Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelingMom

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelingMom

There are times in our lives when we make decisions that feel like icebergs. That is, the tip – the part of the decision that is the easiest to explain – is visible, while the part that is underwater is tougher to talk about, reaches far deeper, and is the bit that can make or break a life.

My family’s decision to travel the Pan American Highway was an iceberg, and from it the Overland TravelingMom has emerged.

Third Culture Kids on the Pan American Highway

The tip of the iceberg is that my husband Mikey and I are both third culture kids. That is just a fun way to say that we were both raised in cultures different from our parent’s own. We are both originally from the San Francisco Bay Area – but while Mikey was raised in Ghana, the Philippines, New Zealand, France and Bangladesh, I was raised in Fiji, Hawaii, Japan, China, Taiwan and Macau.

My husband and I moved in and out of cultures growing up. He is fluent in French and can get by in Spanish; I speak, read and write Japanese – and basic Chinese. We both speak enough in a smattering of other languages to order some food but not much else.

Traveling with Kids    

After we met and rather swiftly had kids, we both wanted to travel. The advantages of being a third culture kid – that is, the thrill of the new, the constant learning, the exposure to various ways of life, expressions, arts, beliefs, tastes and sounds – these all easily outweighed the less desirable aspects of extensive traveling. We wanted our own kids to grow up as we had – on our toes. We also wanted to do the bulk of intense travel while the kids were very little (ages 1, 3 and 5), so it wouldn’t be too hard on them. (Neither my husband nor I have fond memories of moving around during high school.)

That is the tip of the iceberg. The part that is easier to see and explain. The harder, deeper, more complex part is that of disability.

Traveling with Disabilities

You see, I am deaf. I am not only deaf, I have post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and bi-polar disorder. Just writing all that makes me laugh a little because I sound so whack-a-doo on paper, but trust me: if you met me in real life, you’d never guess. That’s what everyone says, anyway.

And our daughter Moxie has Down syndrome.

Down syndrome in and of itself isn’t a huge deal, but it is something. We don’t know how the future will unfold for our daughter, but we want to try and do what we can to make it a safer one – for her and her brothers.  This is the driving force behind our decision to find a place to build an Inn along the Pan American Highway.

Where Will the Pan American Highway Take Us?

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelingMom

Photo credit: Meriah Nichols / Overland TravelingMom

We have no idea where this will be exactly. It could be anywhere along the Pan American Highway – in any of the 14 or so countries that the highway runs through. It might even be elsewhere. But we have a general idea of where it will be: in a budding tourist area with few opportunities for local people with disabilities.

And this is important because, you see, our Inn will hire people with disabilities to work – and train people with disabilities in the hospitality industry. It will have a farm-to-table approach and it will be fully inclusive and accessible. The Inn will be a business that we can develop and involve our children in – doing the best that we can to create a place that will be good for our children.

This part of the iceberg is deep. It is huge. It is harder to see and it is even harder to explain because it is a powerful vision that pushes us forward. It’s a vision that makes perfect sense to us, rings true and feels good. This is the part that is moving us.

Embarking on Our Pan American Highway Adventure

And so, after more than two years of slow and steady preparation, we let go of our apartment in the Bay Area and we sold our minivan, along with almost everything that we own. We placed exactly 11 small boxes of photos and keepsakes for the kids in my brother’s back pantry and we set off in search of our dream, following our hearts and riding our iceberg.

As you follow us on our iceberg, you’ll be virtually embarking on an adventure of a lifetime. You’ll be going with us, meeting people, seeing places. Volunteering. You’ll get to know us very well – and if you decide you want to actually travel the Pan Am Overland too, awesome! We’ll be including all the information that got us going – and you’ll be welcome at our campsite!