Dear Daughter: A note to you on Father's Day
To my sweet daughter Kailen,
It's Fathers Day and I'm writing you because I want to you to know a few things. Unfortunately, I can't just tell you right now because you're still too young to grasp their meaning. A few Father's Days will pass between now and when you can understand what I'm trying to convey, so I'll have to write it down or else my thoughts will be lost.
Most of what I want to share has to do with what our life is like right now. You, me and your mom are doing something that most other young families aren't. We're living on the road. We're putting you in a new bed or crib every month or so. We're living this traveling life despite what a lot of people, and most of society, is telling us.
We're living out of backpacks and a couple of suitcases. We're carrying a few of your favorite toys with us too, but we had to get rid of most of them. That part was especially hard. But those toys, in the end, are just things.
The funny thing is, getting over that feeling of guilt when we sold your toys is a huge part of what drove us to take action and plan this open-ended journey in the first place. I personally can't believe it took me 30 years to realize that I'd rather collect experiences and memories than things. I don't think it's a coincidence that I started shifting my outlook when I met your mother, either. So much has changed for me since then. I hope these changes will be for your benefit, sweetheart.
I remember when I was growing up that birthdays and holidays meant there would be presents. Presents made me happy. Actually, I thought presents made me happy. Then my parents, your grandparents, took me and your aunts and uncle on a trip to Ireland when I turned 18. I have vivid memories of that trip to this day, and will for the rest of my life. I remember so many smells, tastes, and sights. I can almost walk through the whole trip in my head. But you know what? I couldn't tell you what I got for Christmas or my birthday that year.
Flash forward to when I met your mom. We started traveling together right when we first met. We constantly had plans. Not just plans to go out of town, but out of state, up the eastern seaboard, down south and to Caribbean islands. I'd never experienced excitement like that before. That's when the travel bug really bit. For our six month dating anniversary, I got your mom a huge world map with our names etched into it where we could pin places we would visit together. I guess I showed her my hand a little early, but I knew we had something special. Maybe I knew from the beginning we were ready for something like this.
Back to our family trip and your first great adventure. People constantly ask your mom and me why we started this endeavor. Sometimes it's not asked explicitly, but we know it's on their mind. People particularly wonder why we're doing this while you're so young. "She'll never remember," some people say. "Europe with a toddler? Are you crazy?" Well, that's alright. And yea, maybe we are a little crazy. We're definitely a little different. We think that's ok.
We'd like to think you'll remember bits and pieces of this one day. If you don't, that's okay, too. We're hoping when you're a teenager you'll get a whiff of fresh bread or taste an extra sweet tomato and you'll rocket back to a long forgotten memory of Italy. We know that's not very likely. We also know you won't understand the significance of what we're doing for quite some time, either. Like I said earlier, it took me years to realize it.
You may not understand much about this trip until you're well into school. You probably won't have the same story as your new classmates. Some kids might think you're different because of it. Whatever effect it has on you, this part of your life will certainly make you unique. We hope it's going to be an advantage for you, no matter what people think.
But as your dad, I'm so excited for you. We both are. We're excited because not all schools have four walls. Together, as a family, we will learn the most important lessons in life, whether it be from talking to new people, experiencing new cultures, exploring new streets, or stepping into someone else's shoes. These are all things I wish I had done more of before now, but at the same time, I'm so excited that I get to do it with you and your mom.
It may seem to some people like we're being selfish. It's the part I've struggled with the most. Maybe it's because you won't always have your own bed, or a huge playroom full of plastic toys, or a Disney DVD collection. I don't know how much of that is important, honestly. And that's okay. We'll make sure you'll have books and a few special things you hold dear. You'll have open spaces and new experiences. You'll have interactions with new people and we'll be sure to get you back to the people you know and love. You will learn to adapt and be stronger for it. You will learn new languages, eat new foods, try new hobbies, and see beautiful views - views people don't see in an entire lifetime - before you turn two.
Hopefully, you'll be curious just like us. Maybe you'll always be a traveler. We've heard this wanderlust thing is genetic, anyway.
Someday, after all of this traveling is past us, we hope you look back on this picture of you above. It's our new, absolute favorite one of you. You'll look back on this one and all the others and have the same smile on your face knowing that you are who you are because of where you've been, and that sits just fine with you.
Love you sweetheart,