Merry Christmas from the Philippines

Seasons Greetings from the Philippines!

We haven’t found much snow, but we did find Santa (sort of).

Sorry for not sending cards this year – I think the postage expense might lead to the end to our travels!

As the annual Christmas letter is a family tradition, and part of the inspiration for our current adventure, we are publishing it here instead of mailing paper copies. It’s also my (Kat’s) first post (Matt 19, Kat 1). The photo collage at the end happens to look better on screen too!

The minis continue to grow like weeds and are so talkative we are sometimes longing for the quieter younger years!

Aurora and Jasper now use grown up colloquialism all the time, like “knock it off”, “are you kidding me”, and “don’t even think about it”. They are clearly mirroring what Matt and I say to them, though no swearing yet – very surprising with their pirate-mouth Mommy!

In the Philippines the twins are huge rock stars, part due to blond hair and blue eyes, part due to being twins. I often dress them in large hats and sunglasses to avoid the paparazzi if we are in a rush to get anywhere.

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
A typical crowd of curious onlookers.

Jasper is our sensitive soul and is just the sweetest, most loving boy you’ll ever meet. He continues to be scared of life a lot of the time – but recently we’ve been able to get him to hold a few sea critters and bugs. He does really enjoy the variety of new “rides” here in the Philippines, including motor tricycles and all kinds of boats (unless the sea is too rough!).

His intelligence continues to shock us – he builds puzzles meant for 10 year olds with no problem, and has found a new passion in building towers, bridges, and trucks out of Lego’s (engineer like his Daddy?). He loves letters and we’ve started to teach him reading and writing.

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
Lego towers and bridges on our porch in Alona, Panglao Island, Philippines

Jasper is a definite planner – so this take is as it comes trip is a bit unsettling for him sometimes. But letting him know the day’s plans and keeping a routine has helped.

He’s also learning every day how to deal with life’s uncertainties in a supportive environment with us around him all the time. He has really enjoyed having both Mommy and Daddy 24/7, and especially loves building sandcastles with Daddy on the beaches.

2014 Christmas Letter | Trekking with Twins
Sandcastle construction on Boracay.

Aurora is super inquisitive and definitely our baby biologist – there isn’t a bug, sea critter, etc. that she won’t pick up and inspect. She knows the names of most and loves to ask about the new ones.

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
Finding critters on the beach on the Cape.

We have to allow extra time on walks as she collects “treasures” everywhere. She’ll also eat more than I will – very nice as we travel through Southeast Asia with its “interesting” delicacies!

She’s caring and generous with us and her brother, taking on as many Mommy duties as she can (including trying to haul around our big backpacks).

Aurora also continues to be our princess and diva. Many locals have been calling her a “Barbie” as we walk along and she has fully embraced this role – often now telling folks her name is Barbie (ugh!!). I may be partly to blame. I really love doing her hair and dressing her up!

2014 Christmas Letter | Trekking with Twins
Our real life “Barbie”.

As for us – many of you are probably wondering why the heck did we sell everything we own, quit our jobs, and set off travelling the world with toddlers?

I’m still trying to figure that out myself 🙂

You should read Matt’s post about it if you haven’t already for his take.

For me, it was a combination of factors that just seemed to align in such a way that we wanted to take advantage of this unique opportunity while we could.

We had planned on expanding our family in 2014 – but after two miscarriages we decided to put that plan on hold.

I really wanted to spend more time with the kids. Though I was very fortunate to be working part time at Amgen it still felt like a lot, especially with the long commute. Not to mention I was working 4 days a week to pay for just 3 days of the kids’ daycare.

We decided I would leave my job in the fall of 2014 even without having a third child and would figure out my next career move after enjoying the twins’ younger years.

Matt had been working 60+ hrs a week at his engineering job with very little satisfaction in return. During the work week he hardly saw the kids – coming home from work well after the twins were in bed. On weekends – we crammed in the fun activities – but most of our time was spent on housework, bill paying, food shopping, etc.

In May we went to South Carolina and as I attended a chemistry conference Matt spent time enjoying Charleston with the kids (check out his posts for ideas about things to do in Charleston – it’s a great family vacation spot).

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
Tennis lesson with Daddy on Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Matt longed for the days of travelling through New Zealand and after months of him trying to convince me, our trip to South Carolina pushed me over the edge. Travelling instead of working for a while would be beneficial for us all.

We put our beloved house on the market. I was heartbroken given all the work we’d put into it and being the house we brought the twins home to. We also sold or donated most of our “stuff” that we accumulated over the years – a hard but rewarding experience.

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
Yard sale to get ready to sell the house ad travel full time.

We got 7 offers on the house the first day it was on the market so we took that as a sign we were doing the right thing.

Nana and Papa Woodin were very generous letting us stay with them for a couple months on Cape Cod before we departed for our international journey. The kids loved being on the Cape, with a new preschool, and tons of time with Nana and Papa and the beach!

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
Fishing with Papa.

Mommy and Daddy didn’t love the commute to Boston so much – but we have truly the best, most generous friends in the world who let us couch surf during the week to cut down on the driving.

Fortunately for us, Amgen was also planning a “reduction in force” (layoffs) sometime during 2014. I let my manager know that I wanted to be a part of that layoff – so most of the fall was spent as a waiting game until that date.

Matt gave notice at his job (I think to the huge shock of most of his colleagues) and I was laid off in October (though all my colleagues knew at this point of our travel plans).

It was extremely hard for me to leave friends at work that I’d made over the past 7 years, a manager who was very supportive, and a job that was rewarding emotionally and financially.

However looking ahead to years of working on a chemistry bench didn’t feel safe – and I was worried I may have needed to take some of those chemotherapies we developed!! If it was baking with organic ingredients vs. the nasty, toxic chemicals that I actually used – I would have never left!

We left the Cape in November and spent our first 10 days on the road in San Francisco with wonderful friends who hosted us in their home in Berkeley. We went to wine country, hit the city highlights (see Matt’s posts about things to do in the East Bay and in San Francisco itself) and got visas for the Philippines.

San Francisco Kids Activities
Getting in the Christmas spirit at the Pier 39 Christmas tree.

We are currently spending 2 months in the Philippines before we head to Thailand. We’ve spent time in Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Panglao, and now Palawan.

Our plan is to travel slowly – taking full advantage of the visa length in each country, which is easier for us and the kids.

Although not far from the tourist track so far, we’ve been staying in very budget accommodations also frequented by locals, and tried to find some local hangouts. This has allowed us to see more of their culture. We’ve seen weekend family cookouts at the beach (including a roast pig delivered in a cardboard box) and a teachers’ day off celebration complete with karaoke, relay races, and line dancing.

The Filipinos are kind, wonderful people – and the Philippines has been a great introduction to our Southeast Asia travels!

Christmas Letter 2014 | Trekking with Twins
A Filipino boy helping Aurora and Jasper build “treehouses” from sticks and leaves.

Matt will be the main blogger during our travels – he loves pulling together inspiring but also very informative posts about what we have done and where we have been. That and he is the only one of us currently awake after 9 p.m. on any given day to work on the blog!

I thought I’d have more time here than at home – but as always – Mommy duties never seen to end! Even with “outsourcing” food prep and laundry, our days are full of activity and we are still not really wired for down time anyway.

I’ve enjoyed teaching the kids preschool lessons when we’re not out enjoying local activities. I also spend a lot of time planning our next adventures – what restaurants to try, booking hotels/planes, and reading tons of guidebooks, TripAdvisor, and travel blogs.

Eventually I want contribute my take on the day to day of long term family travel to the blog (i.e. – what life is like without extended family, friends, and babysitters!).

To be honest life is pretty great right now though – and we feel truly blessed and lucky to have this amazing adventure to share with you all!

Please make sure to follow our blog, “like” our Facebook page, follow us on Instragram, Twitter (@trekkingwtwins), Google+ and Pinterest – whatever is your social media pleasure.

We’re leaving for Thailand mid-January for three months, then elsewhere in Southeast Asia after that.

We miss all of our friends and family tremendously and we’d love to have visitors so don’t be shy if you’d like to meet up with us!

Double blessings and adventurous travels for 2015!!

No spam, just updates direct from us to your inbox!

Here’s our annual photo collage, upgraded for online viewing – just click a photo to see it larger!

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