Ask our apartment host to help us locate and buy a pack-n-play and high chair for the baby so we don’t have to bring ours.
  • First, what will we pack our things into? Big bulky suitcases will NOT fit in our apartment once we arrive but duffel bags are easily folded and tucked away. Buy five big duffel bags? Heck no! We have two and borrowed three from friends. We made an exhaustive packing list (bandaids, for example) and “practice packed” for one child to see what kind of room we’ll need. It is summer where we are going and we will pack 7-10 days’ worth of clothes for the kids and then obviously just do laundry. All three kids’ stuff may even fit into one duffel bag. I reserve the right to my own full duffel bag because I want some fashion options, duh. The good news is if we pack light and find we really need something we’ll just go shopping. Yay!!
  • Do we need visas? If so, what kind and what is the cost? (Luckily the USA and Chile JUST signed a reciprocity visa agreement so we don’t have to buy visas upon landing—saving us over $500)
  • How much does language school cost, what is a reputable one, where is it located, how many hours a week can we study, how many weeks can we afford/tolerate? I did a TON of research and landed on ECELA. We signed up for three weeks with an option to extend for four more weeks with the contingency that they had to help us find a playschool for our kids to attend while we’re at school.
  • Do all the necessary paperwork and entrance exams for our language school.
  • Where will our kids go while we are in language school? What will benefit them the most in terms of language acquisition and cultural exposure—day care or nanny? We opted for daycare arranged through our language school.
  • How will we get around Santiago? Bus? Subway? Both?
  • Where will we vacation while in Chile and how will we get there? This is always tricky because I think the tendency may be to do what’s popular in any given locale versus doing and seeing what you really care about. For instance, Patagonia seems like an obvious “must visit while living in Chile” proposition and yet it’s over 20 hours away by car. Or five plane tickets. Plus, what will we do there? Not go hiking/trekking for five days. So, maybe we’ll just have to miss Patagonia this time. Same with Easter Island and the Atacama Desert. One tip for successful traveling in a conscious space of abundance is to imagine that this is the first of many trips instead of trying to see and do everything as though Chile will soon disappear. If you love it, you’ll make time and space in the future to return. Likely we’ll stay within an 8 hour car drive from Santiago and still get our fill of fascinating places and people.
  • Do we need any special vaccinations? (typhoid and Hepatitis A—no surprise that our insurance wouldn’t cover them so that was an additional $350 on the budget)
  • Get everyone their flu shots
  • Get supplies for all medicines, vitamins and supplements we currently take or may need (Cipro for traveler’s diarrhea for example). We are bringing our kids’ nebulizer and related medications just in case. Santiago is known for its bad air.
  • How do we arrange to pull our two oldest kids out of school (preschool and kindergarten)? Evidently this is no big deal at this stage of our little kids’ lives as preschool is clearly not mandatory and kindergarten isn’t either in our state.
  • How do we have our preschooler’s seat at school held for her at her private preschool?
  • Should we get a house sitter or rent out our house fully furnished?
  • Who are good house sitter candidates?
  • Make enormous house sitter information list.
  • Make adjustments to home security system for house sitter.
  • Make adjustments to home warranty for house sitter.
  • Winterize our house and yard.
  • If we rent the house, who will take our dog?
  • How to get all of our regular bills paid while we’re gone? Signed up all of our regular bills to be paid automatically through our bank or through the company’s own website.
  • Who will collect our mail and how will we “see” it while we are gone? (We are face timing with our house sitter weekly just in case something comes in the mail that is urgent—like our mortgage being sold to a new company necessitating our bill pay needing to be immediately changed—that happened recently).
  • How will we collect rent from our renter and monitor our rental property?
  • Who will drive our vehicles while we’re away. We farmed them out to close friends who either need or want an extra vehicle.
  • Change the minivan tires to winter tires.
  • Change our auto insurance deductibles to a lower amount, just in case our friends have an accident.
  • We set up a Power of Attorney with a close friend in town giving him authority to deal with all insurance claims or issues with our vehicles or our home or our rental property, collect rent and deal with any issues with the rental property.
  • Suspend my gym membership
  • Get our son outfitted in a spare pair of glasses (or two).
  • Order Chilean pesos to take with us.
  • Get a credit card that does not charge international use fees.
  • Register all five of us with the U.S. Department of State. In all my years traveling the globe I have NEVER done this but I am grateful we did it this time.
  • Inform all of our credit card and banking companies of our travel plans.
  • Make photocopies of all of our passports and credit/debit cards, just in case.
  • Practice earthquake drills with the kids. They think this is hilarious!
  • Buy a new camera to document our trip. We opted for a GoPro which is pretty awesome when we strap it onto our kids and let them loose in the world.
  • Inform our parents of all of our travel details.

Certainly we’ve forgotten something. Can you think of anything?

Sabbatical versus Vacation

We are going to Chile for a sabbatical, which is markedly different than a vacation. While I’m certain we’ll have FUN, we are expending this intense amount of time, energy and money because we want to LEARN and expose ourselves to a different culture, land, history, language. I’ve been on a lot of vacations. Mostly they are relaxing and fun and interesting (well, maybe not really relaxing when we take our children with us, but still…). But what I’m after in life is an increased learning curve. Unfortunately, it makes my teeth ache (from the grinding smile) when people say, “oh, have a fun time on vacation.” I want to reply, “if you sent your daughter to college for a semester would you say ‘have fun’? or would you say something more like ‘this is going to be an intense education, life, cultural experience for you—learn A LOT and embrace it!’”? (and don’t waste my money goofing off and failing your classes!).

Right?

RIGHT!

Of course, I realize that these kind people are simply expressing good will towards our voyage and that sadly this expression really shows how fundamentally strange it is in American culture to take a break from the constant hamster wheel of life and work and learn something new. They don’t know what else to say. Most people honestly look at our family like we’re strange creatures because we are doing something that, “I could never do.” Which is surprising and challenging because I think—due to some awesome training and coaching over the years—that most people can do anything they want if they’re willing to pay the price. And by price, I mean far more than money. Sacrifice and drive and getting clear about what you really want in life. We’ve all just become SO accustomed to our own ritual of life (and fear and limitations) that we don’t fiddle with the system to make the system work for us. I learned a LONG time ago how to make the system work for me, but more on that later.

Most people associate sabbaticals with college professors who take a year away from teaching to do involved research or write a book. That said, several US Companies offer sabbaticals to employees and indeed even a law firm here in Yakima, Washington offers a sabbatical/work break for partners.

The concept of sabbatical actually originates in the Bible (Genesis, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Exodus). Leviticus 25 commands that people, animals and land work for six years but on the seventh year they all rest. I’m not particularly religious but even I can see that this kind of scheduled break might be great for your spirit AND your work. In modern time sabbaticals exist so that people can go out into the world and do something profound like write a book, learn a language, travel extensively or learn a new skill that will advance their career or their life. It’s been a LONG time since I sat in a classroom trying to learn something new but soon I will be one again as I take up 20 hours of language school alongside my husband in Santiago. Our kids will be the biggest beneficiaries. Their little worlds are about to be rocked in a very big way. They’ll be in playschool for 20 hours a week with Chilean children while we toil away in our classroom. I have assured them that their little brains are mightily more powerful than ours and that they’ll be translating for us within a week. It will be thrilling. And exhausting. And there will be times when we curse our crazy selves. When we’ll hate, hate, hate Chile and the language and the learning. But more frequently (I hope) we’ll be in love with our adventure and fulfilled in ways we cannot even imagine right now.

AND. We’ll make time during our sabbatical to go on vacation a few times!

Family Sabbatical

In four short weeks we are leaving for Santiago, Chile. My husband, me and our three small children (ages 1, 4, and 5.5) will live there for nine weeks to learn Spanish (or at least get a good start) and immerse ourselves in the culture. Our family learning sabbatical is one of the greatest gifts we will ever give our children, and ourselves.

Here’s how it started.

In the fall of 2012 we found ourselves pretty content. And by content I mean we had a good rhythm and everything seemed if not easy, well, pretty darn manageable. Marriage, work, kids, life was comfortable. We were in between babies (planning but not yet pregnant with our third and final child). But here’s the deal, I don’t think my husband and I “do” comfortable very well. We get itchy. We start dreaming and planning. By that I mean that we are kind of addicted to learning curves. We’ve both had our fair share of learning curves—both what has come at us through the course of life and the deliberate choices we’ve made. We found ourselves in the fall of 2012 craving something extraordinary. Around the same time my husband casually commented to me, “if we don’t learn Spanish, we’ll be like our parents with iPhones.” Our parents are not terribly tech savvy. They are somewhat ill prepared for the tech-centered world we live in. Josh and I can see—through the community we live in, our careers and the very real statistical data—that Spanish is going to be not only important, but likely necessary, in our future. And certainly in our children’s futures. We also feel very strongly about the advantages to the brain when second and third languages are introduced early in life. We desperately want the world to be more open to our children and the opportunities and choices for college, for work, and for life to be vastly wider and deeper than it has been for us.

And so we started talking about a BIG adventure. Now, I’ll be honest, nine weeks in Santiago is NOT the first iteration of this dream. Indeed, we discussed at length taking an entire year off—from work, America, our house, our stuff—and moving to Chile. Josh wanted to leave IMMEDIATELY but alas within days of our first real and in-depth discussion of Chile we realized I was pregnant—yay!—and so I negotiated more time for planning. Though entirely possible, I did not want to give birth in Chile or spend any of the baby’s first year there. I wanted my Yakima village of doctors and friends and support. Plus, there were SO MANY THINGS to do in order for this dream to come together.

The first thing to do? Ask Josh’s boss for a sabbatical.

This item seems to be the biggest “WTF?” when we tell people about our sabbatical. No, we aren’t professors but quite frankly, sabbaticals are not that rare. Several large U.S. companies give sabbaticals to long-time employees (Intel, Motorola, Starbucks), and even a local law firm gives partners sabbaticals. Once we crunched the numbers and figured out we could manage a sabbatical financially, Josh approached his boss and told them our dream. Really, that’s what he did. He told them about our passion to learn Spanish, for the adventure, for the doors we believe it will open in our children’s brains. And they said yes. We are going during the slowest time of the year and Josh will delegate work to colleagues and “be available” via phone and email for anything urgent that comes up. We’ll be totally plugged in technologically speaking while in Chile and he already deals with time differences as we’re in Washington State and his company is headquartered in Georgia and Barcelona, Spain. Now, for those of you who cannot wrap your heads around taking that length of leave consider this: most professional women I know have done it at least two times. It’s called maternity leave. Organizations survive for 12 weeks and so does the employee.

I’ll also say that we’ve been strategic in our lives to create as much liberty as possible. We’ve pursued careers and a lifestyle that grants us a lot of liberty so that we can make a choices like this. We’ve certainly sacrificed to have this liberty in a variety of ways.

Why Chile? Ask Josh. It’s someplace he has always wanted to visit. He’s drawn to Chile. If this were my dream we’d be packing up our lives to move to France for the indefinite future. I lived in Paris years ago and I always assumed that France would be our adventure. I’ll concede though that Spanish will be more useful but France is still on our horizon. Learning Spanish makes me feel like such a cheat. I constantly feel like I’m cheating on French while I learn Spanish. How can I have two loves? My brain has capacity for both, I hope.

And so, here we go!