"Ahh!! I just love our family!" Quote from my 14 year old son the day before we left Bonaire after our month on the island. THIS is what it's all about! My mouth dropped and I held the tears in. I didn't want him to know JUST how important that statement was in the grand scheme of life since, as a teenager, I would have gotten an eye roll, a grunt and a "mom - you just ruined the moment" comment if I had blubbered like I wanted to!! But it was EVERYTHING! I simply said, "That makes me so happy! I agree. I love our family, too!"
Every summer since 2018 (with the exception of 2020. . . COVID) we have traveled to the small, though spectacular island of Bonaire to run a summer business curating adventures and experiences for families with kids of all ages. We go for as many weeks as we can get people to join us - be it 4 or 10 weeks. We are flexible to however the summer unfolds. Many of our acquaintances and friends look at our photos on Facebook and assume we take that whole time for vacation. But we don't. It's not vacation, it's work. It's just different work from our daily grind. During most of the year, we run a non-profit cyber security organization, CS2AI where we sit behind a screen and interact with people around the world. It's a wonderful way to contribute to a necessary industry . . . but we spend most of our time inside, at a desk, hunched over a screen.
My husband is a dive instructor on the side (it's his passion) so during the summer months while our kids our out of school, we have gotten creative in figuring our how to change things up for our family without breaking the bank. In 2018, Derek was invited to join a couple in Bonaire to teach an Advanced Open Water Scuba course. The trade - free lodging for the family in exchange for the course. We JUMPED at the opportunity to bring our whole family for 2 weeks to enjoy a little surf, sand and sun. We ended up with SO MUCH MORE!!
The island hooked us (as it tends to do) and we spent the rest of the year trying to figure out how to go for 10 weeks in 2019. We pushed the proverbial "I believe" button and put our home on the rental market for the summer. We reached out to home owners on the island to find a deal we could live with. We found a car rental agency that offered more of a concierge service and got a discount on our own vehicle. We sent messages to our friends and family letting them know we had rooms for up to 3 additional families and offered a house share. We secured relationships with various vendors around the island to make sure we were all taken care of.
Guess what happened that first year? About 2 weeks before we were set to leave, I found a great renter for the whole summer! Weeks started booking up at the house in Bonaire. Everything started to come together. That year we went for 10 weeks. We entertained 9 families that year (27 people) and had a bonus week with "just us"! We also learned . . . we can DO this!! And we have. We've made it work every year since then. This year, due to some crazy airline prices, we ended up with only 4 weeks on the island. But that's ok. We still made it. My kids still had an experience that prompted my typically grunting teen to joyfully exclaim, "I just love our family!"
I read today in a book that Darwin's concept isn't so much about survival of the fittest as much as it is about survival of the most adaptable. In our crazy, social media obsessed, increased depression and suicidal world, I am grateful to be part of a highly adaptable couple. We had to / have to get creative to make something like this happen year after year. But we do. We are committed to it because, well, comments like the one above don't just happen in our day to day lives and it's essential our children feel the love enough to express it openly.
I am available for consult if you ever want some help figuring out how to press your own "I believe" button and make some changes in your own life!