Review: At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider
Before we had kids, my husband and I loved to travel together. As juniors in college, we studied abroad in Russia. Ever since then, whenever we've gotten the chance to go somewhere, we have.
One of my fears in becoming a parent was that we'd stop traveling; that traveling with kids would simply be too hard.
As it turns out, traveling with kids is hard. But my husband and I still love to travel. In fact, our desire to travel might actually be stronger than it's ever been. We long to share the beauty of the world with our daughter. What's more, we believe that one of the best ways to combat racism is to introduce our daughter to other people and cultures.
So when we got the opportunity to go to Africa last month for a research project I'm working on with Arbor Research Group, we went... And we took our two-year old daughter with us.
While traveling, I devoured Tsh Oxenreider's book, At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. Having enjoyed Tsh's Notes from a Blue Bike, I was excited to read her travel memoir, especially since she wrote it while traveling the globe with her three young children.
In At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, Tsh devotes a chapter to each of the different places she and her family visited on their worldwide tour. She writes honestly about each place, sharing its beauty but also sharing the difficulties she and her family experienced there.
What I loved most about At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe are the insights that Tsh gained from traveling the world. For example, in her reflections on Thailand, she shares, “I want to see in the flesh how many people there are in the world and how many don't know me or, really, care about me. I want to remember my smallness. I want to be a prophet in the wilderness, shouting from jungles and deserts and foreign cities that we are all small and to remember what a tiny place we each take up in the world. Small might be insignificant, but it does not mean unimportant... I long for God to show me where I belong, where my home is in the world, and my smallness in it.”
Tsh continues her reflections on home through her book. In Australia, Again, she suggests, “Without a foundation underneath four walls, we identify with everywhere and no where.”
Because I was in Africa while reading At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, I especially enjoyed Tsh's chapters focusing on her experience there. In Zimbabwe, she concludes, “Africa is a cry that's become a thunderous shout. Here, people commune with the land and with their neighbors... Africa is a community of strangers, but they extend hospitality like a family of humanity. Perhaps we will leave here more than just acquaintances to the continent.”
Parents will especially relate to Tsh's parenting observations. In Australia, Tsh writes, “It feels daunting to release my four- and six-year-olds out into the Great Barrier Reef. This is the constant parental challenge, to push our fledglings out the tree, into the liminal void, a maturing exercise that's exacerbated during travel, when everything is new and nothing is predictable.”
In New Zealand Tsh observes, “Parenting is hard because of diapers and time-outs, the slog of sounding out vowels and the drama of mailboxes missing party invitations. But it is hardest because it is a mirror. It is life staring me down. It is the echoes of my inner childish voice reverberating from my children's; it is the denial of me going first. It is my flesh and blood unleashed, encased around another personality, another will. It is the continual death of my basal impulses for the exchange of extraordinary.”
And in Italy, Tsh brilliantly addresses the question, “Why travel with kids who aren't old enough to remember it?” by saying, “The act of travel, the constant moving and shuffling of our bodies and backpacks, our dotted lines across the map, the simplicity of owning less to see more – these small acts are weaving our family's tapestry. Threads of pliable spirits when the train is delayed, rubbing sweaty shoulders with people of different races, sleeping in close quarters, converting new currency every week – these fibers are becoming the heft of our ancestral fabric, the patterns we will show our grandchildren and say, “Here – this corner of the tapestry. This is why you are who you are.” We are learning presence, how to delight in each other's mere existence, muster affection in spite of our quirks.”
In contrast to travel memoirs that feel removed from the ordinary lives of most people, Tsh's At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe will leave you inspired to journey out – with or without kids. It'll leave you feeling as though it's possible to travel – at any age or life stage – and convince you that traveling is worth it. As Tsh writes in France, “Passport stamps became icons for gathered wisdom. Every time we crossed political borders, we collected more conversations, more honesty, more willingness to take risks.” That, in a nutshell, is why my husband and I travel with our daughter.
After reading At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, I can't wait to see where our journey takes us next.