After a year traveling around the world and visiting 35 countries, we finally arrived back to the United States of America. While we loved visiting each of these countries and learning about their unique cultures, we each found an increased sense of patriotism for our homeland. For me personally, I have an increased appreciation for the freedom we have in our country to live as we please. We were constantly having conversations with people about laws in their country, and I couldn’t believe how restricted they often were in their day to day life. From not allowing people to wear certain religious clothing in Europe, to not allowing anyone who is Jewish enter The United Arab Emirates, the caste system in India and so much more.
In fact if we lived in almost any of the countries we visited on our trip, we would not have even been allowed to pull our kids out of school to homeschool them while we traveled. We talked to multiple parents in Europe who said they would love to do what we were doing but the government wouldn’t allow it. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted the right to make my own choices, and the responsibility to deal with the consequences of my actions.
The boys had many things they had an increased appreciation for at the conclusion of our year abroad, but the number one thing was how amazing the food in the United States is! Besides friends and family, this is what they missed the most.
You can see how excited they were when the first stop we made was to eat a real American hamburger! Having it be an In-N-Out burger made it even better!
American breakfasts were another thing that we missed terribly while away, so we searched for the best pancake place we could find. You can see Tyler’s surprise by the giant American portion sizes we came back to as well!
We decided to end the trip in Hollywood, California to let the kids go to Disneyland and Universal Studios. It may seem like the whole trip was amazing for them, but there were some difficult things they had to deal with as well. Being around their brothers 24/7 for a year was just one hardship! Poor Parker started into his independent teenager phase and couldn’t even walk down the street without us nearby.
It was also nice to have our reentry into the United States before we were surrounded by friends and family, and the pressures of getting our house back in order. It gave us time to adjust to being back one step at a time.
So as a reward for making it an entire year, we went and just had fun! Over the past year, Parker read every Harry Potter book, watched every Harry Potter Movie and watched countless Harry Potter theories on YouTube, so a trip to Harry Potter World at Universal was the perfect ending! His Harry Potter nerdiness came out in full force when he got a wand at Ollivanders, drank butterbeer, and ate chocolate frogs! They really did an amazing job and we all enjoyed exploring it as well.
Our next stop was Disneyland where we had a fun-filled day of rides and entertainment. A perfect way to end the trip!Corndogs are another American specialty that was missed, and Disneyland has the best ones I’ve ever had! Seriously, if you are into corndogs, you have to try them next time you are at Disney.While “Its a Small World” will never be anyone’s favorite ride, I have to go every time I am in Disneyland (despite the fact that I end up humming the song for days afterwards). It was actually so much more fun going through this time and picking out all the countries we had been to, and how much detail went into depicting each culture and country. The reality of traveling around the world can be overwhelming. So many languages, cultures, personalities, and customs to learn. Arranging the details of every day was daunting; from having to find 3 meals a day, a safe and comfortable place to stay each night, and figuring out the transportation around each city; and that’s not to mention all the airplane flights, train rides, bus trips, and ferry tickets we had to purchase. In many ways the world is a very BIG place. There were many times on the trip that I was reminded of how small and insignificant our lives actually are in this great, big, diverse world of ours.
Yet despite all of that, as we rode on this ride and watched as the cultures of the world were depicted, I thought back to all the people we met and places we visited. I was reminded of the similarities and common humanity that is found in every country and every culture. Families who love each other and want the best for their children, striving to be the best version of yourself that you can be, and the desire to lead a fulfilling life was common across every place we visited. Maybe the song was right. It is a small world after all.