“Yeah, but we have kids.” So many parents believe that their children limit what they can do that I’m always super-excited to be able to share examples of other parents whose kids are thriving while they do whatever it is. Tsh Oxenreider gives us an epic vision of alternative parenting in which kids can be At Home in the World.
The Oxenreiders decided to take off and travel the world for nine months, an entire school year. At the time, their kids were 9, 6, and 4. One of them is on the autism spectrum. If you can think of a more compelling case for the contention that “if they can do it, anyone can,” I’d love to hear about it! While this poetic travelogue includes plenty of gory details about the kids complaining, leaving their stuff behind on like every possible mode of transportation, and inconveniently barfing, overall it seems nearly as manageable as any local road trip. Kids adjust. That was the point of the trip: to teach the kids about the world. The earlier they could learn to travel and adapt to changing circumstances, the more interesting their lives would be.
How did they do it? They SOLD THEIR HOUSE and put their stuff in a storage locker. During this round-the-world trip, the Oxenreiders were technically homeless, which was sort of the point. They had to try to find internet in some pretty obscure places in order to run their business affairs. They home-schooled the kids, who had to try to do their homework anywhere and everywhere. They stayed on a strict budget, often staying with internet friends. They walked a lot and ate as frugally as they could manage. There is enough budget detail here to make it plausible that families of limited means could still pull off a feat like this. The technical details are present, yet not the main focus of the story.
A memorable detail for me was the story of the Westbrook Effect. A family demonstrates intense hospitality to the Oxenreiders, picking them up from the airport and rolling out the red carpet for them in every way they can. The Oxenreiders are overwhelmed, protesting that they shouldn’t go to so much trouble. They explain that they are paying forward hospitality they themselves received, and that after experiencing the Westbrook Effect, they determined to do it themselves whenever they had guests. This is an idea that deserves to be spread, and it’s a fine argument in itself for reading At Home in the World.
Oxenreider writes beautifully. Her glory is in the fine, quotidian details of what makes each city unique. There is a stillness in the flurry. Reading her accounts of the homes where her family roosts so briefly makes it feel impossible not to travel, not to throw caution to the winds and book the tickets tomorrow. At Home in the World is a meditation on how to balance a sense of home with an unquenchable wanderlust. As such, it has much to offer both homebodies and inveterate wanderers.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.