Mar 31, 2008

I Have A Knot In My Tummy

....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?

57 comments:

Stomper Girl said...

I think it's fantastic that you've had such a fabulous stay, and that you will have a really treasured memories of the Norway year. Especially since you've made such a great blog out of it. I hope you will keep blogging once you're back on the Autobahn....

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Oh Heidi, can it really be that time? So glad you enjoyed it and learned that a slower life is not such a bad thing. Good luck with your packing :)

Amber said...

I have loved getting to know you and your adventures. What a wonderful experience you have given to yourself and your family.

But now I can't wait to hear about your bad self's life back in the Motherland. All good things must come to an end, I guess!

Lisa @ Take90West said...

I will meet you in Hawaii!

I just caught up on all your posts from this week...I can't believe your time in Norway is coming to an end. Makes me a little sad. :(

jenontheedge said...

You've had such an amazing eight months and I'm sure these memories will still be discussed when your boys are adults. The important thing is to take some Norway home with you and try to inject it into your Canadian life.

(Four days until we leave!)

Kyla said...

It sounds SO wonderful. I'm really glad you guys had this special time and I bet heading home will be pretty tough!

Karen MEG said...

Heidi, I can't believe it's gone by so quickly, it does seem like just yesterday that you and Mike were having your grocery bagging competition the first few weeks!

I suspect this time with your family has changed you in subtle ways; life back here doesn't have to go at such a breakneck speed. I'll be here to help you slow it down (yah, right!)

We've been taking stock a bit; I'm so behind the hubs if he ever has opportunities in Europe or California. One can dream.

And Hawaii, I will stuff myself into one of your bags.

the dragonfly said...

Wow, I can't believe your time in Norway is almost over!! I hope the transition goes well for you..

p.s. Sorry I haven't commented in so long. I've been reading.....

Mrs. G. said...

I think it is so cool that you have loved your year so deeply. Hawaii sounds delightful.

katydidnot said...

you grocery shop together...that says it all. well done.

Dawn said...

I can't tell you how much your blog has inspired me these past few months that I've been reading. You will have so many wonderful memories to take home with you. I don't doubt that some day my family will follow in your footsteps and step off the Autobahn ourselves for a bit- it's a high priority for us.

kim-d said...

How does six months to a year on the beaches of Hawaii sound to me? Seriously? To me, it sounds like "kim-d can go visit them on the beaches of HAWAII; that's doable!" HAHAHAHA!

I sometimes forget that your life in Norway is not your "real" life. I am just so happy to have found you, thus giving me the opportunity to experience Norway vicariously through you. However, I am also looking forward to learning about "Heidi's Canada." I am just so glad this has been such a positive experience for the four of you. For sure, none of you will be the same people you were when you embarked on this!

To be honest, I don't care where you are, as long as you blog and post your pix. Cause no matter where you're at, you're "my Heidi" :)!!!!

kimmy said...

I'll come to Hawaii with you! We went to Maui for our honeymoon and it was the BEST vacation my husband and I ever took together!

I am glad you are coming away from your "journey" with so many wonderful memories!

Kimmy

Kathryn said...

What an amazing and life-changing adventure this has been for you. It must be so difficult to even think about leaving. But oh to have such a wonderful experience for you and your children to remember and cherish. Just fabulous.

chichimama.com said...

I would love to take a year or two and move back to London. Hubs is not so convinced that he wants to, as he put it, destroy his career to spend at twice the rate we currently do. But following along with you and Rebecca makes me really, really want it.

Good luck with the transition back, and hopefully you can incorporate some of the lifestyle changes into your "old" life.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

What a terrific adventure, thank you so much for sharing it with us all, I can't believe it is almost over!

Beck said...

It sounds like it's been the most wonderful adventure for you!

Beth said...

I feel so bad for you that your trip has to end! Any chance you could stay?? Norway really seems to suit you all!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Oh Hawaii...that does sound nice. But it is soooo glad to hear that you are had such a good time. It truly looks beautiful and wonderful. And super jealouse of all your amazing trips. Espesally England. I lived there for a little while and just loved it. And havn't gotten a chance to go back there since I last lived there. Hope you enjoy it!

Mary Beth said...

I always am anxious to come home at the end of my vacations (and they have never been even close to yours in length) because I want to share everything with my family. Here it's the reverse - you're leaving yours behind. Maybe those great nephews of yours can come spend 10 months in North America! Enjoy the time you have left and 6 months in Hawaii sound awesome!

painted maypole said...

it will be interesting to see how what you've learned bleeds over into your "old" life. i bet you'll take a lot of it with you. the good stuff.

another good thing said...

I hope your kids know how special you are. great inspiration. I'll be counting down with you.

BeachMama said...

Heidi, How fast time flies. Although I only got to know you after you had made the trek, I think it is wonderful that you guys went through with it. What a wonderful experience for each of you. Hopefully the boys will remember this period of time and the fact that it helped you slow down and enjoy time together is fantastic.

And if my Hubby asked me if I wanted to spend six months on a beach in Hawaii, I would so be there.

ALM said...

Gosh. I can imagine how difficult that would be to leave, especially being so close to your family - and having your boys spend so much quality time with them... That will be very hard for all of you, I'm sure...

But how great that all the cousins are such good friends now. And you and Mike.

And even more, how cool that you took this chance & it's worked out SO well.... I'm in awe.

Amy Y said...

What a beautiful post! I've loved living vicariously through your family's travels and experiences the past few months... I definitely vote "yes" for Hawaii :) That sounds like heaven to me!!

Steph said...

I am sure that even though it will be nice to go home, leaving will be very difficult for all of you. At least you are taking home many wonderful memories, and stronger bonds between your kids and the rest of your family, with you.

Kellan said...

It has been such a wonderful adventure for you and your family. I feel so lucky to have lived some of your adventure through you - it has been so fun. I can't believe your time is coming to an end and your will be going home in 1 month - I am sad you will be leaving Norway, but am sure returning home will have lots of advantages and offer lots of positive things for your family!

Good to see you Heidi - take care and I'll see you soon - Kellan

Jennifer said...

The beaches of Hawaii sound fantastic, since you asked. *grin* I can imagine the mixed feelings over the next few weeks. Here's to holding onto the Zen!

Victoria said...

This was good stuff, Heidi. I can't say it enough - I've really enjoyed learning about you and from you these last few months. What an experience! Thank you for sharing it!

And Hawaii?? Sounds good! Would it be rude to invite ourselves over now??

Robyn said...

I am so there with you on a beach in Hawaii. Hawaii is one of my favorite places to visit. I haven't been in over a decade and could sorely use a trip right about now.

hellomelissa said...

i would love to take a year and live somewhere new with the kids. we have friends who live 3 months of the year in berlin and their kids have soooo much life experience now!

hellomelissa said...

i would love to take a year and live somewhere new with the kids. we have friends who live 3 months of the year in berlin and their kids have soooo much life experience now!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It sounds amazing, that's how it sounds!

Amy said...

I have enjoyed hearing about your family excursions. It is wonderful that you have been able to experience life in a slightly different way. Enjoy the rest of your time there!

Ree said...

Well, after I got over the thought that you were *pregnant* -

Oh man. I have a good friend from work who has been on an ex-pat contract to Amsterdam for 4 years. And she's coming back to the States in May.

You've been very lucky - and able to experience something that very few of us have - lucky!

Casdok said...

How exciting!

Laura said...

you sure must have a knot of a million emotions in your tummy...WOW.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

I am envious of the amazing memeories you have all created together. Those will be with you forever.

Count me in for Hawaii!

Hallie :)

Sue said...

You are so lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity. My heart hurts a little for you - I can feel how much you will miss it.

And hey - do we have time to become REALLY REALLY good friends before Hawaii? Because I'm thinking friends visit friends... ;>

Sue said...

You are so lucky and blessed to have had the opportunity. My heart hurts a little for you - I can feel how much you will miss it.

And hey - do we have time to become REALLY REALLY good friends before Hawaii? Because I'm thinking friends visit friends... ;>

Mrs. Annie said...

You've had the adventure of a lifetime. One that won't be soon forgotten. Oh, the envy!

carrie said...

Your husband is a good grocery shopper? You mean he doesn't chase you around the store as you get looks of sympathy from all the other women shoppers? That, my friend is absolutely amazing.

And what a gift, what an incredible experience you have all had. I can see why you're a little sad to see it come to an end.

Enjoy these last 4 months just as you have the first 8! Squeee as much as you can from them. And, thank you for sharing the journey with us, it has been so fun to be a part of it with you! :)

carrie said...

Squeeze - sorry!

Misty said...

Wait. You aren't going to stop blogging when you go back to Canada...are you?

Cathy said...

Is it really that close?!

I think what you've done is fabulous -- and the effects will linger long after your return, I'm sure.

Aliki2006 said...

I know we wouldn't regret it--I dream of doing this very same thing you're doing--some day!

Valarie said...

I can't believe it's time for you to head back. I can remember when I first started reading your blog and you had just set off on your wonderful adventure not long before. It's so great that you have been able to do this with your family. Enjoy these last four weeks!

shay said...

What a wonderful testimony to an amazing year. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.
I think hubs and I may look into it...

Will you keep on blogging?

Chantal said...

ok Hawaii - Do you need a daughter (a grown one, I am easy to take care of I promise ;) ).
I spent a summer abroad (In Brazil) and life is very slow there. It was quite a shock to come back home (although I was so very happy to be home). I am sure you will find the same. I can't believe your journey is almost over. You will keep writing I hope, documenting your reintegration into the rat race :)

E said...

We are sort of becoming expat wannabes. Our imaginations are headed to Italy. I am glad to have found your blog and grateful to have shared soem of your eperiences....Make the last bits the best!

Candy said...

My goodness. It feels like yesterday that I found this site and started living vicariously through my favorite Viking.

I always wondered if you'd just post a "screw it, we're staying in Norway forever" post. I guess I have my answer!

Gina said...

I admire you all greatly for being so willing to take a chance on living life so differently from what you knew before.

Bravo to you, and I certainly think that Hawaii sounds fab, maybe I should join you!

Nadine said...

Thanks for posting this! Your journey (though I've only been reading you for the last part of it) has been an inspiration. Enjoy your last weeks!

MadMad said...

I can't believe it's almost over, my goodness. What an incredible experience! What about Australia for the next go-round?

Queen of the Mayhem said...

It sounds FABULOUS! Can I come? :)

katiez said...

You're leaving already?!?!?
But you just got here!!!
Where, oh where, does the time go....

ewe are here said...

I'd say you might rather enjoy six months in Hawaii.... I lived there for 6 years before landing in the UK. ;-)

Let me know when you plan to land in the UK... and if you plan to pop through Cambridge or Edinburgh... we'll probably be up in Edinburgh in early May for Ramekin's 3rd birthday.

And one of these days, I'll be blogging again.