How do you say goodbye to a continent?

The answer, of course, is that you can’t. We’ve spent half our lives in Asia. We met each other here. Our four boys were born here. Over two decades we’ve made friends, built careers, learned languages and explored this huge, diverse, amazing continent from Uzbekistan to Sri Lanka, Sumatra to Kyushu and Harbin to Kathmandu.

But we need to go home. For a lot of different reasons. And anyone who has been an expatriate – anywhere – knows how exciting and frightening homecoming can be. We’ve changed a lot in twenty years and so has the USA.

 

We know what we miss: our immediate family who all live in the USA, old friends, open space, hiking in cool, dry weather; winter (not Nori); being able to find clothes that fit (not Nori); Costco and Cool Ranch Doritos.

And we know what we’ll miss too: wine dinners with people from eight countries, an explosion of flavor from a US$1 bowl of noodles, endless summer (not Scott), having in-house help and ‘routine absurdity’!

So it’s goodbye to Asia – but not forever. Asia is literally in our blood and the memories of our experiences in Asia won’t fade for at least another 20 years according to WebMD.

 

*** Plan is a strange word for it ***

So what’s our plan?

First, we’re going to relax a bit. Starting in March, we will embark on a 6-month global family odyssey (“The Big Twip”) that will take in Koh Kradan and Lampang/Phrae/Nan (Thailand), Komodo/Flores/Bintan/Batam (Indonesia), Palawan/Coron/Luzon (Philippines), Iran, Lebanon, Umbria and Sardinia (Italy), Corsica (France), Portugal and England/Wales/Scotland.

But this trip is more than just a vacation. We’ll be building up knowledge, content and contacts for our new business “Two Twins Twavel”. We want to build a family travel brand around us – like Anthony Bourdain but with kids and chicken nuggets. It’s probably a pipe dream, but we’d like to eventually get our own TV show! Our mission is to encourage and enable adventurous and educational family travel. And that mission includes so many aspects: planning and research, learning a language, finding experienced guides etc. Having visited over 120 countries and all 7 continents, and speaking a number of different languages, we think we’re well-qualified.

After the trip, we’ll be moving to Laguna Beach, California. (It’s located between San Diego and Los Angeles.) One of the state’s best public elementary schools is a few blocks down the road from us. Nori will be helping her mother with property management. And Scott will be Mr. Mom for a while. We’ll both be pushing hard on Tw3 and Scott is also hoping to finish a few books that he’s been working on. So we’ll still be keeping very busy!

So please: sign up on our website (www.twotwinstwavel.com) to receive our trip updates, ‘like’ our Facebook page and follow our Instagram feed. As before, Scott is the team writer and Nori the team photographer. And now we’ve got four unruly props as well!

Please, please, please – share our accounts with anyone you know who has kids and wants travel inspiration. The more people we have tracking our travels, the easier it will be for us to seek sponsorship from tourism ministries, airlines, hotels and tour companies.

 

*** The Boys ***

The boys’ new obsession is Minecraft. Since it’s basically a combination of digital Legos with an adventure game we’re actually encouraging it. Tai was ecstatic to receive Minecraft-based novels for Christmas. On Saturday, when we allow them to watch ‘non-educational’ shows on TV for a few hours, it’s usually Minecraft-related videos they choose, such as watching the celebrity gamer “Stampy Cat” playing Minecraft, or Minecraft music video parodies like “How Do I Craft This Again?” (When Will I See You Again?)

Tai is getting so tall and skinny that Grandma Joan started calling him “Chopstick”. Like his Mom, he’s very social (he arranges his own playdates). Like his Dad, he loves reading and soccer. He continues to do well in a challenging trilingual school and is mature beyond his years. His grasp of complex situations is so adult that I sometimes forget I’m talking to an 8 year-old.

 

Logan “the Beastmaster” continues to astound us with his knowledge of animals, though lately he’s been focused on birds. One of his hobbies is constructing realistic Lego models of birds after just a quick look at an image in one of his books. He’s also a bookavore and has developed a stunning vocabulary. He has started taking piano lessons and is a natural. There aren’t many things that can keep Logan in one place for longer than five minutes so we’re delighted to find another one.

Drake is now our “little banker”. He brings his whale shark coin purse with him everywhere, and is often found recounting his loot. Lucky for our five year-old future financier, he’s excellent at math and never forgets when someone owes him money. “Kiva, remember I gave you my Lego minifigure yesterday? Where’s my ten baht?” Drake is also a real bulldog on the soccer pitch. He’s so solid (feels impossibly heavily) when you lift him and has this baby baritone voice – but still can’t say his ‘r’s!

 

Kiva continues to be Mr. Mischievous. There is nothing he loves better than provoking his brothers with a sneaky ‘poke-and-run’. Thankfully, we hear his high-pitched whine less and less these days now that he has (almost) learned how to lose. And we owe that to Thomas the Tank Engine UNO, which Kiva wants to play constantly. Not surprisingly, his favorite card to play is the “+2”, which forces the next player to draw extra cards. He never remembers to shout “UNO” when he has one card left, but we always let him get away with it. OK, he hasn’t really learned how to lose yet.

*** 2017 Travels ***

Our travel schedule (for pleasure and work) in 2017 was frankly insane. I’d be surprised if we were Bangkok for even half the weekends. Scott was in London, Stockholm, Munich, Frankfurt, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Sydney, Melbourne. Nori organized a 2-day yoga retreat for 8 friends at our villa in Bintan, Indonesia and traveled with her friend, Victoria, to Luang Prabang, Laos. We did a road trip to Cambodia. We were in the Maldives one week and in Okinawa the next. By my count, the Brixen family visited 17 countries in 2017, seven of them new for the boys. Sometimes it’s exhausting. But we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t love it.

 

The travelling year started with a memorable trip to Grossarl, Austria in April. It was the boys’ first experience of snow and skiing and they loved it. Logan is still showing his first place slalom trophy to anyone who visits us. Then we drove across the Alps into stunning northern Italy (Sűdtirol / Alto Adige) and explored Cortina d’ Ampezzo, Bolzano and Brixen! Looping back north, we spent a few days in little Liechtenstein (basically half an Alpine valley) before flying out of Munich, Germany.

In October we flew from Bangkok to Naha, Okinawa. After a few very fun days on the main island (visiting the mind-blowing Churaumi Aquarium, a night out on the town with Nori’s friend Miltos, driving across a series of bridges to Ikei Island where Scott did a scary bridge jump),  joined in the Naha Tug of War – the largest festival on the island and listed in the Guiness World book of Records and took a flight to the southernmost archipelago in Japan – the Yaeyama Islands. Most gaijin have never heard of the place, but the Yaeyamas are Japan’s Hawaii: a sub-tropical wonderland of beaches, palm trees, emerald water and chilled-out, tanned locals. Using Ishigaki Town as a base, we took a ferry to a different island every day.

  

Finally, just before Christmas, we flew to Ranong in southern Thailand to begin a journey that Scott had been dreaming about for two decades: a cruise through the 800 islands of Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago. Together with our friends the McTaggarts, we chartered the Sea Gipsy for an unforgettable cruise. Each day we kayaked or paddled or swam to uninhabited islands, played on beaches that squeaked and snorkeled above enormous coral heads teeming with marine life. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we spent three days at the brand new Boulder Bay Eco-Resort.

*** Thank you Thailand ***

What an incredible time to be in Thailand. A few weeks after we arrived the Bangkok Shutdown was underway and the major intersections were impassible. We’ve been under military rule the entire time we’ve been here! We will never forget the death of the beloved King Rama IX, his one-year mourning period, and his extraordinary cremation rites.

 

But we have absolutely loved our four years in Thailand. The Kingdom is extraordinary in so many way: the diversity of its landscapes, the warmth of its people, the piquancy of its cuisine and the pain of its massages. Something tells me that we’ll live here again. But for now, it’s time to close this chapter in our lives, overstuff our backpacks and see the world as a family!

Love, The Brixens
Scott + Nori + Tai + Logan + Drake + Kiva

 

 

 

 

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