Since Christmas, we have been "on the go". We started the year by traveling back to Michigan from the South (where we'd been for the holidays). Then we were off to Thailand (where we traveled continually for the full 3 and 1/2 months we were there), back to Michigan for 2 weeks, to Alabama for a family wedding, over to the Grand Cayman Islands for a family wedding, back to Alabama for work, back to Michigan, back to Alabama for my grandfather's 80th birthday, to Georgia for work, to Mississippi for work, to Arkansas for work, to Tennessee for work, and then back again to Michigan.
Are you tired yet?
Well, listen to this. I have not been able to actually unpack and put away our suitcases since Christmas 2010... that is, not until about the 2nd week of July.
When we came home from our last trip, (July 3rd), I counted up a few figures from our year. According to my estimates (ie - what I can remember) here is a glimpse of what life has been like for us in 2011:
- From January 1, 2011 to July 3, 2011 - there were 184 days. Of those 184 days, we only slept in our bed 39 nights.
- During those 6+ months, we slept on 26 different beds, 2 air mattresses, and spent 1 night on the ground in a tent in Thailand.
- The longest we were any one place at one time was 16 days.
- We have spent time in at least 25 different cities, 9 states, and 5 countries.
- We logged over 20,000 airmiles - which equals around 50 hours in planes. To put that into perspective, that's over 6 (8 hour) workdays.
- We spent over 150 hours traveling by car. To put that into perspective, that's almost 19 (8 hour) workdays. And I should add, that "regular time" in the car (trips to the grocery store, etc) were not counted. The trips that were counted were only those that were an hour or longer at one time.
As you can imagine, we are tired. But - more than being tired... we are lonely.
With this kind of lifestyle, there is no way for us to have healthy relationships with anyone but each other. We don't really belong anywhere. We aren't really missed anywhere.....because we aren't in one place long enough to leave a void when we are gone. We don't have regular communication with anyone - because we aren't a regular part of anyone's life. And keeping up long-distance relationships, when all you have is long-distance relationships, is pretty much impossible.
It's no one's fault really. When we are down South we are only there long enough to meet a friend for a quick lunch or a coffee break. That's hardly time to have a heart to heart or really catch up with anyone. When we are in Michigan we're only here for a few weeks... and that's hardly enough time to get settled back into a routine - much less become a regular part of other people's lives.
It's a terrible reality, and it's been wearing on us a lot this year. We seem to be living our life on the fringes of everyone else's..... never in one place long enough to plant roots.... unable to find that sense of belonging. We've become "drifters" of some sort, and that's just not what we were made to be. The lack of relationship has not been good - not for our emotional health, not for our marriage (after all, I need girlfriends! and my husband needs guy friends! All of our relational needs are not met by each other.), and not for our spiritual lives (I'm a firm believer that we need to walk through life in community with other people, and we have definitely not had any of that lately).
We knew there was a problem.... but, how could we fix it? The logical reasoning was simple - if we were spending half of our time traveling down South for work and for family, then it would make sense for us to relocate! If we'd just move down South, then half of our travel time would disappear! We'd be able to have a "home base" in the area where all our donors, supporters, and personal networks were located, and as an added bonus, we would also be closer to our families. After all - we'd moved to Michigan for Rusty to work in The World Race office, and not only was he no longer employed with The World Race - but that office had closed and all our coworkers had moved away!
But here is where we hit our dead end. Since we started a non-profit in one of the worst economic recessions in history.... and since we live in an area of Michigan with 30% unemployment.... our finances were lacking. The place we live now (a 3 bedroom house) only costs us $300 a month in rent (totally a "God thing"!) and with our current income we could not afford any more than that. Moving seemed impossible.
One of two things had to happen. Either - #1 - God had to provide a free or cheap house ($300 or less per month) for us to rent down South. - OR - #2 - We needed some seriously large donations to start coming into our non-profit The Sound of Hope.
But both of those options sound crazy..... right?