When I asked my friend Amy Ashworth to let me interview her for The Thersday Series, I first requested that she adopt me into her family. Her 8- and 6-year-olds have WAY more stamps on their passports than me, and are learning lessons I could only dream of at their age. With each trip they take, I stand more in awe of the experiences the Ashworths are providing their children—pushing their boundaries, and opening their eyes to the world. Welcome, Amy, to the blog! I’m so glad you agreed to share your experiences with us.
You are circumnavigating this globe, my friend. Tell us how you were bit with the travel bug.
We have been weaving #ashworthadventures into our lives from early courtship. Sim, my love and partner in this life journey, was quite the romantic when we were dating and seemed to always have extraordinary outings planned and destination dates on the horizon, so our hopes for a future of travel and exploration were planted early on. I believe he, in particular, has always had wanderlust in his soul, in fact he was in his mother’s womb when she and his dad once smuggled Bibles sewn into the sides of a Volkswagon bus into Communist Eastern Europe! They eventually emigrated from their birthplace, England, and still spend quite a bit of time visiting the Mother Country. Since I’ve known Sim, we have visited over 70 countries together and actually knocked out over a dozen on our honeymoon alone. (Now, that’s a way to get to know your new hubs pretty quickly….and deeply. I don’t know about you, but travel brings its fair share of stress and irritability, so two days into a new marriage, those challenges bonded us pretty tightly.)
That maiden honeymoon trip was planned and ventured upon without Google or Expedia—just a couple of exhilarated 22 year olds driving with an old school folded-up map of Europe on my lap, and a highlighter in hand trying to navigate Sim through back streets of Athens or downtown Budapest. We each had served on a couple of medical mission trips during our college years, and still hope to embark on more eventually. For now, we are introducing Ava, 8, and Lowe, 6, to the gifts of this beautiful Earth on which we dwell. Our children each had passports at 2 months old—so yes, I was the bedraggled, barely upright new mom in the post office getting a passport photo of my squishy newborn. (I deserve a medal for that!) The kiddos have now chalked up 10 international trips and log their travels with a sewing pin stuck in a globe on each country they’ve visited. These hang over their beds, so I can imagine there’s lots of travel dreaming going on at night. Sim and I started the tradition of a family globe in our living room years ago, but recently got individual ones for the kids, hoping that they too find those threads an integral part of life.
Can you talk about a recent interesting travel experience?
Our international trips are always so, so full. Weeks after we return home, we are still overflowing with thoughts, recollections, and reflections of our time in another culture. The immediate interactions quickly blur and I’m left with a constellation of feelings: humility and privilege; emotional fullness and exhaustion; awe and sadness; utter amazement of this diverse planet. But I guess overall, what I have come away with again and again, is the truth that although we are all different on the outside—be it skin color, language, dress, religion, societal norms—we share the same humanity. We all yearn for acceptance and want to be loved; we each advocate for our own; we work hard for the sake of our family.
A mama’s sadness in Havana is the same as a mama’s sadness in Seattle. Pain is pain, grief is grief, fear is fear, pride is pride, and love is love.
Those mamas across the Pacific are wiping runny noses and holding little hands, and preparing meals for their families whether over a Viking Range or a pot over coals. It’s really a warming thought to recognize that common thread of humanity, and I think often of other women whom I have encountered on our travels going about their daily tasks in similar (and drastically dissimilar) ways as me.
I recognize that when we travel, we are seen as visitors and tourists, and we are most often greeted and treated as such—whether with gracious hospitality, odd stares, or even curious touches to Lowe’s blonde head. We most often see the popular sights and points of interest, but recently we have become more brave about looking behind the market stalls, the taxi stations, the tour boat docks, and have tried to walk the “real life alleys” where families are indeed cooking a meal over a flame, grandmas are hanging laundry, kids are shoeless and playing with empty milk jugs in filthy streets, all the while surrounded by vibrant beauty. The aromas of salty sea air, fresh fruit warming in the sun, seafood resting on quickly melting ice, spicy fire-roasted pork, and, of course, the malodorous piles of refuse leave an imprint on the senses. That’s their day to day, their routine, their little pocket of life. I feel both privileged to see it and humbled by it. In Cuba, we stayed at an Airbnb with a family and their staff. We learned about their own young children through pictures on their phones, we talked about government policy, economic and political hardships, and decisions about daily life like where their daughters would go to school and prepping for a driving license exam. Sound familiar?
Wendell Berry says, “Nobody can discover the world for someone else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” As a mother who travels internationally with your children, how does it benefit Ava and Lowe to discover the world for themselves?
You know, I have to say the kids do great on our trips. I can see their exhaustion, but the wide eyes and inquisitive expressions tell me they are soaking up every drop they can from their 48” vantage points. They have more patience that me on occasion! Immigration and customs queues, irregular sleep cycles, meals randomly timed. I can sense their focus and attentiveness (and eerie quietness) when we have a little crisis, like missing a train or getting lost…their eyes are fixed on Dad who always comes up with an answer or solution. We teach them little hungers or thirsts or sweaty foreheads are temporary, and Mom and Dad will meet those needs soon, but not always immediately. I’m hopeful these small feelings of discomfort are molding them into more understanding, compassionate, and tolerant humans. Don’t get me wrong, I think they would say the highlights of the trips are the hotel pools, superfluous ice cream, or souvenir shopping; but I have to say, they are troopers and they notice a lot. And they are super fun to have around!
As my children experience travel—especially world travel—my hope for Ava and Lowe is that they see those common bonds and common ground: respect for another’s choices, religion, likes and loves. Don’t we each want to learn, worship, and express ourselves without shame? I think we tend to fear what we don’t understand, and by embarking on these trips to unfamiliar spaces, we open ourselves to enlightenment. Walking amongst, chatting with, and dining beside these “differences” help them discover for themselves that we really are more alike than we know.
In her book At Home in the World, author Tsh Oxenreider describes herself as a wanderer and a homebody. Do you find this dichotomy is true for you as well? How do you root your family in the comforts of home AND gift them with a insatiable desire to see the world?
I’ve actually just started this book upon your recommendation, and love it. She echoes some of my feelings precisely and does indeed reflect a dichotomy in her zeal for travel yet her desire to be on her own couch with a cup of tea. Taking off from LAX to Shanghai on a 14-hour trans-Pacific flight, I can say I kind of wished I was at home on my couch instead, too!
I think it’s about keeping the perspective I mention above: we are such a tiny part of this vast planet and despite being so insignificant, we indeed are important individually, as is everyone else. I’d like to think we each have a home, sweet home. We love our own nest in Maple Valley, Washington, and we try to balance our wanderlust with a healthy dose of contentment. The kids certainly recognize the comforts and familiarities of home, but frequently talk about trips and tidbits of cultural experiences. They are joyful and inquisitive with no filter on their instinct to befriend, and I think we have awakened an appetite for adventure.
Ava recently asked, “Mom, when’s our next trip?” Easy, dear.
Who keeps you company on your journey?
I am truly blessed with a great little family. Ava and Lowe are really fun people; Lowe has quite a sense of humor that keep us from to taking things too seriously, and Ava is always finding little treasures amongst the ordinary and pointing out subtleties we busy adults would miss. I am fortunate to have Simeon, my best friend, and such an inspiring partner who gently nudges me outside my comfort zone in order to experience a panorama, a revelation, a reward I otherwise would not have known. His knack and affinity for order and organization enables us to balance a life of work, play, and adventure pretty effectively so far. We have a long bucket list which seems to be growing instead of shrinking. So, cheers to health, adventure, and seeing the similarities within us on this glorious planet! Happy Travels.