The Big Picture | Week 47 Abroad

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This past week was the first Whit has been home every day in over a month. In some ways I feel like it must have been a pretty boring Spring Break, since we stayed home so much while Ben and I tried to squeeze in a few hours of work and homeschool each day. On the other hand we actually made some big decisions for the near future of our travel and had quite a few adventures.

I think my issue is that when you’re so invested in making every minute of the day successful and effective you get lost in the details and tend to overlook the big picture.

So here’s the big picture: over the past week we did spend the first half of most days inside. We each had quiet time to work or play, then Ben and I would take turns doing 1-2 hours of school work with Whit. While we were inside a “lot”, we were together. We played the world’s longest game of Monopoly, ate breakfast and lunch together, and often did our separate activities in the same room where we would periodically chat or laugh.

We also had some great times. By mid-afternoon I would start feeling antsy and insist we get out of the house. We spent a few evenings at different beaches and hikes, and also spent two full days on activities: one on an excursions to Poor Knight’s islands for snorkeling off of a rented speedboat during near-thunderstorm-style ocean swells and a second on a 3-hour hike covering the second-most beautiful landscape we’ve seen our entire time in New Zealand. Both are especially great memories which will soon live on in YouTube videos.



In between the monotony of daily life and pressure of experiencing as much as we can in a foreign country, we also had three huge milestones.


Milestone #1: Whit’s Dental Saga


Most milestones are positive. This is not one of those. I won’t get into the details, but the condensed story is that Whit developed 3 cavities within 6 weeks which became so bad that they needed root canals (and filled in afterwards). Within nine months one of the three developed an infection and needed to be removed, and the other two needed additional cleaning out and crowns. Almost one year after that he’s developed his second infection on one of the remaining two crowned teeth.

The first time he had an infection on that tooth we were in Seoul, and the expat dentist we saw told us to leave it alone and only come back if the infection didn’t go away. It did go away, and we counted ourselves lucky. This time around we knew the recurring infection meant there was a deeper issue, and we’d probably be looking at removing this tooth, also. So with heavy heart I took in for an emergency appointment with the Matakana dentist.

She discovered that the third tooth from the original root canal trio also had an infection, and recommended we pull out the two remaining teeth. All three were molars, which means Whit will now have three holes and spacers in his mouth for the next 6-7 years. 

I started crying in the dentists’ office. My poor baby.

The incredibly frustrating part of this saga is that we have pretty immaculate dental care. Since Whit’s first few months of dental crises, we sought out and followed as much advice as we could: we limit snacking between meals (only one snack per day between lunch and dinner), we swish with water after eating, brush teeth after each meal (or as often as possible because life), and chew gum between meals to promote saliva. The sad truth is that these health measures aren’t enough because a) Whit has very low enamel and teeth which are unusually close together, and b) his original root canals were performed by a sub-par dentist who left openings for infections to set in.

Now, in addition to the dental care we already undertake, we have extra health measures. The entire family is taking out the afternoon snack, we carry around Whit’s toothbrush to brush after every meal no matter what, and we are cutting out sugary drinks, smoothies, candy, and lots of sweet, juicy fruit. It’s hard.

The only silver lining is that at least all three of his crowns will now be gone, and we won’t have to worry about more infections. We’ll still take incredible care of Whit’s teeth for the sake of his other baby teeth, but at least the main issues will be gone forever.


Milestone #2: Getting Set-up on YouTube

I mentioned last week that I was struggling with a decision to put regular family travel vlogs on YouTube. This doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people, but I’m already concerned with “working” too much on our travels to actually enj0y them since I write travel guides and publish photos on social media of the places we visit. To add keeping a camera in my family’s faces all the time is just added pressure. After months of deliberating this move I finally decided to pull the trigger. What helped was watching the full 5 sessions of General Conference last weekend, since we missed the original airing (being asleep on the other side of the world and all that.) In G.C. social media was mentioned, and we were encouraged to use it as a tool to live righteously. We were told we can express our testimonies and have fun, which encouraged me to think of our YouTube channel as an avenue for showing a religious traveling family.

Plus, at this point my blog and our social media are starting to take care of themselves, and, the truth is, we have our cameras out all the time anyway. I may as well put some of my time to creating good family videos, which I know I’ll appreciate when we’re all older.

I published our first weekly vlog on Tuesday, with a short follow-up video on Friday. This will be my regular pattern: a narration-style long video about our recent adventures every Tuesday, a short video on just one quick activity on Fridays.

I was so nervous to make this leap, but, I have to be honest, it’s actually really fun to have a new hobby! Blogging requires so much more technical work than I realized, and it’s been a rough 18 months learning completely new skills so I can code my website, impliment SEO strategies, install ad networks, blah blah blah… but video recording and editing comes more naturally to me. Yay!

(Here is our channel. Subscribe! Our subscriber number keeps dropping, which I don’t understand and makes me sad!)

Milestone #3: Deciding on our next travel plans


This milestone is largely thanks to Ben. That guy got down and dirty with travel plans and Figured. It. Out!

You may remember that we were debating between three different itineraries for the next two months. We always struggle with the many options of where to go and the fear of missing something wonderful, but the transition out of New Zealand has been much more difficult. Everything is so far away and so expensive to get to that the just weren’t any frontrunners.

Well, after spending hours on our laptops looking up every possible itinerary combination we figured out the puzzle and Ben buckled down to make the plan a reality.

The itinerary:

April 29-May 1: Leave our home in Matanaka for one last overnight trip in Tauranga, New Zealand

May 1-May 9: Fly from Auckland to Bali. Spend 4 days on the north coast of Bali, then 4 days on the east coast.

May 9: Fly into Manila, Phillipines. Will get a short ride to Cebu, Phillipines, when we’re ready

May 31: Fly from Cebu to Taipei, Taiwan.

June 18: Fly from Taipei to L.A., United States

June 18: Ben flies to Las Vegas from L.A. for a conference on Amazon, Suz and Whit fly to Salt Lake City to spend time with family

June 24: Ben flies from Las Vegas to S.L.C. to meet Suz and Whit for cousin’s wedding

July 1: All fly into Detroit for family reunion in Petoskey, Michigan


We don’t know how we’ll leave Michigan, but the plan is to spend 1 week in Petoskey over July 4th and then go to South America from Detroit. We think we’ll spend a month or so checking out a few places in Central-South America, searching for a city we’d like to stay in long term. By August we’ll settle into one place in time for Whit to start at a local school, and we’ll spend the next 9 months making a home!


This is all happening so fast! We have just over 1 week left in New Zealand, then everything else is bam bam bam until we’re living in South America. I can’t believe it!

Next week I’ll probably be freaking out that our quiet village life is over and everything is going to change.