When I set out on this adventure, I was mostly concerned about the children’s ability to make friends and feel included in this process. I did not, even once, think about my need for social interaction. I know, how incredibly silly of me. As mothers, we tend to put our needs on the back burner. In reality, our needs aren’t even on the stove anymore. My worry about the children and their social needs was justified, but I should have worried more about myself — my own loneliness on the road. I didn’t foresee the issues I would face emotionally at all.
Combating Loneliness on the Road
The most pronounced thing missing from our adventure has been friendship. A deafening absence to put it gently. We are still very close to our old neighbors. At the time, I didn’t realize how close we really were because I had not experienced life off base with kids in a long time. We spent most afternoons together, right up until dinner time. To say that we simply miss that would be a disservice to the friendship. We desperately — the rolling tears, jotting words the kids and I want to say down on paper, the conversations about this deployment I wish I could share, the new baby snuggles I’m missing — miss them all.
I’ve always considered myself, what I call, an introverted extrovert. (Turns out the name for this is ambivert, and I’m not alone!) I am ridiculously social until I’m done, and then I need about 48 hours to myself. Because of my deep appreciation for silence, I didn’t realize I would miss the daily conversations of motherhood so badly, but I do. If the children miss their friends even a morsel of what I’m missing mine, then we are all in sore emotional shape. After only a month of no friendship and adult conversation, I was desperate to remedy this issue the best I could.
Seeking Solutions to Friendship
One of my favorite things about travel is the connections you make, which can ease loneliness on the road. Some of these people will reappear throughout the rest of my life and, for that, I am so very grateful. The language barriers and the children were huge factors in not being able to build much in the way of adult relationships along the way, so I put myself way out there on a forum new to me — Couchsurfing.
Couchsurfing is a very simple and fabulous concept. If you have extra space, you create a host profile, declaring what kind of sleeping surface you have available, and then people request to stay. Some pay for food and some pay for a tour together. Most pay with good conversation and a beer. It is perfection. I was a bit skeptical for safety reasons. Being a single female with small children in the apartment I didn’t want to take unnecessary risks, but I was miserable, so I went for it.
Our very first guests were a Columbian and Polish couple for just one night. They immediately confirmed my hope in the process. Anyone open to this concept must share similar qualities and we became great friends. Friends to the point that the kids and I are returning to couch sleeping in Poland later this year. Our second couch surfer was a wonderful lady from the UK. We hit it off. Four solid days of pure friendship and conversation did me and the boys a world of good. Anna from London was followed by a young man from Croatia. I had my profile set to only accept females and couples until someone was telling me that “as a lone traveling male I can’t find any accommodations. Everyone is too afraid to let me in, which sucks because I feel like I have a lot to offer.”
I changed my profile settings that day. Within two hours I had a booking for one night with a 30-something couch surfer from Croatia. Tom (Tomislav) gave me hope in the single men in the world. Being married, I’ve always been so grateful to be out of the dating game because everyone seems so clueless. Ladies, I can hook you up — what a doll. Tom was just what our household needed for 48 hours, a man.
The boys were so thrilled with his company and, though I didn’t see him much without the kids in tow, his friendship continues long after we parted. Visiting Tom one of these years will take The Wild Bradburys to Croatia. When Lux was in the hospital for an infection weeks after his visit, Tom messaged me from Turkey to see if there was some sort of support he could offer. I needed these people during this trip, and I cannot recommend Couchsurfing enough — it remedied our loneliness on the road and surprised us with the beginnings of life-long friendships.
Self-Care with 24/7 Parenting
This is an area where my expertise fails me most of the time, but it is possible. Some of the things that brought me great relaxation and me time (which don’t necessarily cure loneliness on the road, but they’re important) were accomplished with all three kids present. I discovered that a cheap massage on the beach did my brain and body a world of good. The masseuse, Essa (as well as every grandmother available), helped me watch the kids so I could enjoy my massage. When I had the space available, I also did Beach Body on Demand workout videos. Though they didn’t fix much, they did allow for some sweat therapy, which is always needed. When my mother came to visit, I asked her to bring something for me to do with my hands. She brought me a small embroidery kit, which has proven very effective for my typically very crafty self.
The faithful things that keep me sane are also very present in my daily rituals. Coffee, Netflix, chocolate, and nature — the important things really. Video chatting with family has helped a great deal, too. We continue to feel like a part of the lives going on without us in this way. Reading has always been a nice escape for me when I have time to do it, but the real winner this time around has been writing.
Friendship for the Kids
I am still trying to find a solution for loneliness on the road for my kids, but they have learned to enjoy adult company more than normal. Adults have been, essentially, their only option. I tried to arrange a Greek playdate, which backfired. The language barrier, though not important for soccer, was vast and scary for the kids.
The beach has proven to be the best place to meet other kids. It has also proven to be the best place to meet English-speaking vacationers. Our lack of child interaction will lead me to plan these adventures from a completely different angle in the future. We are gradually being exposed to more kids. In Tuscany, we have encountered a few families for short periods of time, and in Germany, we are hopeful to make some more friends being so close to a military base.
Missing my Best Friends
Luckily, most of my closest friends make a regular effort to check on me. I treasure those late-night messages — thank you, time difference — like you wouldn’t believe. The one person that I tell every, single thing to, my deployed husband, has been virtually unreachable most of this adventure. Sometimes he has regular communication with me via email. Sometimes I get to see his face briefly when he is in port, but most evenings, I miss those couch conversations with him.
I can hardly wait for those conversations. They aren’t always wonderful topics, but they are so necessary. He is my sounding board — though he rarely disagrees with my shenanigans — he listens to me rattle on and on for hours about everything under the sun. I tried to replace those conversations to combat the loneliness on the road, but nothing compares. We are only a few weeks from getting to see him for a little while, but we are a long way from having regular nightly chats. I’m hoping to catch up with most of you in the coming months as our time is on its next-to-last phase for this year.
Military families are no strangers to loneliness on the road and distance from loved ones. But what about mama and grammy back home? See What Extended Families Need to Know about Military Life.
Photo Credits: Unsplash