Over the past ten months, our family of four has become Team Bike Travellers.
It’s a shift from our regular life. The change is not just that we are mostly camping and biking anywhere from 40-100km/day instead of going to work and school and living in our house in our Ottawa neighbourhood. What’s different is that the kids have much more input into our daily decision making and our daily routine because we’re living and working and travelling together every day this year and making up our itinerary as we go along.
We don’t always operate by consensus. But when it comes time to choose – for example between the slightly less scenic campground we are passing or the gorgeous campground 10 kilometres further on – we check in to see how each person is feeling and what each of us wants to do.
Some of us (Anna Sierra in particular) are more motivated to accomplish set goals and distances and follow through on plans. So we work on balancing that passion for moving on and getting things done with compassion for everyone’s energy levels and with being spontaneous when opportunities for new adventures arise.
Jasper loves braking for every bookstore we pass and is a frequent swapper at all the Free Little Libraries we’ve ridden by. His extensive and precise vocabulary – a direct result of reading copious books -delights us all.Sometimes we limit his ‘page time’ because there are friends to visit with or tents to set up. But once I reframed his read-a-thons by remembering that during my undergrad literature degree I spent even more time than him sitting around reading, I can appreciate his love of stories and the worlds fiction opens one up to. It is also remarkable that this young fellow who was reading “Old Hat, New Hat” just three years ago has moved on so swiftly to massive works of fiction.
Led by Jasper, we’ve had fun reading the same book and discussing it while riding. We did this with “Band of Brothers” in Cuba and, most recently, with “The Martian” – both great reads that I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. Two of our other favourites are “The Green Bicycle” and now a collection of Stuart MacLean stories.
But my favourite adventure that really started with listening to the kids and what they wanted to do began in Cuba.
We were sharing a day with Linda and Ralph, two cyclists from Calgary who were staying in the same Casa Particular as us. As we six walked towards the horse cart factory we had decided to visit together, Linda and Ralph told us about these lovely American friends, Karen and Thom, they had just spent a few days with in another town who lived on Bainbridge Island, across from Seattle. Karen and Thom sailed around the world with their kids for four years. Just before we left on our trip I reread “Voyage of the Northern Magic,” about a family from Ottawa sailing around the world and found it very inspiring.
But back to Cuba. Who should we see pulling out of the driveway of the horse cart factory a few moments later? Karen and Thom, of course! As soon as they heard we were bike travelling with the children for a year they invited us to visit them on their boat, moored by Bainbridge Island.
It was a brief but meaningful five minute conversation and our mutual travel with kids connected us. Jasper was most intrigued by these sailors and kept bringing Karen and Thom up as we biked up the West Coast, telling people we met along the way about his friends in Seattle. So we decided if we got within a few days of Seattle, we’d send a note to see if Karen and Thom were off travelling – something they do a lot – or on Bainbridge Island.
Turns out our timing was great and when we reached out, Karen and Thom invited us to visit and stay with them on their boat. We were are thrilled!
We had a blast together. Everything about being on the boat was new and fun and Karen and Thom were such warm, welcoming and fun hosts.
We all loved visiting the engine room and learning how the ship works from Captain Thom and while we were eating bean burritos, a harbour seal swam up to visit!
We loved chatting with these seasoned travellers and boat builders and hearing how in the midst of busy and successful corporate lives they decided to pause and sail around the world with their then seven year old and one and a half year old.
After a day exploring Seattle, Thom surprised us with a ride in his speedy boat. The kids loved taking a turn steering. In fact we heard Jasper say, “Now this is the life!” as we bounced over the waves on the way back to the boat after popping by to see a resident sea lion.
When we return to Ottawa I plan to make a point of having room in our routine for the kids to guide our adventures. Following their lead has brought all kinds of magic into our lives during this journey!
Wishing you fair winds and fine stories,