There is no question that I am the unadventurous sibling.  I’ve mentioned my sister?  The one who is living in Jerusalem for the year, with her two daughters, ages 5 and 3?  Yes, that one. Apparently many boarding school teachers spend their sabbaticals reading books in a hammock at their lake house.  Not so my brother-in-law and my sister.  Instead they moved their small children halfway across the world to the Middle East.  And whoa, am I proud of her.

On the other hand, I have lived in the same house for 11 years.  A house that is a mile from where my children go to school and less than a mile from the house my sister and I were born in.

Hilary and I grew up in the same world; we are from the same terroir.  In fact she’s the only person in the world who was by my side during those formative early years with me.  It is she who was bundled under the seat in front of me (and my mother) on a transatlantic flight when we were 1 and 3.  It is she who’s standing next to me in so many pictures across Europe, with Another Damn Cathedral (ADC) soaring behind us (you can see that I did not inherit my father’s photography skills: in the photo above we’re standing before the Dome of the Rock.  But I chose a less-than-optimal spot for capturing the moment.  Classic.).

Coming as we do from the same particular soil, one that was intense, challenging, and rich, Hilary and I have a great many things in common.  I’ve always thought we look very much alike, a fact that I think is apparent in the photograph above (which redeems it, in my view, from its lack of excellence in the touristy-shot category).

But there are some big differences, and today it’s this one – the appetite for adventure and risk – that’s on my mind.

I’ve long believed that people are more a product of nature than nurture, so who knows how much of Hilary’s and my differences are innate and how much of them come about through our different reactions to the same circumstances.  But regardless, I look at her and T, and think of the extraordinary experiences they are engraving n their daughters’ early memories, and I wonder why it is that I went so thoroughly the other way.

My father has long held that an international adventure is critical for proper family life.  I know I’m a bit of a disappointment, at least on that dimension.  It’s true that my own personal experience of our transatlantic childhood was not unequivocally positive.  I would never do it differently, but for me the back-and-forth across the Atlantic rhythm had some difficult repercussions.  But of course there were tremendous riches, too.  And when I visit Hilary in Jerusalem, and witness all that they are exploring and learning, I recall only the horizon-expanding moments.

I’ll never know why it is that I responded in such an unadventurous way to my childhood.  I regret it, in some ways, but in others I’m doing just what I said I’d do: stay put.  What I find myself thinking now, in the aftermath of our life-changing trip, is of how I can introduce adventure, particularly of the international sort, into our life without fundamentally changing its structure.  Whit’s godmother, one of my oldest friends, is moving to China this month.  I am dreaming of a visit to Beijing.  Stay tuned.

And Hilary, thank you, as always, for ever, for the continued inspiration you provide for me.


18 thoughts on “Unadventurous”

  1. Sisters are so wonderful. My sister and I each push each other to be a little bit more bold, a little bit more adventurous. When she calls me, feeling discouraged about rebuilding her silversmithing into a fresh business, I help fan the flames of that passion to inspire her; when I call her, feeling like I’ll never get anywhere with my writing, she encourages me to pursue non-traditional avenues of publishing. We each help to provide when the other is lacking, and it sounds like that is what you and your sister do, too. That bond is so special!

    (And Beijing? Awesome!)

  2. Loved this post. It reminds me of my brother and I. I was the adventurous one– moving every 2 years and he stayed put and still has all his old friends around him. He is happy. I am happy. We are close and laugh about how different we are… but we are living the lives that we want. Although… our latest trek to boston, I am hoping is our last for awhile– because roots, too… are important. And I am at the point where I want some roots. For me, and the kids. xoxo

  3. As someone who is trying to build the kind of life your sister is, but who came from a very a childhood in which we rarely traveled further than our Mercury Grand Marquis could take us, I really resonate with this post! I am an only child, but I am fascinated by how two siblings, raised in the same circumstances, often turn out so different from one another. To me, it makes sense that you could have gone such a different way. If it’s not part of your basic “constitution” and orientation to the world, a life built around international travel could easily drive someone in the opposite direction. But I really feel and appreciate your desire to give your children some international experiences without sacrifice your family’s way of being in the world. I think visiting other families you know abroad is a really excellent idea. Because my MIL lives overseas, I’m also finding that creating a “home away from home” is really appealing. Maybe renting a house somewhere that appeals to you and creating a cozy home base? Good luck on your quest! Jealous that you go to go to Jerusalem! We never made it further than Jordan…so close, yet so far away!

  4. What strikes me, and what I admire about you, and many of your readers that comment, is how well you know yourselves. When I read this post, it sets off the schitzophrenic me….. because I can be homebody and want desperately to set roots, yet I have a side that has never wanted to settle down and cant stop thinking about what all we could do.

  5. Gosh… I think about this all the time. I didn’t travel as a child and wish I did. But now, the detail and logistics of traveling with the girls paralyzes me. The long flight, the time change for my older daughter who is just getting back to sleeping right after day light saving time (yes you read that right), the picky eater. All these little things hold me back and often I wish they didn’t…

  6. Lindsey, I think the world can be cleaved in two, between those who go wide and those who go deep. I adore and sometimes envy my adventurous friends (my best friend took her family off to live in Africa for a year). But I also know there is much to be said for sinking roots. For going deep. And some of the most momentous journeys are spiritual, “The only journey is the journey within.” RIlke You are on one of those journeys, in itself a great adventure.

  7. I lived in the same house from the day I came home from the hospital as an infant until the day I left for college. As much as I aspire to offer my kids a life abroad during my husband’s upcoming sabbatical, I feel that same urge you do to “stay put.” At least you’ve experienced both things: life abroad as a child and now life stateside as a mother – it seems like you’re making an informed choice whereas mine is the product of inertia.

  8. Katrina captured so beautifully my reaction to this post based on my experience of you. You have travelled, far, my dear, in your exploration of the inner geography. xox

  9. Don’t classify yourself as unadventurous. Being a mother is an adventure in and of itself. Exposing your kids to travel and to different cultures is a wonderful gift and you’ve clearly already gifted them with that. My husband and I are raising our 14 month old in Nicaragua. We love it here and we love the experiences, but we also still love going home. And you know the place I look the most forward to visiting? My sister’s…

  10. I’m a home-body, most comfortable with the familiar. I’m never truly relaxed when venturing far from home and find intense comfort from living and raising my family in the same small town I grew up in. But my grandmother, the same woman who came to this country as a British war bridge during WWII has often said to me that she thinks of me as so brave and confident. All this to say that it’s a matter perspective, and sometimes adventure comes in different ways. 🙂

  11. Lindsey, wonderful post…but how does one contact you? the email link on your “contact me” page seems not to work!

  12. Aww sisters. The uniqueness of this relationship has been much on my mind lately.

    There is also power in “staying put”. I think there is something beautiful about the continuity of your life and the life you are creating for your children. By giving them a solid foundation and a place to always return to, you might be giving the safety they need to be adventurous on their own. Besides, I wouldn’t call you unadventurous. Not many kids have been to Jerusalem- yours have.

  13. It’s all about truly being where you are, wherever that might be. And you both do that so exquisitely well…

    I’m with M K. The challenge is to embrace both sides of myself, to ride the waves back and forth…

    Thank you.

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