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Ready Player One in French Polynesia: A year of family travel and writing

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

One year ago today I brought my real world into a virtual one. I had been blogging for ten years, taking photos for twenty, traveling for thirty four... I had been a mother for eight years, a wife for thirteen, and I wanted to find a way to bring all of those experiences into one beautiful place. A space where I could honestly share our experiences at home and abroad as we navigated the unrelenting challenges of life and travel. Knowing that we weren't alone in our struggles, and wanting to provide a space for practical information, I struck out into the world of online publishing.

There are plenty of numbers surrounding my life these days. Numbers to define, to measure success, to distinguish oneself. For someone is who is notoriously bad at math, I deal with far more numbers than I ever anticipated. One number that stands out to me in particular is this day, because three hundred and sixty-five days ago I finally decided to take my writing seriously. With that decision came a whole bevy of new things I had to worry about like SEO, hashtags, engagement, defining your brand, and photo editing. Which is, yes, just as boring as it sounds.

Taking a blog from the happy little world read by friends and family to social media means you suddenly open yourself up to a big, wide world of distraction, criticism, and worst of all scarcity. The online world of family travel, I was quick to learn, is all but a few avatars short of being Ready Player One... but with filters in French Polynesia. The messages were strong, but subtle "Your family is only worthy when you travel. Sell it all. See the world. You are only brave when you travel. The list of how many countries you have visited and flights you have taken are all that matter. Everything else is garbage. More. More. More. Also, everything is amazing." It terrified and infuriated me. Travel was never about self-producing a reality TV show on Instagram. Yet, in some ways, that it what has become. It has only served to puff egos and isolate anyone who can't keep up.

Some days I want to quit. Other days I want to champion for "normal families". At the end of my Gollum-like self rants about whether or not to continue to carve out a space for honesty (ugly, sweaty, kids crying, and budget honesty) and wisdom when it comes to advice on family travel, a small voice tells me to keep going. Keep being a truth teller. It's not pretty, or glamorous, or will win any credit card promo gigs, but it is real. And that is what we need. So here I am a year later.

A lot has changed. Cluster Fuss Travel has a podcast and a (so very close to launching) merch store. I have come across an amazing group of like-minded family travelers who are some of the most supportive, funny, and not to mention wittiest people I have had the pleasure of knowing. At the end of the day it has been more good than bad.

The numbers still creep up and bother me, though. Sometimes I wonder why, get annoyed at the over tourism, and feel overwhelmed by the scarcity that this industry tends to create. Still, the desire to create and to connect is bigger. So I push back and keep going.

It has been a really beautiful year. And for that I am grateful. Thank you to everyone who has listened, read, connected, and befriended. I'm here because of you.

I'm not going to say "on to more adventures" or "here's to more travel"... because the truth is, I'm grateful for what we have now. What we have now is a beautiful year of connection, beauty, and contentment... I can only hope for another year of that.


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