Almost three years ago, Scott re-launched our blog with an announcement that we were leaving to volunteer and travel indefinitely. We’d done that before, but this time, he explained, we were selling our stuff, getting rid of our apartment, and leaving home for a nomadic life of service, family and travel. Life is short, he said. And we wanted to do more of what we felt made life important.

We did exactly that. We drove out of Toronto at the end of June, 2017 and slowly made our way to the West Coast. I learned how to love the wilderness just in time to hike and live outdoors in the English countryside with the help of my magic pants. We went to Ukraine and volunteered to conduct two very large Vipassana retreats at a former Soviet-era children’s camp. Our experience in Ukraine changed us in ways we couldn’t imagine. So began a worldwide journey of service and travel.

Morning coffee in a farmer’s field in England.
Karen walking the fells of the Lake District near Keswick.
Our wettest (and last) day outdoors in England.
“Look natural.” Trying to teach Scott the art of the selfie.

But as we know, all things must end. As Scott’s last post alluded to, this chapter of our life has faded and transformed into something new for a while. We’ve slept in the same bed now for almost eight weeks, making this the longest time we’ve spent in one place since mid-2017. We’re trying to get used to our new life.

The transition back to the grind isn’t easy. Even when it’s smooth.

Some people get very anxious when we describe how we live. Especially when we’re in one of our peripatetic periods, wandering the earth like bourgeois hobos. No place to live, waking up in a different culture every month – a new city, new food, new currency. None of that makes us anxious. But the transition back to life in Canada? Nerve wracking. Even when it’s easy.

That said, the transition has been incredibly smooth. Somehow, Scott has found a perfect job, interviewing the day after we arrived in Vancouver. Just a few weeks later, I was offered a job with the BC government, in health care. Things have moved very quickly since we left Mexico City on October 1. As always, we feel very lucky. We were prepared for a long limbo looking for work and couch surfing. Instead, we went from hobo to SoHo in less than a month.

From hobo to SoHo.
Living like we’re leaving. Our new home is like a hotel.

I’m not going to regurgitate our travels of the last two and half years. I’ll share some of my favorite photos instead and note that, though all of it was amazing, 2018, in particular, was a life-altering year for me – in what I already considered a life of life-altering experiences. That year took us to many places: Palestine, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, back through a lot of eastern Europe, including a return to Ukraine, and ended with us meditating silently for seven weeks in Thailand. I was able to work remotely, with great colleagues on excellent projects. That year also took me to Armenia, where I explored my Armenian heritage and later reconnected with my father’s family in Canada. Though we learned a lot about ourselves, we also had the opportunity to focus on the needs of other people.

Riding the local bus in Bangkok.
Songkran (New Year’s) with our Thai friends.
A devout lay meditator in Bangkok.
Monks on morning alms in Bangkok.
Shopping with friends in Hong Kong.
Early morning with Mount Fuji.
Ramen in Dotonburi, Osaka.
God bless the Japanese and their perfect treats.
Dotonburi in Osaka, Japan.
The old city of Bethlehem, Palestine.
Palestinian meditators in Zebabdeh, West Bank.
Makeshift meditation hall in Palestine.
The old city in Jerusalem.
Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.
Mount Ararat, Armenia.
Armenian food. The freshest in the world.
Working on the long train journey from Yerevan to Tbilisi.
Remains of the Warsaw Ghetto wall in Poland.
The old city in Warsaw.
Poland’s beautiful new meditation hall at Dhamma Pallava.
Taking a river ride with friends in Szczecin, Poland.
Morning in Vilnius, Lithuania. From the living in the world but not of it post.
Beautiful Talinn, Estonia.
Echo’s birthday dinner with family in Berlin. One of the highlights of 2018.
The atmospheric meditation hall in Ukraine.
Oleksiy packing up the mats after the last course in Ukraine.
Lunch with Vipassana friends in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The cathedral at Pechersk Lavra, Kyiv, Ukraine.
The meditation hall in Thailand. Our home for seven weeks.
The meditation pagoda in Thailand.

We’re in Vancouver now, and as mentally hard as this transition back to Canada has been, we feel very grateful. Grateful to have good solid friends and family that surround us with love. Grateful that we are married to each other and that we both want the same things out of a very short life.  Grateful to have been welcomed back to Vancouver so smoothly. And most of all, grateful for a meditation practice that helps us to make sense of the world and understand ourselves within it.

We know we’ll continue to live a life peppered with sabbaticals that allow us to volunteer around the world. But for the time being, you can find us in Vancouver.

We wish you all the very best in 2020. 

May you all be happy and healthy.

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