Remember your Why

Almost two weeks ago my family and I transitioned over from China to Thailand as part of our extended travel experiment. The real change wasn’t geography, however—it was a change in pace, in lifestyle. In China, we were mostly tourists, visiting three cities (four, if you count Hong Kong) in 23 days. Our days were filled with sightseeing, visiting friends, and wandering new streets.

Now we’re in a city we’ve been to before, and we’re here for almost two solid months (with a few side trips thrown in here and there). We’ve settled in to one house and have filled our time with work, school, chores, and other such daily sundry. It’s given us time to breathe, to unpack a little, and to rest our heads on the same pillow for more than a week.

And quite honestly, it’s given us a chance to ask ourselves: What the heck were we thinking, doing this trip?

Now that we’ve paused the Seeing Of Things phase of our trip and moved into the Live a Kindasorta Normal Life bit, it’s caused a bit of rattling. See, even though we’re doing “normal life,” it’s not really normal at all. We still have to learn how to buy groceries with different food options and currency, we’re driving on the left side of the road, and even though we’ve been here before, that was seven years ago and things have changed.

thailand tuktuk

Life isn’t normal for us, and yet we’ve taken off the tourist hats that were masking any feelings of unsettledness or quiet resolution that yes, this trip is a good idea. There was adrenaline in the adventure.

Kyle and I had more than a few evenings last week filled with long conversations of second-guessing, sketching out longer-term plans for when we return, and reassuring each other that well, at least we have each other. We’ve been nervous and tense and filed with doubt. Add to that two reader emails waiting in my inbox that were critical of both my books and of this blog, and it’s sent me spiraling down a wave of uncertainty. Should we really be doing all this? This unorthodox life of ours?

monks in a truck

Now that the Thai dust has settled, and now that we’ve had a few nights of sleep, I can see a bit more clearly. I remember our reasons why we’re doing what we’re doing, and I feel better.

But I was reminded of this simple truth, one that’s solid and trustworthy no matter where you are: when you’re filled with doubt, remember your reasons why.

Choosing to live different than our cultural norms is risky, regardless the flavor you sip. Whether you’ve chosen to downsize your home, take a lower-paying job with better hours, jettison some commitments to regain an emptier calendar, or start a business that can be done anywhere so you can travel more—you’re choosing something unconventional.

Living simply is risky because it’s different. You’re leaning into who you are.

When there’s risk, there’s doubt lurking around the corner. It’s exciting when all your cards play a logical hand, but as soon as there’s something unexpected in the deck, all bets are off. We’re nervous. We second-guess. We wonder if we’re kinda crazy after all, to be doing this thing that’s so different.

kids reading

This is why it’s essential to remember your Why, your reasons. When you’re sure you’re meant to do something—homeschool, move internationally, whatever—take time to write down your Why. Flesh out the reasons this decision is good, because believe it or not, there will be a time when it feels all wrong. You’ll wonder what on God’s green earth you were thinking.

(If you homeschool, think of February. You know what I mean.)

When that season of uncertainty rears its ugly head—and it will—you’ll be glad you wrote all that down when you did. You can reread it and remember why you chose this in the first place. It might not feel any better, but it’ll give you courage to put one foot in front of the other and keep trekking. Eventually, it’ll feel right again.

Living simply means living holistically with your life’s purpose. Sometimes that requires choices that feel all sorts of risky. But they’re worth it when you’re being you—and you need to remind yourself of this when you can’t see through the clouds.

Write it down and remember.

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53 Comments

  1. Cathy

    Thank you for this reminder. I love the idea of writing down your reasons & revisiting when feel uncertain. I can see how I could use this in many different areas of my life.

  2. Angela Mills

    I so agree with this! I’ve been doing Jillian Micheals videos for years and something she says is, “If you have your why, you can tolerate any how.” Shes talking about fitness, but I like how you’ve applied this same idea to life in general. I’m the worst at second guessing myself, so I’m going to need a notebook full of reasons for various things in my life!

    • Tsh

      Ooh, I like that, Angela.

  3. Suse Fish

    Oh Tsh, I do love your honesty and I’m so sad to hear that you’ve been through a wobbly patch. I’m cross about those negative emails – as my mum used to say, “When people are horrible to you it’s because they’re jealous of you.”

    I’ve been thinking recently about Lego: how you have to pull that first model apart to make something else, something even better perhaps. Yes, being deconstructed doesn’t feel at all comfortable, but hang on in there and wait and see what the Creator’s going to build with you next.

    Very much love from all your fans (and I know there are masses of us!)

    • Tsh

      Thanks so much, Sue. XO And I love that LEGO analogy—that’s a good one.

  4. Veggie Mama

    Oh I wish I’d stopped procrastinating and finally sent you the email I’d been meaning to – the one that was going to tell you how much your travels have revolutionised the direction of my family’s lives, and how inspiring this has been to watch – and maybe it might have helped outweigh the naysayers that felt the need to invade your inbox with their negativity.

    Truth is, it really has. It set us on the path that will lead to ultimately doing very similar to what you’re doing. Stuff we were waiting to start until we were more settled, stuff we would think about when the kids were older. Your travels meant we chose location over size when we moved into our new home two weeks ago (I can’t remember where you said that, but it stuck with me!), and it’s fired me up to set the foundations of a business that will mean we’re location-independent. I’d like to say it was all my idea, and while it’s been on my mind for a very long time, most of my life in fact – it was your trip that finally kicked me into actual, practical, actionable gear. You did that!

    I expect I’ll be feeling just the same way you are now at some point, and I’ll come back here and read how excited I was and how right it felt at the time. Because it is right.

    Darren told me of the plans he was thinking of making for you when you head over our way, and I think you will love it. It is a beautiful part of the world to rest your head in!

    • Tsh

      Oh! Gracious. You have MADE MY DAY with this comment, friend. Thank you so much. You’ve inspired me! And I hope we can hang out in a few months. 🙂

      • Veggie Mama

        I’d love that! and not just because of your proximity to wineries… 😉

    • MomofTwoPreciousGirls

      I’ve come to the conclusion that travel for me and the family is a goal for the future. I have enough difficulty getting settled in normal life! I. We’d something stable to hold onto! I’m Not following your travels, but I’m loving your reflections here.
      As to the negative emails, it is very easy to be that way to someone you are not looking in the eyes and that you’re anonymous to. To them I say pppfffftttt!
      I’m I need of change in my life for my family and I’m afraid…but you’re reminder to write down and focus on the why is very helpful to me. I AM thankful for your words and their ability to offer me some clarity in some very hazy moments!

  5. KristiM

    Thanks so much for your transparency! I don’t like that you’re going through questioning, but it’s encouraging for me to know you have doubts too. 😉 My husband and I and our 3 kids moved to the Dominican Republic 4 weeks ago. It’s job related, and we will be here for 3-4 years. It’s a dream come true for us, but wow, it’s been pretty hard already and we’ve had some doubts! Love your idea of writing down the reasons. I’ve been trying to tell them to myself and it doesn’t always help. 🙂

  6. KristiM

    AND if you decide to take a little jaunt to the Caribbean, you’d be more than welcome!!!

  7. Kara @SimpleKids.net

    Putting my “who would dare say anything isn’t awesome about Tsh’s books or blogs? Let me at ’em!” knee-jerk feelings aside 😉

    I think it’s good to sometimes question what we’re doing, to have those conversations, to really dig deep and examine what we find there. It’s how we grow. It’s how we check in with our selves and make sure we’re on the right path.

    And writing it down? Putting that away for the days of doubt? Well, that’s something I’ve learned from you that has saved my bacon many times – as a mom, as a wife, as a blogger. I need a WHY so that I can, like you say so perfectly here, have my reason to be brave and keep going on the days when it isn’t so easy and the path is a little lonely.

    If you’re crazy for doing this, for making these choices, for swimming upstream sometimes, and striving to be true to the purpose you know you were meant for? Well, then I have to say that crazy looks good on you. Amazing, even! Rock on!

  8. Growing the Whole Child

    Perhaps there is something in the universe. I was having very similar feelings. (But on a less international scale!) Thanks for the gentle push to continue forwardly!

  9. Taria

    Hi Tsh,
    I am not a regular commenter on your blog, but have been reading for years! I, too, feel for you as you battle some of the inner doubts that you are experiencing and hope that you come to a resolution. I love the notion of knowing and remembering your why so that you can get through the tough times. Having gone back to work a little over a year ago, I have had to go back to that at times! Something that I learned in my first year back was that just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. When we challenge ourselves it is going to be hard at times, but there is often a reward in that! Happy and safe travels to you and your family!

  10. Polly

    Tsh,

    I found your post very encouraging. We have had a lot of people tell us how they feel about our family size (6 kids in 8+ years). Because it isn’t a cakewalk, I often found myself discouraged in the early baby years, but the Lord always helped bring it back to Him and His plan for our lives. He was our reason to remember why. It was a decision He let us know was for us four years after we were married. The thing I like about leaving our family size up to Him is that He let us know it was a personal call for us, not one we were to think was for everyone else. That’s why not everyone will understand it, because it might not be their call in life.

    It’s like that saying I’ve seen around the internet: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”

    Thanks for letting us in on your journey, doubts and all. It’s so refreshing and encouraging.

  11. Deborah P

    Tsh, thank you for sharing. While I am not happy that you have been going through this, I am thankful for the reminder that everyone has times of doubt and anxiety. Sometimes, I feel as if everyone else has it all together except me. I know how ridiculous that is, but when I’m particularly stressed, the enemy is relentless on that score. And this has been a very stressful year, so my resistance is low. I will list the reasons why. God is in what your family is doing, I believe, or you wouldn’t have embarked on tthis journey. He’s in my work, too, and I know that although I can’t do this alone, with Him, I can perform beyond my ability. Isn’t it amazing how we receive what we need when we need it? Thank you for being His messenger!

  12. Nancy

    I am enjoying your blog so much and I wish we could have done this when our children were young. My husband and I didn’t travel to another continent until we retired, and loved the experience! I think it is wonderful that your entire family is having this adventure together. God bless all of you and I will keep you in my prayers for safe travels.

  13. Clark Vandeventer

    This sounds so familiar. When we have traveled and landed somewhere for a longer period of time… I will often tell my friends back home in the State, “You know, my life looks pretty much like yours.” That was my mantra when we settled in Khanom, Thailand earlier this year. We got up in the morning, did some work on our computers, went to market, did chores, spent time with our kids, went to the beach, ran errands. It was all exactly the same stuff we did at home, just in a different setting. Except all of those “normal” things were not normal. As you know…. figuring out the markets, where to get what, (what is what). etc. Everything, EVERYTHING is an adventure. It’s both thrilling…. And… incredibly… exhausting…

    Why do we do it? Because we have to. Something in us HAS to do it…

  14. Angelika

    Thank you so much for sharing. For me its also a very valuable reminder. After cutting down my working hours to finish my studies and nothing worked out as planned. After going back to 80% which was financially necessary and still I have to adjust very often. The “Why” is, because of my studies, and this is the important thing and I am still on track.
    Many thanks again, Angelika

  15. Bindi

    This is the first time I have replied so forgive me if its not perfect, I am not perfect, I make mistakes, I learn, and I am not scared to say that, we can only keep moving, one step at a time.
    Thank you for sharing, as I read your post I thought how brave you and your family are to follow your hopes and dreams. It can be scary and I am sure many would like to up & go, but talk themselves out of the idea, by saying “what am I thinking” instead of having trust in themselves.
    I liked what you said about “having each other” and the comment “after having some sleep you can see clearly now why”. I totally understand how lack of sleep can effect our minds and I am happy for you that you now feel more rested, whatever you decide about your journey/trip you will do what is right for you and your family, regardless of whatever the original plan was, it’s ok to change and learn along the way.
    Safe trip and follow your heart!

  16. Angeline M

    Something I’ve learned is that what other people think of me is none of my business. I wish I had done what you’re doing when I was young. You can look back when you get older and have no regrets. I now plan to pick up and do the travel I wish I had years ago. You’re providing an invaluable education for your children!

  17. irene garner

    I wish I could print this out ( no printer). This just resonates with me right now. I did write ‘ Remember your reasons’ on my chalkboard wall to remind me. Thank you.

  18. Marion Westerling

    Tsh, don’t let the naysayers doubt your decisions. Having traveled over most of this world, I am so grateful I did it, since I was diagnosed with my autoimmune disease two years ago. I can’t walk without a cane anymore and standing more than five minutes starts the pain.

    So, I’m glad I saw the world when I could. You never know what the future holds. I believe in living the life God has given you, and of he’s given you all an opportunity. Take it! Teach your children how the world lives beyond the borders of the USA! Teach them respect and tolerance and love for all things!

    I look forward to your blog posts and live through them. Enjoy this time!

  19. Caroline starr rose

    Thank you so much. This book of mine coming out next spring, there is a lot of potential controversy ( as in did I even have the right to write it). It has left me second guessing and anxious these last few weeks. I have to believe I did my best and leave it there. Remembering the joy it’s brought me and what I hope it offers young readers.

  20. Kim V

    Thanks for sharing. I have been reading your blog for some time. This past year we downsized and mobilized our businesses (my hubby is an engineer and I am an attorney- so not easy and def. not “done”), rented our house out and took the kids out of school to travel. Blogs like this one are the reason we believed it can be done and that people like us (professionals with kids- not 20 somethings or retirees or millionaires) are doing it! Are there doubts? Sure. But I am finding more certainty as the days go by. Simplicity and weeding down to just what we need- materially, educationally, with friends, with work- has freed us to be more authentic with each other. There is a freedom to less that we could not have imagined in our big house with its excess STUFF. I feel no remorse to leaving it WE just finished camping the American West for 3 months and are leaving in a week for Costa Rica for 5 weeks. We love hearing about your adventures. Keep inspiring!

  21. Rebecca

    I needed your blog post today…I needed to remember my why and remember my reasons. We have been on a 5 month home assignment in the US (after 15 years in the UK) and are heading back next week. We have traveled over 12,000 miles with 2 children and slept in 35 places (mostly with friends/family). I’m ready to unpack and be in my own home again. We did not raise the funding we planned when this great adventure began and it’s scary to return knowing that piece wasn’t finished. I know God called us to this ministry and He has been faithful in providing and He is much bigger than our donation needs….On the plus side, our children (both teens) have seen more of the US than most Americans and we all still really enjoy each other! Today, I am remembering my why!

  22. Tricia Paoluccio

    Hey there! I just wanted to say how much I admire what you are doing! I think the gift you are giving your family is so invaluable and you can never ever put a price on that! To understand for real that the world is wide and there are a hundred million ways of living a life and learning new cultures and social norms and foods etc etc is such a deep education. Your children have the structure of their family and your love and they are developing such great tools of flexibility and living with very little and soaking so much in….I just see nothing but positivity about this brave journey! Thanks for sharing that journey with us!!! You have so inspired me…the whole homeschooling community…and even though we are not homeschooling I feel I embrace it as a lifestyle and think of all the time we do spend together in that light….I learn so much from you and all of your writers. LOVE your blog and sister blogs and thank you for how you’ve opened my eyes! GREAT parenting role models all of you!!!! (at least the little sliver I see! ha ha) if you need to crash in NYC for a few days on your way back to the states let me know! We met at your NYC book tour and you gave me a book I donated to our school auction! 🙂 thanks again and keep going!!!!!!!

  23. Liisa R

    Perfect timing! After a weekend of bliss and euphoria about my decision to apply to law school, it is now Monday morning and I’m much more aware that there will be times I will think I was insane to ever get excited. Particularly if I get accepted! 😉 I am going to write down RIGHT NOW all the redemptive, exciting, God-story reasons for my decision! Thanks!!!

  24. Amber

    Very inspiring. I had been thinking of traveling with my kids and husband and living somewhere foreign but just do not have the courage or financial means. How did you figure out the financial part of it all so you weren’t so stressed?

  25. Sharon Holbrook

    This is very honest, and thank you for that. As fascinating as your trip is, it also sounds HARD. I keep thinking of my kids on this trip and I know I’d be thinking and rethinking too. I’m glad you’ve found your center amid all of it.

  26. JoDi

    I wish that people who take the time to discourage others with critical emails would spend that time encouraging someone instead. I truly believe that people who criticize those who make difficult changes in their lives or who choose something different than the norm are really trying to make themselves feel better about not doing something equally courageous with their own life. It’s easy to sit in a chair and write a critical email; it’s hard to get up and do something that frightens the heck out of you but broadens your horizons and brings you closer to the rest of our human family.

    Your children’s lives (and yours) will be better in ways you can’t even imagine right now for having taken this journey. Don’t lose heart! I can only imagine how hard an undertaking like this is, even when you have a true passion motivating you. Passion does not negate difficulty, but it makes it easier to bear. I wish you continued experiences along the way that renew your passion for the journey!

  27. Bobbie Jo

    Tsh-
    Thank you so much for being so open with us. I fell like I am talking with a friend when I read your books and your blog. This is an awesome reminder for me. I had decided at the beginning of the year to focus on being more intentional in each area of my life, one are at a time. I just finished “Notes from a Blue Bike” a week ago and LOVED it! It helped me think through what God has for me and my family, what I want, what I want for my family. I have written some things down, but not a ton. This post is a fabulous little kick in the bootie to WRITE IT DOWN! I know I am more intentional when I have things written, so thanks!
    As a side note, I think it is amazing you and your husband are doing the things you think God has for you! If all of us were doing that and not worry about what one another was doing, our lives would all be more fulfilling! Thanks for being an example to look to God for a family plan and not worrying about just going with the flow. 🙂

    -Bobbie Jo

  28. Rhiannon

    Tsh,

    Truly, your blogs and reports are a source of inspiration time and again. I can relate to your feelings for sure, but I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your amazing adventure with your family to share your experiences; they serve as such a great reminder and motivator to take risks and leaps of faith with my own family. Blessings and love to you all!!!

  29. Heidi

    This is so true. I didn’t prepare for that when we came and settled in the same little apartment for 5 weeks on our own journey. It was a bit of a debacle, frankly. But now, after wrestling with a lot of those things, as we head to another place for the remaining time here in Israel,we are holding on tightly to the Reasons. Great way to articulate this process. Thanks!!! And happy settling and resting in the vision and purpose to which you and your family has been called!

  30. Lisa@atimeforhome.com

    Tsh

    I am a relatively new listener to your podcast and a new reader. I was bothered to read that some recent comments made you second guess your decisions. I am so irritated that some folks hide behind the anonymity of the internet to say nasty things. I guess it is the risk of putting your life out there publically on a blog. I do hope you can shrug the negative comments off and do what is right for you and your family.

    I have also been second-guessing and worrying over a decision to step away from my full-time career and take care of my elderly mother. I know it is the right thing, but I am influenced by the outside world. I am happiest when I stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. I love the simple life at home. I know I am in a season of life now and can always return to my high powered career in the future…..if I really want that life again. I can’t imagine that I would want that stress again, but the years of always trying to accomplish so much and prove my worth with how far I could go in my career creep in and create doubt sometimes.

    Best wishes for you and your family and I can’t wait to continue to read about your adventures.

    • Terri

      I am so glad you are at the point of dropping a high stress career to take care of an elderly relative. I think once you up and do it you will know you are doing the right thing! My husband & I left high profile, high stress careers about 7 years ago and live a simple life in the country. We love it, but it still is hard and you have to anticipate that some people will never understand your reasons. Write down your reasons, begin the process of leaving your job and setting things up for your Mom and be prepared for some hard, doubting times but also be prepared for some beautiful times.

      Terri
      Finger Lakes, NY

  31. Hayley

    Writing down your ‘why’s is a really great idea. I am coming up on a lot of changes in my life soon meaning a lot of decisions. This is a great way not to loose sight of what the real goal is. I am going to get started writing down my ‘why’s right away!

    Hayley
    ElizabethsForrest.blogspot.com

  32. Alissa

    Remember your reasons – write them down.
    I would like to add: Share with Others
    Hopefully the comments you are reading here will be a boost and encouragement on your journey. You’ve shared your reasons with us (your readers) and here we are – reading, clapping, and soaking up the goodness you offer through telling your story. Please know that we are all encouraging you on your journey, just as you have done for us.

  33. Lee Ann

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I mean this is a kind way, but sometimes ( most of the time?)it seems that “living holistically with your life’s purpose” isn’t really all that simple. What you are doing is in no way simple, in fact it’s extrodinaire, and you know what? That’s okay.

  34. Danielle

    The bravery of your family is inspiring. This post totally hit home today. We’re about to take a leap and pull my daughter out a traditional public school and homeschool/online school for the rest of 5th grade. I’m totally freaked out at the prospect, but my heart says it’s the right path for my daughter. Thanks for the reminder that sometimes it’s better to take the road less traveled.

  35. Jen Ross

    I think what you do is wonderful! We aren’t all called to live your adventure, but what a blessing it is to those of us with a love of culture and people to feel like we get a touch of it through your writing! Keep up the good work and never forget that what you do blesses so many!

  36. Kristin Graf

    Thank you for always inspiring me and my family……your words resonate with me, on levels that 12 years ago (when my husband & I met) I never thought I’d be, to live simply, to trust our own intuition love deeply. I am so happy for you to have that rock in your spouse to keep each other going. Much love and encouragement sent from wisconsin! Keep on truckin!

  37. Andrea Butler

    Tsh,
    I have been reading your blog for MANY years and you are one of 2 blogs I still read on a continued basis. Your ideas are fresh and against the norm which is why I continue to read. I have seen God work in your life through the years over the pages of your editorials and it has been thought provoking, challenging, and encouraging. Not one of us is perfect but the journey is the adventure of this life.

    All to say, keep doing what you are doing and usually if there is criticism it is because of something you are doing right. Not everyone has the same convictions and is at the same place in their own journey so it’s easier to tolerate and bear the opinions unlike our own.

  38. Mercedes REAL

    Tsh,

    Your book Organized Simplicity and later your blog, changed my life… LITERALLY. Living simply is tough, I find myself swimming upstream most of the time, but it’s worthwhile!

    Writing down the whys… I loved that.

    Don’t you let anyone discourage you, your kids will thank you one day…

  39. Jennifer Randleman

    I think your children will have such great memories of traveling the world. Wonderful!

  40. Rachel C

    What a profound thought. When making friends we tend to do the same . Hide the bad and display the good, but how well do we end up knowing our friends? How can we be helped to be better if our faults are carefully concealed ?

  41. shelley

    I never can understand why people go out of their way to make negative comments. E-mailing you-seriously!!?? If you don’t like a blog, don’t read it. Why are people so full of their own importance that they want to take people’s joy. I love your blog, and I’m enjoying hearing about your trip. You should try to make it northern Ireland-we have real beauty here!!

    • maria

      I know, right? I feel sorry for those people who are so unhappy that they have to go out of their way to be nasty to strangers on the Internet.

      Good for you for living on your own terms, Tsh. The naysayers are just jealous, bitter people.

  42. Abbie

    Two years ago we went through a traumatic job loss, location change that caused an unplanned downsize by half (half of the space, half the stuff). Now, along with grief over what was lost, I am working toward even less stuff and more simplicity – I love the minimalist idea of experiences over things! Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. And encouraging us toward the upstream that our lives could be, however that looks.

  43. Rachel Marie

    I think it is just so silly that people feel the need to weigh in on your choice to live simply and to travel with your family. Like my mom always says, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Wise words! So I just want to say that I think what you’re doing is incredible and such an amazing experience for your kids to gain a broad view of the world. We have our 8th child on the way so there is NO way we could do it, but I can live vicariously through your adventures 🙂

  44. Katie Harding

    Such a beautiful post and a great way to reflect on all the wonderful things in your life!

  45. renee @ FIMBY

    how did you know this is exactly what I need to read. I have been plagued with doubts since returning from our thru-hike (Is this the life we actually chose??) and Damien keeps telling me to go back to what I’ve written in the past about the life we want to live and create for ourselves. Turns out we’re living it. And now we need to tweak and set new vision and goals based on what we’ve learned about ourselves, our needs, our dreams etc.

  46. Denise

    No better education for your kids. It really doesn’t get any better than that. How can any of us grow if not stretched? Writing down is essential and for people of faith who are following the Lord’s leading it will be the anchor in the winds of change and doubt.

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