freezing the {credit} cards

by Tina on May 4, 2012

in family, Travel

As you know, we believe in traveling as a family.  We have fully embraced our life abroad and are now actively raising three third culture kids, but not every day has been easy.  I remember the day we left the States for the first time.  I was only 22 and had a little baby on my hip as we set out on our great adventure to Spain.  The first few weeks were rough.  My college Spanish was not helping me at.all.  I could not understand a single thing that was being said to me!  With a harsh reality I realized that I was not the courageous person that I thought I was.  It had been a facade.  The whole thing.  I was like a new born kitten trembling in my own skin and I was utterly terrified to leave the comfort of our very uncomfortable hotel room. Neither Traveling Man or I wanted to admit that we were contemplating our sanity… Our friends who had gone before us had warned us to freeze the credit cards in a big block of ice in those first six months because the temptation to pull them out and buy a ticket home would be overwhelming.  And they were right.  Except our apartment was not ready for us to move in to and we had been living in a tiny hotel room with barely enough room for the bed and baby cot for three weeks.  We had one suitcase to survive out of and had to buy milk in mini cartons because there was no refrigerator in the room and certainly no freezer for our credit cards. We had always been so good about laughing at life and not taking ourselves too seriously, but as we stuck the jam out on the cold window sill hoping it would last until the next day for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches… well, the draw to quit was incredibly overwhelming.  And it wasn’t just the fact that we had eaten nothing but take out and PB&J for three weeks that was getting to us.  My guy knew I had studied Spanish in school and I felt the cumbersome burden of speaking and caring for our family suddenly drop upon my shoulders. As I laid in bed at night, rather than finding the comfort of my dreams where everyone spoke English, my eyes were wide open and I was clutching my chest with real fear.  What if my daughter fell down?  What if she started to choke?  What if my husband fell ill?  What if one of us died… and I had no idea how to even ask for help.  I didn’t even know how to call for an ambulance.  Suddenly living in a hotel room didn’t seem so bad.  At least I could run downstairs for help!  But we were going to have our own place soon… and we would be alone. I don’t know how we kept going, to be perfectly honest.  Sheer determination must have kicked in… that and the unwillingness to face the humiliation of having to go home and admit to every one of our family and friends that they were right. Somehow we found our way back to our sense of humor, learned a few key phrases in Spanish if an emergency arose, and recited the number for an ambulance like a dutiful kindergartner.  Sometimes it is still hard to raise kids in a foreign country but there have been so many good things that have come and the urge to thaw out the credit cards has lessened over the years.  There are still days when we rely on sheer determination, but with a little time, life just starts to feel normal and we just raise our kids just like everyone else does…

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

little moments May 4, 2012 at 12:06 pm

what a brave beautiful post.


Rach May 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Love the last photo Tina! A great post – so honest as always which is refreshing! I think it is hard enough starting new in a different part of your own country let alone a different one – your family is such an inspiration! Hope you got to see your show! Hugs as always from Australia


Kelleyn May 4, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I know that feeling. We had a little emergency this week. I couldn’t call my husband to help because I didn’t have a number to dial for him yet and we cannot call internationally with the house phone. I didn’t know the number for the police. I lost Winston and could not find him. 2 hours had gone by and he still hadn’t made his way back to our apartment. Roman walks like a snail, so I really couldn’t backtrack very well. In the end I found a police officer who helped me search, so that I could go back to the apartment and wait. He did show up. He had misunderstood me and was afraid to cross the street because he thought I would be mad. He went back to the last place he had seen me, but I could not go back their because of Roman. He finally made the decision to cross the big street. I think if you can live in Morocco, you can probably live anywhere.


Ariana May 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Tina, this resonates very much with me, as our beginning as an expat family started in almost the exact same way! My husband had to go to work 13 hours after we arrived in Germany, and I found myself alone in a city where I literally didn’t know a soul, living in a hotel with my daughter. I couldn’t count past three in German, and I didn’t even have a phone number to reach my husband that first day. I have been through a lot of sketchy situations, but that was an overwhelmingly insecure feeling! Bravery and perseverance DO pay off, but these types of life choices are not for the faint-hearted.


Andrea, The Blogging Mama May 4, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I can hear a lot of myself in your post. Despite what people might think, German is a very hard language to learn when you’ve never said more than a Guten Tag. It is terrifying those first weeks and months, and we actually did have an emergency that forced me to my breaking point only 8 weeks into our adventure (my son fell at school and got a concussion and ended up spending a few days in the hospital, and of course my husband was in Paris on business). I wanted to give up many, many, many times!

But when I look back on it now, I miss it. We’ve been in the states again for almost three years and even though we just built a house and are due to move in a couple of weeks, I find myself itching to be gone again. I wish I had the perspective then that I do now, that the adventure and the hard parts don’t last forever. I’ve never lived in Asia and I feel that tug to go.

Gorgeous pictures. Truly beautiful.


Tina May 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm

@Rach The little man was totally not getting that we were trying to do a photo shoot, so we just invited him in. I mean really, what Mama can refuse freshly picked dandelions?


Tina May 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

@Kelleyn Oh no! You poor thing! I am SO glad that he was okay! What a little sweetheart! Well, now that you guys have gotten that behind you, I do so hope that you enjoy the rest of your time! Hugs!!


Bethany May 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I’m so glad you did a little retrospective post… even though I’ve been reading right along, that was a while ago…those first days… :)
Guess what I snuggled in and watched last night??? Hmmm??? An utterly fab HHI show about the Traveling Tribe! Now, what do you want to know first? You looked so comfortable and at ease, and just lovely the whole show! All of you did just great – I loved it! And when I saw the place I knew would be The One, I totally ruined the surprise for Rick: “That’s it! That’s the one!” So much fun to see it all “in person.”


Tina May 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm

It’s amazing what we Moms can endure, don’t you think? We are so much more resilient than we ever imagined!


Tina May 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm

@Bethany Oh! Yay!! I’m so glad you liked it!! And thank you so much!! We watched it yesterday and Jack kept saying, “I wonder which one they will pick?” The kids thought he was nuts! LOL!


Ana Gaby May 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I can totally relate to your experience. Although our first year abroad was a year long honeymoon when Evan came into the picture I just craved the warmth of family and friends back home. I’m so glad we are still abroad and I can’t wait to start our next adventure. Happy weekend! xo!


Brandi Hall May 4, 2012 at 8:41 pm

I have been following your blog for a few years and wanted to send you a little note to let you know that I saw your HH International episode last night and it was fabulous. It was so interesting hearing about your background and finally being able to put the sound of your voice with your post. I know it sounds funny but you sounded different than what I had in my head. Did I catch a slight southern accent?

I just have to say that the best part of your episode was when your husband made a joke about his mother in law having a place to stay in the old fireplace area of that one particular house. I almost spit my drink out, it was so funny. That sounds exactly like something my husband would say to be funny but it just didn’t end up on national television. LOL!

You have one beautiful family and may you be blessed in your travels…

Brandi Hall


Sarah Young May 4, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Just so you know, I admire you so much!


Tina May 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm

@Brandi Yes, there is no denying our southern roots! We were both born and raised in the South! :-) My mom loved the part about her sleeping in the oven too. And least she would have my littlest to keep her company because he stuck him in there too! LOL! They cut the part when I told him that my mom was going to KILL him, but she thought it was absolutely HYSTERICAL! He has her wrapped around his pinky! (And it’s a good thing, right?)


Tina May 4, 2012 at 9:46 pm

@Sarah And now I know why I have kept you as a friend for so long! Big hugs!!


twiggs May 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

i just loved this post my friend!!! it takes such a courage to admit that things are not as easy as it looks, and that the very beginning of your adventure was actually rough. there’s nothing wrong in admitting that we are not super heroes and things are sometimes tough, because fortunately there are times in which we can actually make it and it was all part of the journey! i admire you so so much, because having three kids and doing this is so much brave!!! have a great day!!


Yvonne May 7, 2012 at 7:32 am

Very beautiful photos!!!!


Sandra May 8, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Before I was married I travelled on a transfer to Cape Town for two years. I was sooo excited and wanted to live somewhere very different where I wouldn’t be hanging out exclusively with other expats. Well, the other shoe dropped when I arrived and I came so close to bolting. Then one day, a switch flipped and I adored the rest of my time there. And I wish that I had stayed longer.

I found too that returning home was more of a culture shock than moving away – that surprised me and I was not ready for it!


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