Thoughts from the Weekend

The weekend was update-free here at LOW due to a trip down south, back to the alma mater, Rice University. It was the fourth biennial Rice Baseball Alumni Game. It’s always great to catch up again with all of the guys, seeing what they’re up to. New this time around was how just about everyone was now married and having children. Most of the guys I played with had pregnant wives or were already taking care of little ones (or both!). This is a strange duality to me because up here in DC, at 26, we are still considered very young to even be married. (On more than one occasion my ring has elicited a “weird …”.)

But as everyone was catching up, my future plans came up a lot when I mentioned I was finishing in the fall. (Theresa tells me I have to state this as a fact instead of saying “hopefully” or “if everything works out” or “I plan to.” I get the feeling she’s not interested in staying here too much longer …) And so I launched into our plans of world travel and exploration. Which got the same kind of response that I get when I say I’m married in DC. In all fairness, one kindred spirit had recently finished his own round the world trip (and we had a great conversation with him), so the response was not completely unanimous.

A lot of the guys (and girls) responded by saying they had never even left the country, and didn’t really understand why you possibly would. Now some of this comes from the typically Texan idea that nothing could ever be better than Texas, but it also was about security, family and comfort. It was pretty clear that we were currently on two different paths. Theresa likes to talk about wishing she could run two parallel lives … well this was it, exemplified. All of my Houston friends had married, settled down and were starting families. They had support networks of family, lifelong friends and good jobs (at least well paying if not completely satisfying). They knew which restaurants had the best steaks, and where to go for fajitas. They never got lost driving around the city, nor did they have to deal with the hassles of public transportation. Meanwhile, here were Theresa and I, who couldn’t wait to quit our jobs/finish our programs and leave all that comfort and security behind so we could run around the world with only what we could carry on our backs. Now who are the crazies? You have to admit, at times staying put makes a pretty compelling rational argument.

The point is, I guess, that it is all a matter of personal preference, and really has little to do with rationality. (This is probably much too tolerant a statement to put on the internet.) My friends would be happy staying right where they are, in the same house, in the same neighborhood, in the same city, the rest of their lives. They have no desire to wander. And there are times when I wonder why that isn’t enough for me too. But for whatever reasons, that just doesn’t cut it. I need to explore. Deal with getting lost. Have the enjoyment of “discovering” the best restaurant in a new place. Slowly and painfully come to understand a completely different culture. Befriend all the wacky and interesting people you meet. Survive the bizarre events that inevitably occur. And feel invigorated by it all. Because a routine just does not inspire me the way an adventure does. So, anyway, thanks for listening while I justify how I am. I hope it made some sense to you.

Now, all that being said, my friends, the ones perfectly happy to never leave their hometown, are exactly the ones we need to convince to travel. As a case in point, one of our friends didn’t realize there were not feeder roads off of every highway (Houston is pretty much the only city I know that envelops every highway with another two lanes of “local” traffic on each side). It’s both interesting and useful to be exposed to a number of different ways to solve problems, mainly that there are other ways. You start to see things from other perspectives. And if you still like things like “home,” you appreciate it more. So it enriches your hometown as well. I know when I travel, I appreciate all the little things I often take for granted when I return (everything from free public restrooms to a good hamburger to signs in English). So we did our best to convince everyone that it would be great idea to travel themselves. I think we convinced nobody. But whaddya gonna do? They all have little rugrats running around. That’s why we’re still on the rolling five year plan with kids. We still have too much wandering to do ourselves.

10 Replies to “Thoughts from the Weekend”

  1. Hi Blackingtons!

    It was great to see you this weekend and thanks for visiting our blog.

    Wow, I absolutely could have written this post, except a lot less eloquently! And from the other point of view. We obviously are on the other parallel, with a young family. I too wish I could live two lives, one like yours traveling and unencumbered and the other, my life.

    It’s funny how encountering old lifestyles and friends can make you say, “hmmmm.” It is strange, living up “North” and visiting Houston. Here, like I said, we are the odd ducks, being young(ish), married, and with child(ren). Although, I’ve adopted coping mechanisms, like not telling people how young I am. I’ve actually told an accidental fib and aged myself a couple of years. Whoops! And having kids, ages you a bit, so you don’t look so young. In Houston, we fit right in, in some regards. But as a “Northerner,” can one ever fit in? That’s another post. 😉

    Don’t feel that you didn’t convince anyone – we plan and would love to have an opportunity to travel when the kids are old enough to go or at least fend for themselves. But, I don’t know if you convinced me per say, because I’ve always wanted to travel. Alas, it must be later.

    I guess you would consider me perfectly comfortable in my hometown and in my routines. But there is part of me that wonders what I am missing. Right now, I’ll have to live vicariously through you younguns/old marrieds.


  2. This isn’t completely on topic but nor is it completely off topic, but I think a read of “Suburban Nation”, touches on this idea of settling down and staying put (a uniquely American perspective at such a young age). I know, you’re shocked I read a book, but it was required for a class. Not only did I read the entire book (oh yes, every page), I actually really liked it (if you stay tuned I’ll have a review of it soon). Of course its from an architecture/planning perspective, but again it definitely hints at getting our slice of suburbia, settling down, and not questioning why we do this to the ends for these authors, that we need a return to traditional walking neighborhoods. I think “Suburban Nation” should be required reading for all Americans.

  3. Popping out a few kids is the best way to get indebted to the man.
    And Jeff, we will have to further discuss the idea of feeder roads to make sure we are on the same page, but by definition Austin and Arkansas have similar road situations.
    And well, any claim about the superiority of Texas goes right down the you know what once the topic of feeder roads comes up. Those things are worthless.

  4. One of the biggest sacrifices I can imagine making once we have kids is having to give up some of our traveling, at least for a little while. I don’t think kids necessarily have to mean an end to travel, but they will certainly limit where you can go and what you can do. I guess the next few years of our lives will be dedicated to travel within the US and my dream trip to Vietnam and Thailand will need to wait. I just can’t imagine never wanting to travel and see new things though. Home is great, but there’s so much else out there to experience!

  5. I agree with Laura. We are regularly asked about our timetable for children (especially now that we have a house) and our primary motivation for NOT yet having kids is that we have a few places we need to see together, most of which will not be affordable once we have little ones. This fall we venture to Spain, so Bryan can see where I lived for a year, and we have thoughts of at least one more trip out of the country before babies. Jeff, i appreciate your description of a “rolling five year plan” concerning kids. I have adopted the 5 year plan, but I neglected to add the “rolling” part to allow for greater flexibility…good thinking.

  6. Becca, great to hear from you guys and it was great seeing you this weekend. It’s gonna be fun keeping up with your growing family on your blog. You always hear about people lying about being younger, but never older! It’s strange how weird people “up north” act when you say you’re married and young.

    And Matthew, I think we’re on the same page about feeder roads, I would believe Austin has them and I have never been to Arkansas. On the plus side, they do make it easy to recover from missing an exit, but that’s about the only plus I can think of. Meanwhile, they make the road one gigantic billboard and make it feel like cars are always merging/changing lanes/trying to hit me.

    And finally, Ruth, I think we first adopted the “rolling” five year plan right about five years ago now, so we truly have been taking advantage of the flexibility. Five years sounds far enough away to not be real … but then, after a year, you start thinking about whether it’s four years now … and nope, it’s still five.

  7. Hey guys,
    That post spoke so strongly to the huge struggles my husband and I have when it comes to our ideas of what we want from life. I think it is mostly due to our ages. He’s about 7 years older than I and did the whole ‘Rock Band’ thing when he was in his 20s. Now he just wants to settle down and have stability. All I want to do is save enough and travel for two years. We’re constantly at an impasse. Since we’re also on the ‘rolling 5 year plan’ for kids I keep trying to tell him that we need to do it NOW and that we’ll do his plan when we have kids. He doesn’t believe me. Maybe I don’t either.

    Thanks for articulating what I so strongly feel.
    -Kango Suz

  8. Hi guys. I’m a lurker who has exchanged some emails with Theresa in the past (my husband and I did a 7-month RTW trip as our honeymoon). Just wanted to congratulate you on the great website. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts and watching your trip planning unfold. The stability vs. adventure debate truly never ceases, even after lots of travel. We’re dealing with the same issue now. After several stints abroad, and a big RTW trip, most of our friends & family (in Texas, coincidentally 🙂 ) don’t understand why we’re not ready to settle down. Haven’t we gotten it out of our system? Alas, no. I don’t think it ever leaves your system. The idea of a house & lawn & stability sounds awfully boring to me. But career & family & community are also important to me, and it’s hard to develop those when you’re constantly moving around. We’re dealing with a big decision along those lines now. No easy answers. Sigh. I’ll continue reading along & enjoying your journey.

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