How to Prepare (or Not) for a 3 Month Family Sabbatical in Europe

In less than three weeks we will be beginning our 3 month family sabbatical to Europe.

I don't know how I feel; I feel so much! And this is why I'm choosing to blog about it, as a way to process and bring you in behind the scenes of all the "glamour". 

Here is the broad stroke of our trip:

March 4, 2016: We fly with our family of four (two kids age 9 and 4) from Portland, Or to London!

March 8: We fly to Germany and pick up our motorhome.

March 8- April 8: We caravan around Europe

April 8- May 20: We make ourselves at home in whatever place has captured our heart.

May 2o, 2016 We fly back home to the Northwest of the USA from Barcelona, Spain

All Over the Map

Right now, with the countdown to departure being less than a month away, I'm all over the map, emotionally. One moment I am so excited for this decade-old-dream unfolding in real life (and not just on my dream board).  The next I'm feeling fears I have never felt before (born from my all-of-a-sudden ridiculously morbid imagination-- what is up with that!?). 

What's true is that this trip is a very big deal for our family, and it's already shaking me to the core. Which is uncomfortable, but great. I need to be shaken every once in awhile. The pursuit of true romance and meaningful adventure is never ho-hum.

Speaking about maps, here is our rough itinerary for our motorhome adventure (phase 2 of our sabbatical).

Sabbatical Phases

Our trip will be in three parts:

Part 1: We land in London, visit our friends and be glorious tourists for a few days. 

Part 2: We fly to Munich Germany and rent a motorhome. For the next 4 weeks we drive it wherever the heck we want (see map above for loose plans) until it's due back April 8th.

Part 3: We don't know! We are going to set up camp somewhere, but we don't know where yet. When we dreamt of this trip we imagined renting a house in Southern Spain, but we are purposely keeping things open so we get to be completely dependent on the "Holy Nudge" to guide us.

This means while we are motorhoming around we will be paying close attention to how our heart feels at every location.  Is this the town we are meant to come back to? Is this the region that's calling us to spend more time? It's an experiment for the whole family on listening (and trusting) to That Which Communicates But Does Not Use Words. Who knows how it will go!? It's a big part of the adventure and what we long to share with the kids. 

How to Prepare (Or Not)

Honestly, the preparation I'm most interested in (and in need of) is the preparation of the heart (which can be summed up as let go of expectations and just be here for the experience).

For a big trip like this it would be very easy to get cray-cray about the details:

What clothes to pack?

How many total bags are appropriate for a family of four traveling for three months if the mother values fashion AND keeping things simple equally? 

Should we bring toys and snacks for the kids? Should we let them be on any digital devices during our trip, or expect them to be entertained by all the new sights and sounds around us?  

How much should we budget for gelato? for gas? for espressos (the volume of a shot is so tiny! I'm used to a mug of coffee, will I get used to a thimble? or should I just plan on paying for 3 shots everyday?)

How does a mom get ready to homeschool for the first time? What materials does my third grader need? What can he do without? How much structure will we need each day? Can we do without any of it?

Where and when is sex going to happen? (The "privacy curtain" our little motorhome comes with is cute, but I doubt it will give me the feeling that my husband and I are actually alone).

What's our plan if all our stuff gets stolen like it did the last time we were in Europe?

Yep, feel the overwhelm mounting?

I'm a type B mom, so right now all I know for sure is the location of all four of our passports, and the date we fly out.

Pretty much everything else we will be figuring out along the way. Which is unthinkable to my momma friends who make an art out of spreadsheeting everything. But it's us! As much as I wish I could absorb and get excited about all the planning genius contained in so many of the family sabbatical blog posts out there, I just can't. 

I know where our passports are, and I've decided, for right now at least, that's all I need to know for sure. 

What this means is that our family-- maybe a little more than other families who dare to live 3 months abroad with their kids-- will be relying on the Spirit of God to give us wisdom, favor, and holy nudges (maybe in the voice of Rick Steves once in a while?).  We'll do everything we can to be safe (of course!) but as far as planning every day to a T with exact itineraries on what to do and what it see, we won't be. 

Why not plan?

Lots of reasons.

#1 I'm interested in what it feels like to live with a sense that everyday contains an abundance of time and space. 

This is the gift of sabbatical, isn't it? Free time is perfect in and of itself. No need to clog it with agenda.

#2 We aren't going on this trip to see the Eiffel Tower or race through as many museums as our kids can stand. 

We are going on this trip for a really different reason than most people choose to travel. It's not about sight-seeing or even about educating our kids about the world (all great things!!). The reason our family is choosing to go on sabbatical has something to do with presence, and learning how to get it back. That's it! 

I see sabbatical as an opportunity to press the "reset button" on our family life. As much as I'd love the kids and I to pick up Spanish, or any other foreign language, all we are really aiming for is time together. More on this later.

#3 We actually want to be dependent on Holy Nudges.

What is a Holy Nudge? It's a little feeling of guidance from within, a whisper from the Spirit, a conversation with God. For us, this is the heart of living our life romantically and adventurously, truly and meaningfully. And let's be real: modern life requires so little risk, it tends to veer toward boring. On a positive note, we are safe and politically free. On a negative note, our spirit is atrophying for lack of reasons to really need God.

 I heard a homily by Richard Rohr where he said that Americans, in general, aspire to live little more than a convenient life. Convenience is wonderful, but it's not exactly the epitome of Life to the Full.  

I do appreciate my Amazon Prime account and 24 hour grocery stores, but there has to be more to life than this!

To voluntarily be less in control is a risk, but it's also an exciting place to live. Being a little less dependent on self and a little more dependent on God is what makes our faith come alive, and as our kids are growing we want to teach them by experience that God still speaks and is eager to speak to them-- even on something as trivial as where to find the best gelato in town.

In theory, we could pursue these things without leaving home, but we have chosen to do it in Europe because, why not?! It's always been a dream of mine, and sometimes you just got to own the dream.  (Owning your dream is key to living a R&A lifestyle).

In the next post I'll share how this dream came to be, and how we took steps to seeing it realized. If we can do this, so can you! 

Stay in touch with us via Instagram (my personal IG is @morgandaycecil). Also, what do you think about SnapChat? We are of the generation that has no idea how to use this trendy new social media platform, but are intrigued by the idea of being able to share low-brow videos of daily life as we travel.  Will you join us?



morgan cecil

Morgan Day Cecil is a Feminine Wholeness coach and creator of Sophia Retreats.