After traveling North America as a family for the past 10 years, it was time to switch things up again. We visited the 49 continental US states, all Canadian provinces, the Yukon territory, and a good chunk of Mexico. Of course there is so much more to see since it’s impossible to see everything but our souls craved a change so a change is what we got.
After dropping off our van at the port for shipping overseas to Europe (link to how we did it here and here and here), we packed up our stuff and headed to a hotel for a couple weeks. We packed up whatever was necessary for us during our two week stay in Washington DC plus some irreplaceable items that we didn’t want to leave in the van while it sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.
We decided against renting a vehicle as well since public transportation is supposed to be awesome near DC. It’s all part of the adventure.
During our stay in DC, our middle kid Mila turned 9 years old. This is her last photo as an 8 year old. A tradition I do with all the kids that guarantees a teary eyed mama.
And boom, she’s nine!
Ava, Dan and I waited for Mila to fall asleep and quietly tip-toed around the hotel room putting up banners and streamers, blowing up balloons and wrapping up her presents. Such a big smile on her face when she woke up to the surprise.
After spending the day at a water park, our new friends Jeff and Becky invited us over to their place for dinner and cake. Not sure how they picked out the perfect colors for our Mila but they did. Thanks, friends.
We chose to ship out of Baltimore because it was the last US stop for the shipping line before heading east to Europe. We also never spent anytime in the DC area during our east coast trips in the Airstream so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
After two weeks and a lot of miles under our belts, we had this metro thing figured out.
When we left California for our trek east, we noticed a considerable decline in the health of our cat Yoda. She stopped eating normally, lost weight, had a bout of jaundice, started to hide in strange places and was lethargic.
We knew Yoda was near the end but we also knew we wanted to spend her last days together as a family. She wasn’t sick enough to say good-bye but was also far from being healthy. There was moment where our vet said Yoda might have to be left behind in US because she was not healthy enough to fly. It broke our hearts to think of leaving her behind so we fought for her health. We had medications, supplements, fluids and gave her around the clock care. And literally on the very last possible day, we received approval that she could fly with us. Thank goodness.
That night we celebrated. As Yoda sat on my lap, Dan and I recorded our very first podcast together. It was the start to a new adventure and we wanted to record the excitement in our voices.
Ok, Europe. Here we come!!!!
We chose an airline that allowed Yoda to sit by our feet instead of in cargo but her health was declining right in front of our eyes. She started to lose her ability to use her back legs after the first leg of our journey. During our layover in Copenhagen, I took her to a private restroom to walk around and use the litter box, but she just couldn’t do it.
After a long day of travel, we made it our AirBnB in Ostend, Belgium. We went to bed early and woke up early as well. All of us sat on the little balcony and watched videos together as we waited for the city to wake up.
After walking to the store to buy food for breakfast, I gave Yoda her daily kidney pill. She fought me like usual but then she laid still. In that split second, I knew. I knew it was her telling me it was time. No doubt in my mind. So I got off of the bathroom floor where I just was with Yoda and had to break the news to the rest of the family. Today was the day. The day we needed to say good-bye to our friend Yoda.
I placed her on our bed and we took a nap together, just me and her. And during that time our old pup Rudy came to visit me in my dreams. I knew she was there to show me that it was Yoda’s time to go, which I knew, but I forced myself to wake up. It was too much. Yoda woke up as well and limped across the apartment to the sunny balcony.
I placed her on my lap in the sunshine for one last snuggle with everyone.
And then we walked her to the nearest vet, who helped us say good-bye to our dear cat Yoda.
The pain of saying good-bye was hard. The kids had the choice of being there in room and they all chose to stay. What we didn’t expect is that in Belgium, the vet can’t cremate a deceased pet and return its ashes to you. The only option is to take your deceased pet back with you and make arrangements with a pet crematorium. And so, that is what we did. We took her home and placed her on the balcony that night. The made her special cards and placed them in her carrier with her. Dan and I didn’t sleep much that night. It was quiet in the house. It was hard not to get up and peek at her outside.
We needed to get out of the house that night. So we went where we are the happiest… to the nearest body of water.
That morning, we woke up bright and early to take public transportation to the the pet crematorium. The carrier on my back felt different now that it held her deceased body. I was scared that someone would ask to see our pet. But thankfully no one said a word to us.
When we walked into the crematorium, we were shown into a private room with fake flowers, candles and low playing music.
After about an hour, we got our cat back in ash form. The crematorium also gave us a footprint on paper from her and fur shavings. Dan and I both held it together until we saw that they shaved a piece of her white patch that sat under her neck. That somehow pushed us over the edge.
The whole process was not what we expected. When our dog died, the vet took care of everything for us. We just had to pick up her special wooden box after a few days. I thought this whole process with Yoda was gruesome at first. But now that I’ve had sometime to think about it, I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for getting to be there for her for every step of the way. We never left her side during the entire process. It was part of the healing process for us. We are and were always together.
Thanks for being our friend, Yoda.
While we were still waiting for our van to arrive, we decided some adventuring would do us some good.
On this day we decided to visit Atlantikwall Raversyde. Dan and I never learned about the Atlantic Wall while in school in the United States so it was extra interesting to us.
This type of hands on learning was a great way to introduce world wars to the children for homeschool today. It will be a memory that they will be able to recall instantly versus something they only read in a book.
And then news came that our van had arrived, that it cleared customs and is ready for pick up!
So next morning, we walked to the local train station once again. The kids were not happy about their clothing choices. It was a bit colder today for shorts and flip flops.
And just like with dropping off the van, I was the only allowed to pick it up also because my name was on all the paperwork. Dan and I kids stayed nearby while I got a ride to the port by the forwarding company.
I was such a relief to see our home again. All in one piece. All of all things just how we left them in the US.
These three were happy as well.
So you know what that mean?
You got it. It’s time to hit the road again!
Let’s do this!
Our goal is to make it across to Croatia as soon as possible for a couple reasons. The first reason is to file paperwork for Dan’s temporary residency that will allow travel thru Europe a lot simpler for us. And the second reason is to hang out with our traveling buddies that we spend every year with since first meeting them in Alaska in 2015.
And just like in the US when driving many miles a day, we find free boondocking spots to spend the night. The photo above is from a RV specific lot in Germany. The photo below is from a visitor’s center lot in Austria.
We don’t have our propane tank filed yet so we haven’t been able to cook in the van yet. Lots of eating out on this leg of our journey.
A quick peek at Lake Bled in Slovenia. Too many people even this late in the season so a photo will have to do for now.
And then we crossed the border into Croatia. Beers and ice cream were our first stop.
If you asked me years ago if I would ever drive from California to Croatia, I would have toppled over from laughter. One of the greatest benefits of traveling is that it opens your eyes and hearts to all kinds of possibilities that were previously unimaginable.
Thanks for following along,