Experiences Over “Things”

As a family, we talk about this often. It was a conversation started only a few years ago after we told our children “we’ll be selling our home and a good portion of our [things], and moving to London to live in a flat.”

First day at the American School in London.

We were all pretty excited about our new adventure. We spent countless hours online looking for housing, exploring maps, and planning vacations. As moving day got closer, Rachel purchased 4 bins from The Container Store. They were 28–3/4" x 21" x 18" h. She gave one to each of the girls and instructed them to fill it with their “favorite things.” They started almost immediately. Our 3-year-old, Tessa, especially had fun. But in the process, we explained that outside of their clothing, bedding, etc., this would be the only stuff they could bring. I honestly don’t think they believed us.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the items in the bins were constantly in flux. “Favorite things” would be swapped out for other “favorite things.” It caused a bit of anxiety and frustration — and we talked about it as a family. It was the first time we really started having a conversation with our kids about “experiences over things.”

It’s a lot easier to connect the dots looking backward. Our kids are now the ones explaining to others what “experiences of over things” means to them.

Relaxing time in an 11th century “fortified manor” near Normandy, France

I love listening to our girls talk about their experiences over the past few years — their eyes light up when they talk about hiking the wanderwegs through the Swiss Alps or riding camels with their grandparents through the Sahara desert. They rarely talk about the stuff they left behind.

The first day in our London flat, St. John’s Wood, Central London

Of course I have stories. And I love to travel as much as anyone. But I can honestly say the best part of our adventures abroad — and now here in NYC, have been hearing about it from their perspective. I like how they explain things. They sound as if they are discovering places and cultures — almost as if they were the world’s earliest explorers.

The girls are often asked about their experiences and they seem to remember them quite well — but it’s been less than a year since we moved. I really hope they never forget. The good news — I love to take pictures. And Rachel keeps our journal, ‘Crofts the Pond. So, hopefully those memories will always be easily accessible and the pictures will stir their memories many years from now.

Below are just a few pictures of the many experiences — including our newest ones living in New York City.

First weekend in London, exploring our new park
Hiking the Alps of Switzerland
Living in a town with no cars
Our tour guide in Athens
Donkeys through the streets on Hydra
Riding camels to our tents in the Sahara Desert
Snowing in Marrakech
Exploring the diverse landscapes of Morocco
Visiting old cities, old ruins, and masters of the Renaissance

And so much more …

This last picture has become quite meaningful to our family and serves as a reminder of the many things we learned and experienced as a family while living abroad. It is a painting representing three of four daughters, appreciating art often viewed at The National Gallery, London. We wouldn’t tour the entire museum, we’d simply pick a few of our favorites and enjoy. And just to keep it real, my girls fought me almost every time I said, “let’s go to the museum.” But in the end, it’s been a great memory for all of us.