The Guest’s Perspective: by Gayle Smith

March 29, 2012 in blog, North America, Travelogue, United States

**Disclaimer: Gayle is far too kind and gives us far too much credit… but as promised, I publish this unedited.**

Last night I laid awake in my comfy borrowed bed in a cottage of chosen family and wondered how I should begin this article. 

I quickly realized that it would only be fair to give a little history about how I met Jenn.  It made me smile on the inside to reminisce about meeting “the new girl” from Canada in 7th grade.  I remember that she was much smarter than I, kind, soft spoken and harassed by the other kids with questions about Canada. The most memorable of questions were “do you have electricity and running water?” and “do you have polar bears?”, other than ridiculous questions, she felt like an outcast at a new school.  We became fast friends at school and on the weekends at her house, joined a swim team together and when her family moved on, we kept in touch.

The next time we saw each other was shortly after she and Tony were married. 

We met at the Waffle House and sat and talked for a few hours, and while I was happy that she was on the next adventure of her life, I was sad, and felt that we no longer had many things in common.  Still, she kept in touch with letters and cards, that I still have in my old bedroom at my old house.  The cards came with pictures and it seemed that with each photo, there was a new child in it, each one made me smile.

THEN, in 2009 or 2010 I discovered the Facebook revolution, and eventually, we found each other, and picked up right where we left off.  My life had changed drastically, her life had changed drastically and she started to tell me of their family adventure.

She told me about Tony quitting his job with Apple, selling their house, traveling full time and seeing the world, and just like most people, I thought the concept was nuts.  I couldn’t imagine giving up the stability of owning a home. Homeschooling is great, but what were her kids like? How can a family of 6 afford this? What about safety in other countries? Wait, you went where? Your kids got to experience THAT?  You biked across how many countries? You got to ride camels? You’re going to live in Guatemala? On a lake? Across from volcanos?

Still, that’s just crazy!

My family and I had been through our own adventure, in our small little universe in Palmetto, FL.

I had suffered 2 heart attacks, had 10 stents placed in one of my coronary arteries and went through a double bypass, and when the physicians at home didn’t have any answers, I started looking for the best physicians that could diagnose the problems and give me a shot at a longer life.  My research on physicians and medical facilities guided me to Mass. General in Boston.

Jenn and her family just happened to be temporarily living in Mansfield, MA, at the time, in between their world adventures.  Jayden and I were welcomed with open arms to stay with them, so that I could see the physicians in Boston.

We were greeted at the airport with an emotional Jenn and four of the most awesome kids I’ve ever met.  Hannah and Gabe quickly took care of the luggage, Elisha took care of the stroller and getting Jayden situated, Ezra tagged along happily and Jenn and I shared a few tears and some really tight hugs. Then we were off to Mansfield, where they had a cozy trailer in a beautiful camping ground and Jayden was in Heaven.

We only had a week, and it was FILLED with doctor’s appointments, we alternated between driving into Boston and taking the train on days that were suitable. I knew that all these trips were not convenient, and expensive, but not once did I ever feel that we were in inconvenience to them.  They were cheerful and hospitable every moment, and they really helped take a lot of the anxiety out of the trip.

There wasn’t a lot of time, but I got a good glimpse into their lives.

  • Realize that there were 6 people already sleeping in a 25 foot camper and they HAPPILY added 2 more.
  • They were already feeding 6, and welcomed 2 more.
  • They weren’t planning 5 trips into Boston in a week, but they cheerfully navigated me to and from the appointments.
  • The kids watched after Jayden and kept him playing and content.


Jenn and I talked for hours on the trips back and forth from Boston and in the evenings we sat around a campfire with a glass of wine while Hannah and Tony serenaded us with tunes from their guitar and fiddle.

Each conversation amazes me, the places they’ve been, the things they’ve seen, but most important to them was the people they’d met and the friends they’d made along the way, and that’s when it all made sense to me.  Jenn sums it up best when she says, “it’s not about the “stuff”, it’s about the people.”

Life, for them, doesn’t stop when they have guests.

This is our third trip up to Mass., staying with the Miller family, and once again I’m here for more tests and appointments. 

Tony is preparing all the work he can before leaving, but soon, he’ll be working from the other side of the world .  Jenn can write from wherever she calls home and Hannah and the boys can even keep up their writing and schoolwork from Asia and their other planned stops.  The downsizing continues and all the homeschool lessons have to be planned, but none of it gets in the way of guests, friends, chosen family and family.

Friday night we stayed up late and chatted with Keri before her and her kids returned to Germany. As usual, if you love Tony and Jenn, you tend to love their friends too.  We talked about Jenn and Tony’s recent trip to Iceland and them trying the “putrified shark,” which apparently is an acceptable meal to the locals.  And giggled at the story about the farmer losing his favorite sheep down a crevasse, it all turned out fine, but the sheep was quite upset with the farmer.  That night, this cottage slept 13 people and we were quite cozy. Saturday the goodbyes were bitter sweet, and I nearly shed a tear when Keri’s kids wanted to say goodbye to the ocean.

It’s a quiet Sunday in this comfy cottage on the beach in Onset.

The sky is cloudy the air is cool, but I woke to the sound of chirping birds that are celebrating Spring. Tony, Jenn and I are all on our laptops pecking away.

  • Tony is working on things that I am unable to understand.
  • Jenn is researching future homes in Phuket
  • I’m attempting an article suitable for Jenn’s blog or website
  • Hannah is making cookies of some sort
  • Gabe is in Canada helping Gramps, (I have missed that boy this trip)
  • Elisha, Ezra and Jayden are burning off some boy energy at the park down the street


Tomorrow starts the testing and appointments rodeo in Boston and a little girl time for Jenn and I. 

They’re about 6 weeks out from their launch to Asia, and we’re not the only guests that are on the agenda.

It’s a mission for them to see and spend time with as many family members and friends possible before leaving this continent.  The “to do” list is on the side of the fridge; packing, sorting, giving and moving stuff, only keeping the few items that each of them hold near and dear. Jenn is quite honest about the whole process of launching to Asia, or anywhere for that matter, and it’s not glamorous. Yes, they’re living their dreams, and it’s not easy. It takes a LOT of planning and daily effort for them to live this way.  So many things have to be taken into consideration and each plan, has a plan a, b, c, d, e, f, g and maybe a plan h too.  They expect the obstacles, but plan ahead on how to solve problems.  Admittedly, sometimes the unexpected happens and as a family, they work around it.

This is their way of life, and I admire them for it, being location independent is an amazing way to live and learn.  I wish them good times and happy travels, I hope the obstacles they experience along the way are small and we see each other again soon in good health.  

You never know, we may meet again in Thailand. I know a little blonde haired boy that would love nothing better than a ride on an elephant!

I love you Jenn and family, thank you for everything you’ve done for us!

**Gayle, you’re most welcome. The gift of your time and your son are the greatest gifts you could give us. You are loved beyond measure and wherever you find us, you’re home.**