top of page
  • Writer's pictureKimberly OLeary

Nomadic life: the importance of "showing up"

Updated: Jun 10

When we started our full-time travel life, some people asked how our new lifestyle would affect our relationship with family.  More than one person asked me, “What do your children think of your being away most of the time?”  I was confident that our family supported our decision.  In 2022 when we set out on our first trip, our two children and their partners, our only surviving parent, my aunt & uncle, and other family were cheering us on. 

Now that we’re two years in, we see that there are times you realize you need and want to adjust your routine, & "show up" in person.  In the fall of 2021, just before I retired, I was able to travel down to be with my family when my aunt was in the final stages of a terminal illness. It was more complicated then, because I was still working, but since my classes were all remote, it was possible. When Paul’s dad became gravely ill in the summer of 2022, we realized how much easier it was to change our plans, given our flexible lifestyle.  We wrote about the experience here - the benefits of making our own decisions about where we would choose to be, changing course to spend time with him at the end of his life. 

In January, of this year, we had a similar revelation - but for a much happier reason. Our daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law had been planning a wedding that would take place in May, 2024. We had been involved in several Zoom meetings with a family “steering committee” while we traveled in Asia throughout 2023. Our daughter-in-law and I had even participated in a Zoom wedding dress "try-on" day where we watched Kate trying on wedding dresses (thanks to the magic of the internet and the gracious hosting by our daughter-in-law's mom, who we call Kate's MILOR (mother-in-law once removed) .

We had planned a short visit to Michigan in December and January to reconnect after 14 months away, and to see our medical providers. Then, we planned to travel to Mexico until shortly before the wedding.  But once we were back in home base, we realized that this was one of those times we needed to "show up". Because of the flexibility of our lifestyle, we adjusted.  We bought a car and booked three months in Louisville, Kentucky, the location of the wedding. 

Our 2 months in Lansing and 3 months in Louisville were spent excitedly preparing for the biggest party of family & friends we’d experienced since our own wedding nearly 40 years earlier (our son and his wife had a much smaller, but equally wonderful, celebration 6 years ago). We leaned into the events leading up to the big day.  With the help of our niece, we planned and hosted a wedding shower on Zoom.  Yes, the attendees were remote, but Kate & Ben were in our apartment and we had several coordinating meetings to make it a success.  Being there was fun!  

Just after the shower, we moved to Louisville, Kentucky for the next 3 months. About 5 weeks later, I drove back to Lansing and, along with our daughter and her friend, we drove to Chicago for a bachelorette party.  Our two nieces planned the entire thing - a drag show, a dueling piano bar, and raucous but adorable party favors. Once again, I was able to soak up being by our daughter’s side, laughing with her team who were there to support her. 

During April and early May, Paul & I - along with much of our family - worked almost non-stop on the wedding.  There were so many details to attend to. My aunt & uncle were opening their home to the wedding ceremony, where my grandparents were married in their then-new house in 1932 and where my aunt & uncle were marred in 1971 (with me as maid of honor). My aunt & uncle did most of that work, arranging for various family and small businesses to spruce up their home. Cleaning, painting, dusting, planting, moving furniture - lots to do.

Kate & Ben wanted to honor close family who could not be with us. Once the team chose favorite flowers for each person, my aunt carefully selected vases for these memorial flowers, my uncle hand-wrote the names using calligraphy techniques, which he nestled into origami cranes made by Kate.

Paul & I met with the fantastic staff of Ladyfingers Catering, who served the delicious food and drink with unflinching good cheer and excellent service.  Hannah and Trisha answered every question promptly and completely.  At the reception, their staff offered excellent service from their set-up around 4:30pm until we took everything down at midnight. They met a set of food preference and allergy criteria with aplomb and everyone agreed the food was fantastic!

We, along with other family, finalized plans with the florist (Oberer’s),

the rehearsal dinner venue (D’Orio’s),

the hairdresser (Southern Bridal),

makeup artist (Autumn Sharp),

photographer (K. Meredith Photography, LLC), (it's hard to get a photo of the photographer!)

Her sneak peak photos were amazing and we can't wait to see the final product! Here are some of her amazing photos, all K. Meredith Photography~

& cake baker (Adrienne’s).

These were all small, local businesses we were happy to support. 

We had the frustrating task of coordinating with the reception venue, the Muhammed Ali Center.  The MAC is a location of unparalleled beauty and significance to the city.  It houses a museum honoring the late, great, Muhammed Ali. Our guests were able to view museum exhibits during the reception.  The balcony overlooking the Ohio River at night was breathtaking and the room was spacious and lovely, at a reasonable price.  But the staff were difficult to reach, adding to our stress. Staff had left the center, and new staff were hired, and they were disorganized and generally difficult to communicate with. Nonetheless, the photos show this amazing space!

We helped “team decoration”.  Kate & Ben chose to make most of the decorations themselves, and we helped with some of those.  Her flowers and cake reflected her love of succulents, and most of the room decorations reflected Ben's love of books. Paul had a vision for name cards that included japanese hanafuda cards and origami cranes folded by Kate.  We spent an afternoon with my cousin and her dad assembling those.  Family and friends helped Paul organize the decorations the day of the wedding. There was a craft table for children (and those young at heart!)

The most important part of the celebration was the actual wedding.  The ceremony was even more moving than I had imagined it would be. When our daughter entered from the French doors into the dining room, it took my breath away. 

When each of them recited their vows, there was no other spot in the world I would rather be. 

The love and energy of our combined families was palpable.

The reception was exactly as we had imagined it to be. Our team effort had paid off, and spending that evening with old family & friends, and new family & friends, went by in a heartbeat. We don’t yet have the photos from the photographer (except for a few “preview” photos) but here are some taken by people who attended.

The days before and after the wedding were relaxing and fun.  It seemed as if the entire city of Louisville was in on the celebration.  The night of the reception, there were fireworks over the Ohio River.  That weekend saw the city host two music festivals.  Fourth Street downtown hosted live music as well. We enjoyed the city, and our family & friends, and the newlyweds. 

So back to the original question: what do your family think of your lifestyle?  I guess it’s like anything else, it’s not the lifestyle per se, it’s what you do with it that counts.  Since we embarked in 2022, we’ve lived in 9 countries for a month or more, on 4 continents. We’ve visited 6 additional countries for less than a month. We’ve kept in touch with family & friends on Zoom and Facebook and the telephone.  Our son and daughter-in-law visited us in other countries.  So from that perspective, it’s been everything we hoped it would be.  But perhaps unexpectedly, at least for me, we’ve also come to realize that sometimes, we need to "show up." If you had told me when we started that we’d be spending the first half of 2024 in the Midwest of the United States, I might have thought that was a sign that our project had failed.  But on the contrary, it has shown us that we now have the flexibility to be where we need and want to be, when we need and want to be there. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else! The joy we felt all of this year - spending time with family, planning and organizing a joyous event, meeting Ben's family & friends, hugging our loved ones - could have only happened by our being there. What lucky souls we are that we can choose where to be.

I think the misconception I had about nomadic life is that it would always mean the place I most wanted to be was in an international or exotic setting. But instead, sometimes that sought-after place is in a very familiar spot. Like this moment, where the only place I wanted to be was with Kate, on the couch, in my ancestral home:

Our son created a live-stream of the wedding on Youtube.  It features Kate & Ben's wedding officiant, Cindy Faulkner, their musician, Ann Bell, and the wedding party. The recording is on Youtube.  If you want to see the wedding, you can go here.


Jun 09

Such perfect reflection, Kim! Long before I met you I knew you so well by listening to Kate talk about you and I can say unequivocally that she is not only proud of your choices, they have also empowered her to be fearless and confident in hervown choices. Yours is a lifestyle i could imagine choosing for myself had things been different, and I feel so blessed to be able to experience this vicariously through you and Paul.

Kimberly OLeary
Kimberly OLeary
Jun 09
Replying to

Our children do exhibit confidence in their own thinking and actions, something we are very proud of! I think we've learned as much from them as they have from us.


ProfVRandall _
ProfVRandall _
Jun 08

I love this

Kimberly OLeary
Kimberly OLeary
Jun 09
Replying to

I'm so glad!