....and it's growing bigger every day.
Tomorrow marks four weeks until we leave Norway and start our journey back to Canada, with a three week stopover in the UK.
The countdown has definitely begun.
Holy Moly, I am not ready for my gap year to end.
When we started this adventure, I knew there'd be ups and downs. I expected things to not always go as planned, and for there to be days when I'd wish we'd never set out to do this year abroad.
But y'all - there's not been enough downs! We've enjoyed this time much too much for me to want it to end.
And by enjoyed I don't just mean our trips to Copenhagen, Kiel, Cyprus, Prague, Berlin, Manchester or the Alps. Although they were wonderful, and served as great reminders of all the things Europe has to offer.
But as awesome as those trips were, they are not first and foremost in my mind, when I reflect on the past 8 months. Instead, it is clear to me that the most valuable lesson I will take with me from this trip is learning to appreciate the gift of time.
Time to just be. Either by myself, or with my boys. On a Cypriot beach or at the kitchen table.
Time to really look at the child, as he tells the same joke for the 10th time, and, instead of getting annoyed that he's not done eating yet so I can go do laundry, focus on the cheekiness that emanates from his eyes, watch the eyebrows bop up and down as he excitedly waits for his brother to collapse on the floor with laughter.
I belong to the school of living life in a mad scramble, always trying to squeeze as many things into the day as possible. Every moment is an opportunity to do. Whether it be host an extra dinner party or wash another load of laundry, no time should be left unused.
This transition to life in the slow lane has been quite the eye-opener to me, and I've come to the conclusion that I like it! I don't have a lot of patience to begin with, so anything that makes me more patient is really a benefit, especially for the boys. And slowing things down a notch or two does make me more patient.
As an extra bonus, Mike and I have survived 8 months together. And by together I mean every.single.day. And not only have we survived, we've thrived, rediscovering each other's quirks (well, his quirks, anyway - I am perfect of course. Except for the patience thing), going for walks when the boys are at school, watching movies.
Heck, we even grocery shop together now, and [voice gushing with pride] Mike has become a Champion Grocery Bagger! I'm sure he'd beat any Loblaws cashier blindfolded with an arm tied behind his back.
Of course one of the real highlights of this trip has been spending so much time with our family, both Mike's in the UK (whom we'll see more of shortly), and mine here in Scandinavia. All those trips to the cottage have rarely been unaccompanied, and the few weekends spent in the lowlands have usually included visiting cousins, parents or siblings.
So it's with very mixed feelings that we now start packing up our belongings to take with us back to North America.
But of course, it is not all bad. We are all excited to catch up with our friends, many of whom have done an exceptional job of keeping in touch with us while we've been away.
We are also looking forward to living in our own house again (despite B boy's claim that he doesn't remember it), and finally getting the much anticipated kitchen and floor reno completed. The boys can't wait to swim in the pool again, although I don't know if they realize they'll still have to wait a few weeks after our return for that to happen!
Personally, I am also looking forward to once again living in a country where you can actually go out to eat meals without bankrupting yourself. Daily cooking for the last 8 months has been a hard thing to get used to, Beck and Katie's awesome recipe blogs notwithstanding, and I'm ready for a bit of a break. Not to mention food slightly more exotic than Mexican. Dim sum, anyone?
I realize we've been living in a bit of a time-warp, with minimal external pressures or stresses, and while I fully expect us to slip back into the Autobahn of fast living, if we are able to maintain just a little bit of the zen-like calm of these past months, then we're already ahead of the game.
Many of you have expressed a wish to do a similar trip with your family. To those of you with such dreams, I can only in the strongest words possible encourage you to DO IT!
If you can swing the expenses (and I will not kid you - it is a very expensive investment in your quality of life) and are willing to risk the potential career hit, then I can almost guarantee that you will not regret it. It really is mind-altering to watch the rat race from the sidelines for a few months.
So much so, that I'm already planning our next break a few years down the line. How does six months to a year on the beaches of Hawaii sound to you?