Have you ever watched a documentary or perhaps seen a news segment showing people living on a cliff edge? Or a slum filled with rubble. Perhaps an isolated, remote part of the world?
I have, and I’ve thought, “how do they live like that? I could never do that”.
Yet, as today marks 1 week into what is to be a 10 month family gap year, I find myself identifying with the “secret” superpower that allows humans all over the world to live in the most unconventional ways and places…be it by choice or lack thereof.
This secret superpower, is what I refer to as, adaptability. I consider it to be the ingredient essential to self preservation (along with hope).
I mean allow yourself just for a moment to consider this; people living in “uncomfortable” places, be it hygiene, weather conditions, topography, etc, if they were not adaptable to their surroundings, life would most likely end very quickly. And so they rise above their circumstances of discomfort and find a solution, albeit crude and makeshift at times, but they fight with perseverance to create a life irrespective of their living conditions.
Whilst I’d not be so insensitive as to compare the privilege and comfort of our gap year to others living in genuine struggle… what I will parallel is the same human spirit that embraces adaptability when things are not ideal.
If you follow me on social media you may get the impression that it’s all only fun, fun, fun. Yes, it is fun, in fact the most fun we’ve had in all our lives. But it’s also the greatest challenge we’ve faced. The greatest test of adaptability and resilience to an ever changing environment.
So far, in the last week and a half, my children (and hubby and me), have lived in 4 different “homes” of varying comforts and styles. These 4 homes are all vastly different than how we have lived for the passed 9 years.
Some homes have had a bathroom for each person, others, 1 toilet for 5 people. We live out of a suitcase literally. We rarely unpack as it takes about 40 minutes to properly pack each persons case in the method that ensures we make it for 10 months. So life out of a suitcase involves processes and attitudes that are new. Never before in the 9 years of living at home have we had to live with such a temporary state of mind.
We grocery shop and buy only what we can use. Waste is not an option. Nor is surplus. We shed what we want, to ensure we have room for what we need. We live in the same few clothes, but have winter, summer, and transeasonal clothing from -15 degrees Celsius to 48degrees Celsius with us.
My girls each have lived in the 1 pair of winter outdoor pants all week. Sometimes, (very occasionally) when it’s 4am and we can’t find where all the toothbrushes have gone we share the one, as disgusting as they may seem to some. But life on the road with objectives about learning, and togetherness, and opening your heart to those we meet along the way, doesn’t leave time for us to concern ourselves with trivialities like not sharing personal items. And you know what, we’re not anymore miserable for it. But it’s because our days are filled with meaning, enriching and purposeful activities. And by night we are exhausted. Sleep and a warm dinner is all we have emotional capacity to think about… because really, it’s what matters the most.
We rise with the birds, walking through rainforest and coastal terrain in the sunrise hours of the morning. We hike. Swim. Play. Learn. We’re tired but alive and days are filled with wonder and marvel. We get cold and wet sometimes when we don’t want to be, and have to make do, until we are back at the car (sometimes a 1 hour walk away) or the house. We adapt, because what other choice is there? And through adapting we grow. Individually and together. We grow in patience. Resilience. Determination.
At the beginning of the week my girls bickered over bedrooms, limited car space in the hire car, and sharing items like drink bottles and hairbrushes. Now end of week 1, this happens less. It still happens, but I can see the change in how short their fuse is. They are slower to anger, and more willing to compromise.
It leads me to question, how else in life are we short changing ourselves, simply because we’re not prepared to be temporarily insecure and uncomfortable, and therefore never within reach of the rewards that lie beyond our comfort zone?
Presently, I’m writing this from North Island, NZ. I think things will progressively grow increasingly challenging the further from the familiar that we venture. But, I also believe just like Charlotte Whitton, “… when one must, one can”.