Friday, February 17th, 2017

Expat Preparation Means Minimalism, Living Leaner, More Badass

by Kristen Suzanne in Minimalism, travel

A tiny purse (instant pot for scale)

 

Another step in preparing to be expats, digital nomads, slow travelers, worldschoolers… whatever we want to call it… minimalism plays a part.

I’m going through each room, closet, area of the condo and deciding what I use, love, and want to keep.

Are there things that I like but aren’t used often? Are there things that spark joy but that I would’t buy again if I were deciding today? What am I attached to? Do particular items bring me happiness or do they just satisfy my ego? I think ego plays a big role for some things. 

For the next year we will slowly rid ourselves of a lot of… stuff.

I’m partial to my Le Creuset collection (quality pots and pans), but I have to ask myself, “Is it worth paying storage fees to keep these?” What if we’re gone for years? That monthly storage rent adds up, and I could probably buy these things again for the same price that paying to store them for so long would cost. If we’re lucky, fingers crossed, my mom and mother-in-law will give us a bit of space to store things there. 

My passion for minimalism actually started last year. I was tired of decision making fatigue so I started making fewer daily decisions. Ergo: minimalism. 

  • Have fewer clothes (I wear most of the same stuff day in and day out anyway) and less to look at in my closet, fewer decisions, more energy.
  • Having fewer lipsticks, believe it or not, is less decision making fatigue. 
  • Having a regular rotation of meals and foods so that I’m not constantly thinking about what to make for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 
  • Having less to dust gives me more time and energy to do other things. 

Recently, I downsized my purse, but it wasn’t without stress. After multiple attempts, I finally said, “Fuck it, I’m going lean.” I went from a larger purse packed with a large essential oil spray (cuz I might need it), snacks (cuz if I don’t have snacks I’ll be hungry), pens (cuz my kid needs to draw at the restaurants we don’t go to), various membership cards (rarely used), makeup, bandaids (cuz you never know), earbuds, cell phone, car keys, kleenex, handkerchief (cuz it’s pretty), and more ——> to ——> a tiny 6-inch purse that fits very little. 

For the tiny purse, I opted for lip balm, lip/cheek stain (two in one – yeah!) plus my phone, keys, a small bottle of essential oil (I had to), earbuds (I use these a lot), wallet minus membership cards (those I’ll keep in the car). I decided to carry a few snacks in the car for desperate times. 

I’m feeling badass as a result.

Risky behavior to be so spartan – or so I thought.

Turns out I love the freedom of the small purse. I might not have a bison bar in it, but forcing myself to be hungry once in a while isn’t going to kill me. It’ll make me stronger? 

Minimalism is giving me a lightness, a leanness, and an overall badass experience. To know I require so little in the way of material possessions is empowering. 

Let’s see. That’s more energy from less decision making fatigue. More time from less dusting. More freedom from having less. 

Minimalism for the win.

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The Book, The New Global Student, Lit A Fire Under My Ass

by Kristen Suzanne in Expat, family, kamea, kids, Kristen Suzanne, travel

This book inspired me to move abroad… sooner than later.

Image credit

I bought the book, The New Global Student, to inspire my family’s future travels around the world. I don’t recall how I came to know of the book, but when I read the description, I knew it was destined to be in my library.

From Amazon.com 

In 2005, Maya Frost and her husband sold everything and left their suburban American lifestyle behind in order to have an adventure abroad. The tricky part: they had to shepherd their four teenage daughters through high school and into college. This hilarious and conspiratorial how-to handbook describes the affordable, accessible, and stunningly advantageous options they stumbled upon that any American student can leverage to get an outrageously relevant global education. 

Sounds good, eh? 

It is, though I didn’t devour the book in one sitting. Actually, I started and stopped the book a few times over the past year (or two?).

I guess I didn’t feel a need to rush through it, seeing as my daughter was only five years old at the time. I figured I had a while before I would take action on anything I was reading. Not only that, I didn’t see the reality that we’d be moving abroad any time soon, because, like, THAT seemed a daunting idea… so why rush reading through the book? I could take my time.

As I was reading it one day, however, I wanted to share some of it with my husband, Greg. So I did that. We were driving to my mom’s which was about 45 minutes from our home and I started reading some of the really cool things I’d highlighted. As expected, he loved what I was reading to him, and his excitement served to inspire my continuing the book. 

Over the following weeks, I read the book at a faster clip. It became more and more exciting, as I imagined the life we could give Kamea… helping her become  The New Global Student. Wow, the advantages were numerous and awesome. 

So. Yesterday, I wrote that we’d always known we would travel the world. Honestly, though, I never knew when that would be. I really didn’t know how to make it happen. It seemed like a dream. It was a dream I felt would come true, but I didn’t know when “someday” would be. 

I mean… how does one just up and travel the world or move to another country?

The New Global Student was enticing me with fun stories of families traveling all over the world (many of whom didn’t even homeschool, by the way). Still… while I was reading it, I didn’t really make a connection of how I could relate to the stories I was reading. For example, I read about families selling their houses, cars, and/or businesses. They sold belongings, got rid of tons of stuff, and then had money to move somewhere else in the world. One family even bought a sail boat and took to the oceans for their epic adventure (turns out that’s a thing). 

Well, I didn’t have a business to sell. I didn’t have a house to sell either. I didn’t want to buy a boat (Greg gets seasick.) 

Hmmm… I just kept reading the book, figuring that someday we’d figure it out.

At the end of the book the lightbulb came on for me. At this point, the author’s husband chimed in and itemized the savings and expenses the family incurred while living in Mexico. I was blown away by the savings and cost of living that was possible. The book also illuminated the notion that any age is a good age to start (with respect to kids), emphasizing that younger is good and totally doable!

I salivated at how much money we could save living in Mexico (or other parts of the world). Savings plus the obvious awesomeness of immersing ourselves in other cultures, learning languages, and helping Kamea be a Global Student was just too good of an opportunity for which to wait. 

Turns out I wouldn’t have to… I realized that since we rent our condo, there would come a time when the lease ends and we won’t be obligated to pay that rent anymore. (Um, duh, Kristen. Why hadn’t I thought of this before now??) At that point, we could sell belongings (not a whole lot since I embrace minimalism these days), including cars. We could donate stuff. We could put anything leftover into storage (um, hello mom!).

Bam. We could take this dream of living abroad and make it happen when our lease is up. 

I know this sounds silly, but it just never dawned on me that we could simply not renew the lease. The veil had been lifted. The light was turned on. I could see our worldschooling path before my eyes.

At this point, I closed the book, having finished it, and called Greg into the bedroom.

The topic of living abroad was not new to us, as I’d just been reading him The New Global Student a few weeks prior. But, when I told him that we could actually do it when our condo’s lease ended, I think I took him by surprise. I filled him in on the details, and told him about some areas in Mexico where we could begin our adventure… and the wheels began turning in his head.

Now, mind you, he wasn’t jumping up and down with excitement (yet) like I was; but, truthfully, I’d had a whole hour to chew on it before I told him. :)

He raised a few questions about whether he could transfer his work successfully to a laptop only. He already works from home, and I told him we absolutely could (exciting details on that for another blog post). However, to make it easier on him, the lease wasn’t going to end for a good long while. We had time to figure it out and make it work.

The fire was lit under my ass… my deep dive into living abroad research began. Expat life is within reach.

It’s been about three months since that conversation in our bedroom, after I finished reading The New Global Student. I’ve gone from knowing nothing (other than it was possible somehow to do this because clearly other people are doing it) to knowing quite a bit about the how, when, where, and why for our adventure. 

I’ll share in the next post what I’m learning with my deep dive of research.

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Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

How I Caught The Bug To Travel

by Kristen Suzanne in Bora Bora, Kristen Suzanne, travel

Has bag, will travel.

When I met my husband, Greg, on E-harmony over a decade ago, I had the tiniest reluctance about any potential success for us, because his featured profile picture was him standing by the door carrying a suitcase and he mentioned a love of world travel in his profile. 

Maybe it was silly, but I couldn’t help think to myself, “This guy likes to travel. Traveling dudes don’t like to be tied down. I can see it now. I’ll fall for him harder than he will fall for me. He will take off around the world, my heart in his hand. Better not respond to the eHarmony connection. It can only be doom.”

Not one to listen to myself, I pursued the eHarmony connection. (Luckily, he pursued back in spite of my not having a picture posted for my profile.)  

I was destined to be with him, because although, yes, he loved to travel, and, yes, that was a picture of him coming (or going?) from a long adventure in Peru, he longed for a traveling partner in crime.

Fast forward some years and we married.

In Bora Bora

Whisking me away to the most beautiful paradise on earth was a great way to get me interested in travel. (Smart fellow he was.)

Getting married in Bora Bora

Traditional wedding ceremony – Bora Bora

It wasn’t long before we were talking about how we couldn’t wait to travel the world, laptop-style. 

Working side by side, somewhere on a coast in Italy became a vision I couldn’t shake. I caught his travel bug.

I’ll be here someday. Amalfi Coast – Italy

*Photo credit

Now, I was determined to see the world. Having a family wouldn’t stop our dream either. We decided, even before trying to get me pregnant, that when we had a family, we would homeschool, because that would allow us to travel. The vision became of us working side by side, laptop-style, with a kid next to us reading a book (or writing his/her own blog).

The dream is finally coming true. Here we are homeschooling our daughter, and creating definite plans for living abroad in the future. 

It wasn’t until a couple of months ago, however, that this became a reality. 

I’ll tell you what lit the fire under my ass to take action in the next post.

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Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Digital Nomad Expat Prep: Google Alerts For Travel

by Kristen Suzanne in Digital Nomad, Expat, homeschool, travel, Worldschool

One of the things I’ve done to research future expat destinations is setting up Google Alerts. 

What is a Google Alert? As you can see in the image, a Google Alert is

“a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results – such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs – that match the user’s search term.”

 

Lifehacker says this about Google Alerts:

Google Alerts is one of Google’s hidden gems. It’s a really powerful tool to keep track of trends, interesting topics, or anything really new that appears on the web. 

A Google Alert is easy to set up, and it’s a good way to monitor the web for desired topics being written about.

Once you set up a Google Alert you will get a daily email with links to articles on that particular alert for the day. For us, that’s various travel destinations. 

For example, after Playa del Carmen (one of our chosen places to live) had violence in a nightclub last month :( I was able to easily follow the news on it with Google Alerts. As a result, I’ll follow the alerts for the next year to see how Playa fares but we’re also going to check other locations now.

Even though we aren’t leaving the United States for a while, Google Alerts gives me a better feeling of the places we’re interested in living.  

Worldschool here we come!

Digital Nomadism here we come!

Adventure here we come!

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Sunday, January 29th, 2017

First Planning Steps For Our Family Living Abroad

by Kristen Suzanne in travel

Italy… just one destination of many.

I’ve mentioned before that we’re planning to eventually spend a lot of time abroad. 

Sure, it’s still a long way off, but all this time allows me to research, research, research.

Things like: visas, projected costs (and savings!), housesitting, digital nomadism, finding the cheapest air travel, where to go, packing, and of course… can I bring my Instant Pot???

To assist, I created a “Travel” file in Evernote where I have the following notes:

  • To-Do (things like renew passports, take a self-defense class, get “global entry” and more)
  • Countries / Research (a long list of all the places we think would be fun)
  • Airfare/Train (how to get cheap air including the travel hack of “chasing miles”)
  • Packing (backpacks, carry-on, suitcases, first aid kit, clothes, herbs, food, etc)
  • Technology (adapters, cell phones, VPN, laptops, and more)
  • Accommodations (options, costs, etc)

Embracing minimalism will make this move abroad easier (and cheaper), so I’ve slowly donated and sold things. Admittedly, I get a surge of energy and excitement when I purge things (though not sure my husband or daughter share my thrill – sorry, Greg, about that bottle opener). 

Learning from Minimalism experts, I ask myself two things when deciding whether to keep or get rid of something:

Does this item spark joy?

Would I buy this now had I not bought it before?

Considering those two questions is powerful in inspiring me to just let… it… go.  

I will share what I learn about living abroad as I go. I hope it helps someone considering the same thing much as all the blogs I’ve read have helped me. 

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Friday, October 28th, 2016

We’re Go Girls! Field trips and Homeschooling.

by Kristen Suzanne in home school, Motherhood, travel
Here we go! Homeschool fun out and about.

Here we go! Homeschool fun out and about.

I’ve recently dubbed my daughter and myself, The Go Girls, as we have been just getting up and going for all kinds of activities lately.

Most of you know that we homeschool though I’d kind of lump us into the unschool category, which I prefer to call FUNschool. Our lives are about learning through fun activities. And you know what? It works.

She is learning to read, spell, and write by texting on her iPod and playing Words with Friends. We read books as well but there’s no pulling teeth with all of these fun alternatives. We learn math with cooking, board games, and simply talking about numbers out loud so she can see how to manipulate them to get the answers to questions.

When we have longer car rides to activities, it’s a ripe time for conversing about everything from zombies to politics (maybe that was the same conversation).

Kamea is full of questions every single day. Being able to answer them all in the moment, or help her find the information when I don’t know the answer, is a blessing.

 

Time to go global.

Time to go global.

I want to take learning to a global level in the near future.

I was recently inspired by the book Global Student, which has my brain’s gears thinking about living abroad for extended periods of time to immerse ourselves in other cultures, learn language and show Kamea the world. (This book is not just for homeschoolers.)

From Amazon.com about the book

In 2005, Maya Frost and her husband sold everything and left their suburban American lifestyle behind in order to have an adventure abroad. The tricky part: they had to shepherd their four teenage daughters through high school and into college. This hilarious and conspiratorial how-to handbook describes the affordable, accessible, and stunningly advantageous options they stumbled upon that any American student can leverage to get an outrageously relevant global education. 

Ready to ditch the drama of the traditional hypercompetitive SAT/AP/GPA path? Meet the bold American students who are catapulting into the global economy at twenty with a red-hot college diploma, sizzling 21st-century skills, a blazing sense of direction–and no debt.  

You’ll discover:  
• the one thing preventing your student from blasting forward
• why Advanced Placement isn’t so advanced
• why international programs fail to provide a truly global education
• the most critical time for your student to study abroad
• the best exchange program in the world ($3,000 or less per year)
• the strategic way to fast-forward through high school
• how to maximize a family sabbatical 
• how to live the life of your dreams abroad–and save thousands for college

 

I always knew we’d travel, in some way, someday, to other parts of the world.

Someday.

Upon completion of Global Student, it easily clicked as to how we would actually do it.

In 2018, we’ll sell some stuff, put the rest in storage, pack some suitcases and take off. I’m only in the very beginning of researching this but we’re considering south of France (and other parts of Europe), the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, and/or Costa Rica. Probably all of them eventually.

For now… here’s our world in Arizona. These are some things we’ve been doing to have fun and learn at the same time.

The various parks offer homeschool classes and family activities that are loaded with hands-on learning.

Kamea is feeding a sweet and hungry tortoise some prickly pear.

Watch your fingers - feeding a tortoise.

Watch your fingers – feeding a tortoise.

 

I’ve always thought snakes were cool and witnessing this king snake eat a dead rat was fascinating.

Mouse was dead prior to feeding.

Rat was dead prior to feeding.

We also saw a rattlesnake have her lunch, too, which was epic.

We like jumping at an indoor trampoline park. Great exercise and ridiculously fun.

Time to jump!

Time to jump!

 

Kamea is enjoying a Lego Engineering class where she built a battery-operated car.

Kamea in Lego Engineering class.

Kamea in Lego Engineering class.

 

We celebrated Dia de los Muertos in Phoenix which was quite the event. Now that I’ve had a taste of this locally, I can’t wait to visit Oaxaca to witness it there someday.

Dancing along with the others.

Dancing along with the others. #Diadelosmuertos

 

I’m grateful Kamea can experience some culture like this in Arizona. She sat at a table filled with Spanish-speaking kids, learning and having fun.

Art with other kids at Dia de los Metros.

Art with other kids at Dia de los Muertos.

 

We visited a pumpkin patch which was filled with activities and fun including a train ride, hay ride, games, animals, and horse rides.

Pumpkins with a desert backdrop.

Hmmmm which one?

Even though I’ve been in Arizona over a decade, I’m still not used to some holidays here. Seeing the cactus in the backdrop is weird different.

 

Horse riding time

Horse riding time

Kamea wanted to ride the horse so badly! When I got to the part where I could choose the non-mandatory helmet, I was struck with protecting my child’s brain in the event of a fall or saving her from potentially getting lice with this community-helmet (ewww). Obviously we went with the helmet but next time I’m bringing her own. 

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Monday, November 9th, 2015

Things I Bring on an Airplane to Stay Healthy – Salt Pipe and Bulletproof Coffee

Salt pipe, Bulletproof coffee, essential oils. What more could you want? #Travel

Salt pipe, Bulletproof coffee, essential oils. What more could you want? #Travel

When I was little I used to love riding in airplanes.

Not so much anymore. Either it’s because I’m getting bigger or the planes are getting smaller… or it’s just an age thing.

The days of getting excited for airplane travel are behind me. So, I try to make it as enjoyable as possible and bring a few comforts from home.

Obviously, there’s a smart phone or device of some sort for reading kindle books.

Obviously, there are healthy snacks like dark chocolate, avocado, sea salt, my favorite collagen bars, and anything else that I fancy like an organic apple, flax crackers, red bell pepper (just eat it like an apple), and… Bulletproof Coffee.

Wait, how do I drink Bulletproof Coffee when I’m on a plane?

Read More »

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Monday, November 2nd, 2015

Pictures From Kauai Hawaii – Travel

by Kristen Suzanne in Kristen Suzanne, travel
Na Pali Coast Kauai. Breathtaking.

Na Pali Coast Kauai. Breathtaking.

We went to Kauai this year for an amazing vacation. I can still remember the fish tacos from Al Pastor Taco Truck… oh and the cold-pressed green juice… oh and the Art Cafe Hemingway breakfast I had almost daily, and so much more. The lush verdant island is haunting me to go back.

Best fish tacos in the world. Al Pastor. Kauai.

Best fish tacos in the world. Al Pastor. Kauai.

Read More »

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Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Unconventional Ways to Celebrate Halloween

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

As a mom who doesn’t give her kid candy unless it’s dark chocolate, Halloween is a tricky situation (pun intended)… until now.

To tell you the truth, we have a lot of things we do to celebrate Halloween and all without the traditional trick-or-treating.

HALLOWEEN DECORATING!

For starters, we begin the celebrating with decorations at the beginning of October. This includes wall clings, scary music, carving jack-o-lanters, hanging skeletons from the ceiling, and more. This starts at the beginning of October to ensure a healthy dose of Halloween-ness.

Halloween is a whole month celebration for us.

Halloween is a whole month celebration for us.

Kamea painting a small pumpkin for decoration.

Kamea painting a small pumpkin for decoration.

 

HALLOWEEN HUNT!

When the actual day of Halloween arrives, we have a Halloween Hunt where we hide dark chocolates and little trinkets, toys, stickers, etc around the house (or where ever we are).

 

HALLOWEEN TRAVEL!

Another thing we often do is travel during this time to make it extra special… with costumes, of course.

Travel to Flagstaff, AZ. A spooky town.

Travel to Flagstaff, AZ. A spooky town.

 

What kid wouldn't want to go to DISNEYLAND for Halloween?

What kid wouldn’t want to go to DISNEYLAND for Halloween?

 

16 months old as a fairy while traveling to Sedona, AZ for Halloween.

16 months old, as a fairy while traveling to Sedona, AZ for Halloween.

 

WEAR COSTUMES MANY TIMES!

We don our costumes many times(!) during the weeks before Halloween. Myself included.

I wear this costume pretty much every year.

I wear this costume pretty much every year.

 

Halloween Headbands are awesome.

Halloween Headbands are awesome.

 

HALLOWEEN STORE!

We check out the crazy Halloween stores that pop up every year. Sometimes we go more than once. #FieldTrip

Trying on a witch hat. "I'll get you my pretty…"

Trying on a witch hat. “I’ll get you my pretty…”

 

HALLOWEEN PARTIES!

We go to Halloween parties… like this one at her Karate Dojo.

Halloween Party with a light show and dancing.

Halloween Party with a light show and dancing.

 

MONEY FOR CANDY!

I remember growing up, my mom gave us money for the candy we collected trick-or-treating, which we always preferred over eating the candy. That’s another idea.

 

A walk down memory lane with Kamea’s first Halloween.

This was Kamea’s first Halloween costume. She was a Chipotle Burrito.

Baby as a burrito: Halloween

4 months old Kamea as a burrito: Halloween

We swaddled her in an organic blanket, first, and you can see the rest. Foil. Organic lettuce. I actually thought she’d hate it because she’s not big on the swaddle thing, but she was a real trooper in her costume as Greg took photos.

——————-

Halloween as a SCIENCE EXPERIMENT! From Mothering.com…

I loved candy when I was a kid, but when I became a mother, I worried about my kids eating too much of the stuff. Still, I’ve never banned it from our home. Now, when my children come home on Halloween night, examine their candy, and go to bed without asking to eat a single piece, it’s not because I’ve forbidden it. It’s because they have better ideas about what 
to do with it.

It began with a simple question three years ago, when I was overwhelmed by our collection of Halloween candy. An afternoon with too-generous coworkers, a church Trunk-or-Treat (i.e., collecting candy at every car in a full parking lot), and a subsequent trick-or-treating expedition up our street had provided my four-year-old princess and two-year-old cowboy with mountains of candy. But since the candies had been the gifts of kind friends, and of elderly neighbors on fixed incomes, I didn’t want to throw them all away. Instead, I decided to dole them out one piece at a time. Handing out pieces after lunch was painful—the bowl loomed enormous atop my fridge, and I knew that at this rate we’d be eating candy for months.

Then, as my daughter Katherine poured out a box of Nerds, she asked the life-changing question:

“What would happen if I put these in water?”

I almost missed the moment. I was cleaning up the lunch dishes, and didn’t want to get out another one. Besides, the experiment sounded messy and wasteful (even though I’d just been agonizing about how to get rid of the stuff). I brushed her question aside, hoping she’d forget it. Instead, she asked again. I got her a white, unspillable mug, filled it with water, and set it down in front of her. She poured in her strawberry Nerds, examined them, stirred them into something the color of raspberry lemonade, and examined the cup again. Then I dumped 
it down the sink.

That was our first candy experiment.

Now, that’s a good idea for candy.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN SEASON!

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Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Travel: Kauai, Hawaii. Art Cafe Hemingway Restaurant

by Kristen Suzanne in eggs, food journal, Kristen Suzanne, travel
My favorite breakfast: In Our Time

My favorite breakfast: In Our Time

We went to Art Cafe Hemingway for breakfast every day of our vacation (that they were open) on the verdant island, Kauai.

The food was that good.

Adorbable cafe in Kauai - the best coffee.

Adorbable cafe in Kauai – the best coffee.

The attention to detail and the flavors in their food were such that I savored every bite. Truly. Each forkful kept me mindful effortlessly.

Read More »

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