Family Travel

Dreaming and Grieving from Taking a Risk with the Kids

Me Ra Koh

The countdown is on. In less than a month, our family is planning to take our biggest leap ever. We are putting all our belongings in storage, putting our house on the market, and buying one-way tickets to New Zealand to film a family travel show around the world. We are taking a risk with kids.

The kids are researching every destination, learning about the various cultures, foods, wildlife and more. I hear my husband Brian explaining our plans to friends, and it’s as though he’s speaking about someone else’s family. It seems so surreal to believe this is our dream waiting for us just around the bend. But despite all the excitement, there’s also the gentle waves of grief that come along with such a big change.

In this last month of being in our sweet home, it’s as if grief reaches for my hand as I prepare to leap. We must leap together, she whispers to me. I know that embracing her is what will make the journey meaningful. Deep down, I knew I would face this. I knew the time would come to start saying our goodbyes, not just to people but to our special places.

With any great change, we know that grief is a part of the process.

Maybe that is why we don’t talk about taking huge leaps like this as much as we’d like to. You can’t get far talking about the leap before the sadness must come up too, and maybe it’s this undeniable sadness that causes more of us to hesitate before we can pursue our dreams.

As Brian and I worked on building this dream for the last five years, I pushed back the anxieties I felt inside. I know we are taking a risk with kids, but I focused on the standing-on-the-mountain-top experiences. I had to. If I allowed myself to think about the upcoming sadness in the early stages of building this vision, I wouldn’t have gotten very far. I intentionally pushed the tears away as they would come, because it didn’t seem wise to cry over a vision only half realized. But the vision is now full and ready to breathe, and the time to grieve is fully upon me.

In the last few weeks, I set out for my daily morning walks with tears in my eyes. I will miss this home, the neighborhood, the beauty of the Puget Sound waters. I will miss the familiarity of summertime when I sit at my writing desk and hear all the kids through my open window yell “Olly Olly Oxen Free!” then giggle and run barefoot in the grass; I will miss the days where we quit work early to go to the neighborhood pool or host outdoor movie nights in our backyard with café lights strung from the apple trees. I will miss riding my bike to yoga, working in the garden while the kids set up another lemonade stand, and all the spontaneous lunches or dinners with my parents who only live twenty minutes away.

We are leaping into the unknown, leaving behind so much that is good.

But leaping isn’t the same as running, there is a big difference between the two. There have been times in my life when I have wanted to run from pain that scared me, when relationships felt impossible to mend. There have been times when I’ve daydreamed about being anywhere but the spot I found myself in. Running felt like a glorified out, but it brought consequences with it. The idea of running is tempting; it’s an easy escape from the problem. But what if you don’t want to escape what you have? What if you love all that you’ve cultivated? Leaving it all behind to pursue the unknown, that isn’t running. That is leaping.

When we leap into the unknown, our hearts know what we are choosing to leave behind. We know that we are taking a risk with no guarantees. We know that we are sacrificing all that is familiar and subjecting ourselves to change. Why would we choose this? I’m sure the reason is different for everyone. For me, I want to grow. I want to be inspired. I want to be challenged. I want to continue to create from a place that is true and raw versus regurgitating the old. When I leap, I am ultimately responding to the creative knock at my heart’s door.

When we are running, it makes sense to everyone around us. 

When we leap, it may only make sense to ourselves.

The most common response from friends and family has been something along the lines of: “You’re selling your home? You’re buying one-way tickets to where? Yes, that sounds fun, but … [clears throat] isn’t that what we did in our early twenties with backpacks, not our forties with kids?!” Every once in a while though someone will add at the end — in almost a whisper, “That is crazy, but wow, it also sounds like a real adventure.”

We are taking a risk with kids.

I love those moments of realization. I see it in their eyes. Adventure? Yes! Then their eyes get wide and bright, and you can almost see them visualizing themselves packing up their home and going for it. So maybe, just maybe, by living out our dream, we are empowering others to live out their own.

Maybe we are a bit crazy. I know I feel a little crazy as I embrace the unknown over what is warm and familiar to us. Maybe we are a little extreme. Is selling our home necessary? Who knows? We intuitively feel it is part of the process for our journey. Since most of this adventure has been created from our intuition, we may as well follow it with that one too.

And in the end, I think leap-takers have to embrace a little bit of the crazy and extreme. Otherwise, we will try to measure all that we are doing against what we already know — and how can you know what lies in the unknown?

There are more questions than I have answers for.

There are more tears than I expected.

There are more friends and special places to say goodbye to than there is time.

Our move in the next month will most likely feel more messy than clean, I’ve learned the necessity of allowing things to be messy when creating something new.

With all the above, I crawl in bed at night fully aware we are taking a risk with the kids. I dream of my husband calling out to me, beckoning me to come. He is alive, his face beaming with joy. My children have already taken off running after Dad, fearless and ready. I climb from the bed. I ask myself a single question, Does this leap bring you peace? As long as the answer remains yes, my family and I will take that leap.



First published on Disney