The Strangeness of Birthdays and Time in Our Nomadic Life

He is really four. Our baby, growing with a vengeance in this big, wide world.

In his sweet, brown eyes I see the glimmers of hope that we have planted. The seeds we have sown: to raise our kids in a broader world, a different life. I see the baby that grew in own womb and I see the beautiful man I know he will become.

It is on these dates when we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, that I feel this strange sentiment about time. How can it be that life swirls indiscreetly in two rhythms with such repelling forces? Why is it that time goes so fast and so slow at the same time?

It feels like fifty years since we left the United States, and yet like only days since we brought our precious boy into this world. It has really been four years since his birth and just over 2 years since we arrived in South America. Time doesn’t mean anything anymore. In our life, it has become nothing but a strange phenomenon.

We don’t live our days by a clock or a calendar. We live our days by a map or rather a destination. Our only reference for time is where we were yesterday and where we will arrive tomorrow. Our memories are of where we were at this time last year and the year before. Seasons have been lost completely. We are at the beach for Christmas, in the frozen desert for July, embracing dryness in the Spring, and floods in the Fall.

I only know of our kids birthdays because they are our kids. My body reminds me when the days are drawing close. I feel it in my limbs, in my blood, in my heart….the same way I felt it in the weeks, days, and hours before their births. I am sure that I would know it, even if we were completely removed from society, time, and dates.

But, the realization that another year has passed results in jubilation and remorse. A fascination that we are indeed achieving our dream to raise them abroad and free. It is no longer a dream, it is a reality in full action. Regret that another year has gone by that we can’t get back. Fear that the next ten will go by too fast. Celebration for the fact that we are cherishing every second as fully as possible.

I can’t understand how Nico is four and so I must reflect on the past four years and what has transpired. One birthday in Iowa. Just one. Only one. How can that be true? Two birthdays in Ecuador. Two!! In different regions, one as an expat family, and one as nomads. We were only nomade for two days at this time last year. But, we were nomads!


That means two birthdays in his nomadic life and he is only 4. This year, we celebrated in Peru. But, just by a hair. For just a little past next week, we will be in Bolivia.  Can’t help but wonder where we’ll be next year. That is how our minds think now. In “where’s”, not when, how, or who. But, where.

Can’t wait to see where this journey takes our little boy. Where his life will lead after being raised as a nomad.

We love him to bits in all the makes him perfectly him. We appreciate him for all that he has taught us. We are totally and completely delighted in the ways that he has successfully “unschooled” all of us.

He has taught me that four-year-olds don’t actually need to know their ABC’s or how to write their name. It’s of little importance when he’s busy learning the geographic originations of dinosaur species I can’t even pronounce.  It’s hardly more significant than knowing the preferred territory, prey, and lifespan of several dozen animals. He is four and he asks me daily questions I don’t know the answers to.

A traditional Preschool education is meaningless when he can make friends in six different languages….without ever saying a word. He can entertain himself for hours without a single toy. He dreams up songs and stories, even jokes that he can’t wait to recite. He draws, cuts, and creates. Then rips it up, destroys it, contemplates, and recreates. We don’t have to instruct him or give demonstrations. It is instinctual to learn this way.

Both of our children have taught us so much about life, learning, and love. Each birthday, as strange as they are, are reminders of what a great adventure we are on. Of how lucky we are to experience it together. And just like they are for everyone else, they are a reminder to cherish every single second as if were the last.

Happy Birthday, Nico!

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