Why We Moved to Prague: We are Existential Migrants

People often ask us, “What brought you to Prague?” or “Why did you move to Prague?” or something like that and I usually struggle with the answer. I laugh and say, “Honestly, I don’t know.” Or I shrug my shoulders and say, “I guess we just liked Prague.” Or sometimes if I want to get into it more I might say, “We could work from anywhere at the time and decided we wanted a bit of adventure and to experience something new, so we decided to move to Europe.” But, really all of these answers fall short. They may be true, but at best they only touch briefly on our reasons for moving here.

I’ve really never known how to define all of the subtle motivations that led us to pick up and move our entire lives overseas.

Recently I read Andrew Jones’ beautiful thoughts on global nomads. Andrew and his family have chosen a much more radical life then just moving overseas like Bryan and I did, they are, as he put it “serial travelers.” But, there was a lot in his poem that I could relate to or that at least stirred longing within me.  As I read through his post I came across a new term, a term that intrigued me and then shook me. A term that really helped me to shed light on our own decision to move. The term is existential migrants.

Here’s how this article defined existential migration:

existential migration is “conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.” It is different from “economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration” in that it is a chosen move, not driven by economic or political needs.

This is definitely our story. We did not need to move to Prague, or anywhere else, for external reasons (such as economic or political reasons), but very early in our marriage we realized that we did need to leave. We needed to leave for internal reasons… existential reasons. We needed to leave so that we could grow and reach our potential. We needed to leave so that we could really start our own life together instead of living under the shadows of the previous lives we had experienced as single individuals. We needed to leave in order to become the creative, experienced, interesting, cultured, open-minded people that we wanted to become.

This article discussing existential migration really resonated with me. It says this about the existential migrant (emphasis mine):

These individuals move cross-culturally, sometimes repeatedly, in search of self- understanding and adventure. Such people are actually seeking to resolve deeper ‘existential’ questions such as ‘who am I’, ‘how can I fulfill my potential?’, ‘where do I belong?’, ‘how can I feel at home?’… The study generated impressively consistent themes including the importance of independence, the need to live fully, the need for freedom within belonging, the value of experiences of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness. Among these migrants there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign and a consistent contempt for the conventional and easy life of the settled community.

This is why Bryan and I moved to Prague. We are existential migrants. And in some ways, no matter where we end up, perhaps always will be.

More on these thoughts later…

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

A Random General Life Update

Well, it’s September and Love and Marriage month here on my blog is officially over – not that I won’t write about these things anymore, but the official themed month is done. This was the first time I’ve done a theme for a month and honestly it was hard for me. There were a lot of things I planned on writing about that I never got around to and there were plenty of times that I wanted to write about other things that didn’t fit with the theme.  I’m kind of glad that it’s done now and I again have freedom to write about WHATEVER.

So, today is dedicated to a little “whatever”. This is my random processing about a whole lot of things…

HEALTH

Yesterday I realized that the baby and I have been sick in one form or another (from Roseola, to food poisoning, to viruses, to bad head colds) all but about 6 days this month (and those days were pretty spread out). Literally it has been one thing after another. Usually this is a pretty good sign to me that I haven’t been listening to my body and that there are some emotional/spiritual issues I also haven’t been dealing with. Guess I should start listening…

RETURNING TO PRAGUE

We have now been back in Prague for 2 weeks – most of that time we’ve been sick. Not exactly the best way to return to a foreign country or ease our way through the culture shock. Thankfully we are finally starting to get back on Prague time and get Thaddeus to take naps and go to bed at almost normal hours… almost being the key word there. This has by far been the hardest it has ever been for me to come back to Prague. I miss the states. I miss English. I miss my family. I miss Bryan’s family. I miss all the conveniences of being in a familiar place.

FRIENDS

I’ve missed our friends here. They are what make coming back worth it. But, because we’ve been sick we haven’t seen very many people yet. Those we have seen have been so sweet though. One friend even made us a big batch of soup, which was WONDERFUL. What a blessing to not have to cook our first few days back. Then last Thursday we went over to dinner at some of our closest friends and it was just so nice to be with them and just relax with them. We need friends on this journey and I’m glad that I have the one’s I do.

MOTHERING

Lately I have sort of really hated being a mom. I mean most days this week I just feel like I’m not cut out for this. I can’t do it. It’s too much. It’s too overwhelming. It’s too constant. It’s the worst on days when Thad doesn’t sleep (which is often lately). I feel like I can’t even sit down and have a glass of water without being pulled on or screamed at. Bryan has been a lifesaver and so sweet through it all. He’s taken Thad for a little bit each day so that I can rest and get better. But, he can only do so much – he has to work too. Even with all Bryan’s help there have been multiple moments lately where I have SERIOUSLY wished that I never had a child. I know – I’m a terrible mom for even thinking these things. Like I said, I wasn’t cut out for this. I am not a natural born mama. It’s just not me.

ANIMALS

This is random, but I’ve realized more and more something else that just isn’t “me” – owning pets. I am just not an animal person. I mean I wish I was. I admire people who are. But, I’m not. I just don’t get the whole animal thing.

BLOGGING

I’ve been doing a lot of processing about the blog lately. I’ve been really struggling with what direction I want to take my blog and what type of place I want it to be. I’m realizing more and more than I’m actually not really “a blogger”. I mean I love blogging and have for years, I love writing and I do enjoy the people I meet through it. But, I’m not good at marketing my blog, I’m not consistent with my blogging, I don’t want to write in a specific theme or with a specific focus. I don’t want to spend hours upon hours a day working on my blog to make it into a business. I am realizing that I am not that kind of blogger. But, I also know that I’m not really just a personal blogger who just writes about her kids and she did that day. So, where does that put me? I’m not really sure. I guess I’m still trying to figure it out.

TWO FOR TUESDAYS BLOG HOP

Many of you who are regulars here may have noticed that I haven’t participated in/hosted Two for Tuesdays the past two weeks. I’ve been meaning to give an update on that and just keep forgetting – sorry. So, basically after much discussion and thought I’ve decided that the requirements for hosting are just too much of a commitment for me at this time. I just didn’t feel like I could do the event justice. In general I’ve been trying to weed through what aspects of blogging are really important and necessary for me and which aren’t – I have felt a little bit like blogging has started to interfere with my mothering and I don’t want that to happen. So, Two for Tuesdays was the thing that contributed most to my stress level and thus it was the thing to go. I do still love what the group is doing with it though and really like the other hosts who are involved. I do still plan on participating as a contributor whenever possible and I hope that you all will too. If you want to continue participating visit any of the hosts sites, for example, Alex at A Moderate Life.

FUTURE

I’ve felt very confused lately about the future. It looks so unclear. For so long even though the future was unclear it didn’t really bother me, I felt like I at least knew that I was where God wanted me and we would figure out the next step as it came at us. But, lately I want a plan, I want some stability. I am not 100% sure that we are where God wants us. I don’t know where He wants us to be. I feel less convinced than ever of my ability to discern that and more confused about where we should be and what we should be doing.

MARRIAGE

If you haven’t guessed from all that I’ve written already, Love and Marriage Month wasn’t exactly love and marriage month for us in real life. It was a difficult season, not an easy celebratory one. We loved each other well, and we aren’t fighting or anything, but it just feels like there’s a lot that’s been thrown at us both internally and externally lately. We’ve held hands and faced it all together, but it hasn’t left much time for turning towards each other. That’s been sad for me.

Well, that’s my random update for now. So, how are you all doing??

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Mosaic House

At the end of June my husband and I had the opportunity to stay at Mosaic House. It’s a new hostel/hotel that our friends just opened up in down town Prague and it’s beautiful. I was so super impressed with Mosaic House that I just had to write about it here. I will tell you up front, in the interest of full disclosure, that we got to stay there for free thanks to the fact that we know the owners and they had some availability in the first few weeks that they were open. I decided on my own that I would love to write a review of Mosaic House here on my blog. This review will be all my own honest opinion.


Mosaic House greets it’s guests with a casual chic atmosphere that would be hard to durplicate. Out in front of the building there are a number of benches and potted plants that give the feeling of a little oasis amid the busy city streets. You come through the doors to walk across an old restored mosaic from the 1930’s into a large open room. The bar is directly in front of you with the check-in desk right next to it and off to your left. We came in with our 9 month old son and were soon greeted by smiling employees and fellow guests many of which took a quick second to coo at our “adorable” baby boy (which as a mom I of course deeply appreciated).

When we arrived it was late afternoon and the bar was already busy although not nearly as crowded as it would be later in the evening. Belushi’s Bar at Mosaic House is definitely the place to be. People were hanging out, making new acquaintances, watching the world cup games on the big screen TV’s and swapping traveling stories. It would be the perfect place to hang out with friends and grab a beer.

Since we had a baby with us we made our way to the restaurant off to the right from the front door and found a quiet room with a number of comfortable tables. This was probably my personal favorite room in Mosaic House. They had these awesome lights hanging from the ceiling and the bench that stretches throughout the whole downstairs of the hotel went up the wall in this room, which I just thought looked so cool. We hung out in the restaurant for quite a while with a number of friends from around the city. We had dinner there and each had great hamburgers with heaping servings of French fries. I only have two complaints about the restaurant: they didn’t have a high chair for babies/toddlers, and it wasn’t exactly “real” food – it was good food, but not really traditional, local, preservative free, organic, sustainable, or anything like that. The high chair may have just been an oversight since they had only been open a few days. And as for the menu, well, most restaurants don’t really serve real food so I can’t complain about that too much. But, wouldn’t it be great if more hotels and restaurants started to consider the health and sustainability of the foods they are presenting to their customers? Especially green hotels like this one?

That brings me to the coolest thing about Mosaic House and perhaps my favorite thing. Mosaic House is an environmentally friendly, green hotel.

Mosaic House features some of the most sophisticated green technology in the hospitality industry, including the first greywater recycling unit with heat recuperation technology in the Czech Republic, water heated with solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, room temperature levels and electric shutters controlled by a super computer based on occupancy, bathrooms with low-flow toilets, rain dance showers, and more.”

Seriously, how cool is that! I loved that they took an old building from the 1930’s and restored it not only into a beautiful and comfortable hotel, but also into an energy-saving, earth-friendly place to stay. I really appreciate that and wish more hotels were making these kinds of efforts.

All that’s great, but what about the rooms themselves, you ask? Well, there beautiful! Whites, burgundies, and natural woods create an elegant and comfortable feel in the thoughtfully designed rooms. The bed is super comfortable with big pillows and soft duvet covers. The bathroom is clean and fresh with a beautiful raised sink and a invigorating shower that you would never be able to tell is water-efficient.

Best of all though was the great customer service. Maybe it was due to the fact that we knew so many of the people working there, but even those we didn’t know were so friendly. I really appreciated that the employees smiled. Czech’s aren’t known for being smiley people, so I especially appreciate when someone in Prague takes a minute to smile at me. I also really appreciated how helpful everyone was. When we had a question or needed something people were really attentive to get it for us, or apologetic if they couldn’t (like the high chair).

Overall, we had a wonderful experience staying at Mosaic House. If you live in Prague go check it out – Belushi’s bar is a great place to hang out and the hotel itself is a wonderful place for a little night away from home even within your own city. If you don’t live in Prague but are ever traveling through I would definitely recommend that you stay at Mosaic House.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Traveling With a 9 Month Old: In the End

In the end, no matter how well you prepare for your trip things will go wrong. You can prepare for traveling with a baby only up to a certain point and then after that you eventually just have to accept whatever happens with open hands.

44 hours after leaving our home in Prague my husband and baby and I arrived in Hawaii a bit dirty and extremely exhausted. Our trip was difficult. We were prepared, but we still forgot things (like the power converters for our computer). We were prepared, but we still found we ran out of food on the flight and had to eat some airport food. We were prepared, but our son still got tried of all the toys we had and fussed for something new to do and space to crawl around. We were prepared, but we still didn’t sleep much and got a bit jet lagged.

Like many other things about having a baby, traveling with a 9 month old is a lesson in letting go and accepting whatever happens. Nina Planck has this quote in Real Food for Mother and Baby (which I finally started reading this week):

“The best preparation for pregnancy, birth, and mothering – even better than real food – is an open mind. Perhaps your life and work are well planned, orderly. Perhaps you find that satisfying. (I did.) Let go. Having a baby is stupendously wonderful, but things may not go as planned. If you have no fixed expectations, nothing can surprise or disappoint you. The ideal stance is a kind of gentle wonder, now and again brimming over into radical amazement, as your story unfolds.”

I think this can also be applied well to traveling with a baby. Hold your expectations lightly. You can only control so much and after a point you just have to accept your reality, whatever that reality may be. My reality was 44 hours of traveling with a baby and the reality of it was that it was incredibly difficult and trying.

There were moments while traveling when I truly wondered if it was worth it. Maybe it would be better to just not travel at all for a while now that we have a baby. But, if we didn’t travel with our baby we would miss out on spending time with so many of the people we love who are spread all over the world and we would miss out on introducing our child to new cultures and new experiences at a precious and fleetingly flexible time in his development. And when I really think about it, I don’t want my life to revolve entirely around my child. I also don’t really want to shy away from difficult things and just take the easy way.

So, just as we traveled when our son was 9 months, we’ll be traveling with him when he’s 10 months, and 12 months, and 18 months and 33 months and on and on his whole childhood and life. Some flights and trips will be hard, some may even be harder than this last one, but others will be easier and they will all be worth it.

Rejoicing in the journey-
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Traveling with a 9 month old: Dealing with Jet Lag

Ok, so anyone who’s ever traveled overseas knows that it can be painful and slow to recover from jet lag. Most people advice that you plan on taking 1 day to acclimate to each time zone crossed. So, for us flying from Prague to Hawaii this time, we’ll cross 11 time zones and should plan on it taking at least a week for us to adjust.

After three and a half years of living in Prague and flying from Europe to the states twice a year each year (not to mention countless other long haul flights before we moved here) my husband and I have learned a few things about jet lag. Today I want to share with you our normal tricks for dealing with jet lag and a few things we will be doing differently or in addition to our normal tricks this time since we will also be traveling with a 9 month old baby.

How to Deal with Jet Lag as a Parent with a Traveling Baby:

  1. Stay Hydrated. Flying can be very dehydrating, so plan to make sure that you drink plenty of hydrating liquids.

    Dehydration can reduce a nursing mama’s milk supply, and it can also take your body a while to adjust to producing milk on the new schedule. Because of this it’s important for nursing mama’s to be especially careful to stay hydrated while traveling. One little thing I plan to do to help with hydration is to make my own electrolyte drink to drink on the plane. I will mix a little bit of unrefined sea salt with a little bit of unrefined organic cane sugar in an empty water bottle. Once we get past security I will fill this water bottle with water from a drinking fountain and have this as a mineral rich drink during the flight.

  2. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. It’s tempting to drink these things on long haul flights – the caffeine to help keep you awake or the alcohol to help you sleep on the plane, but it really is best to avoid both of these substances when flying. Both caffeine and alcohol can dehydrate your body more and put stress on your adrenal glands, which will make adjusting to the time change at your destination harder in the long run.

    Obviously my baby won’t be having caffeine or alcohol, but since I’m nursing it’s all the more important that I don’t have these things as being dehydrated could affect my milk while traveling.

  3. Eat light, fresh meals that are easy to digest and don’t tax the body to much.

    I plan on bringing our own healthy snacks and meals made from real food. This will be helpful for my husband and I, but also for our baby. Thaddeus has just started solids and is still nursing a lot, but I will bring a few veggies and healthy finger food snacks for him on the plane.

  4. Eat more protein dense foods. The stress of travel may slightly increase the body’s need for protein.  Eating protein rich meals can also provide your body with the nutrients needed in order for it to produce melatonin and serotonin, both important hormones for healthy sleep.

    This time I’m making my own protein bars to take on the flight for my husband and myself. I am also planning on trying to make some quinoa teething cookies for my baby. I may also bring a little bit of meat such as chicken that he can snack on during the flight. You can read more about my plan for eating real food while traveling HERE.

  5. Upon arriving at your destination, eat at the local meal times – even if you don’t feel very hungry.

    This might be hard to get a baby to eat on a new schedule based on the local destination. I won’t worry about this too much with him, but will instead offer him food and breast milk as often as possible and let him eat when he wants.

  6. A relatively new study suggests fasting for about 16 hours before your flight can help elevate jet lag.

    We personally will NOT be trying this. Fasting is NOT a good idea for babies and definitely not for breastfeeding mama’s either, so this is one option for dealing with jet lag that I will be avoiding and I don’t recommend for parents traveling with infants. However it is worth noting as an option for healthy adults.

  7. Keep your feet warm. Ok, so I’ve never tried this before, but I read something recently (sorry I can’t remember where) that said that wearing socks to bed and keeping your feet warm can help people to fall asleep and stay asleep. The logic behind it has to do with blood flow and circulation as well as how heat is distributed in the body before and during sleep. I thought this was interesting and worth a try.

    I will be sure to put socks on myself and my baby during the flight, since we are taking a red-eye and want to be sure we sleep. And I will also try putting socks on my baby’s feet for sleep once we arrive in our destination (even though it will be plenty warm there for him to go barefoot). I figure it won’t hurt anything to try out this technique.

  8. Practice yoga. I always like to do a little yoga before flights and during layovers. I hate the stiff feeling that my body feels during and after flying so I like to stretch and warm my muscles up a little bit. I was recently reading that there are a few yoga practices and poses in particular that can help with jet lag. Sun salutations and shoulder stand can be particularly helpful for reviving, balancing, and rejuvenating the body during and after travel. Alternate nostril breathing is also a yoga practice that can help to balance the endocrine system and bring balance to the body after experiencing the stress of time change.

    These are all things I plan on doing during this upcoming trip. My baby can’t really do Sun Salutations or alternate nostril breathing or anything like that, but I can do some gentle baby yoga with him. Pumping his legs and giving him a little baby massage will probably be among a few things I try to do with him during our travels.

  9. Exercise in general can help your body to adjust to the time change. Get out and take along walk, or go for a run (if that’s your thing).

    I plan on walking up and down the aisle on the plane at least a few times to keep my body limber during the flight and to help entertain my baby. Since he’s just starting to pull himself up and walk when holding on to our fingers Thaddeus will also probably enjoy walking the aisles with me. I will also give him lots of time to crawl and move around once we get to our destination. Physical activity like that will help wear him out so that hopefully he will sleep better.

  10. Some people recommend changing the sleep schedule by an hour a day for the few days before traveling. This can be a good technique if you are only crossing a few time zones, but when crossing a larger number of time zones this technique becomes less effective.

    I personally feel it is better for us and our baby to be well rested before we go. I will keep our schedule and my baby’s schedule the same as normal up until the time we leave so as to disturb him (and us) as little as possible before the dramatic change of the trip.

  11. Sleep at appropriate times for the local destination. Keep yourself awake until a normal bed time for your destination and wake yourself up in the morning at an appropriate time.

    Although this seems to help us adjust very quickly, this is one things that I won’t hold to as much this trip. With a baby I feel like it is more important that we all stay well rested and healthy then that we adjust quickly. I will try and give my child naps and put him down for the night at appropriate times for the destination. But, if Thad is exhausted I’m not going to force him to stay awake. I know some people would recommend keeping a baby from taking naps during the day in the hopes that they will sleep better at night, but I know from experience that this rarely works and often it will just leave you with a child who’s immune system get’s run down resulting in a sick, cranky, overtired little one.

    I also will allow myself a bit more flexibility. Normally I wouldn’t let myself nap when trying to adjust to jet lag, but would keep myself up until bed time at the destination, but with a baby I may allow myself to sleep when he’s sleeping. It’s more important that have the energy to deal with Thaddeus when he wakes up in the middle of the night then that I adjust quickly. We will be in the states for 6 weeks and have plenty of time to allow ourselves the whole first week to adjust slowly if necessary.

  12. Take magnesium and or melatonin the first few nights at your destination. Melatonin can be a bit controversial, but we have used it in the past and feel like it does help.  Magnesium is a simple thing to find and take with no side effects (although you may have some loose stools if you take too much of it).

    Melatonin should NOT be taken by nursing mothers or given to babies. I don’t think any of us will take it this time.

    Magnesium is safe for nursing though so I will take a bit of magnesium the first few nights to help me relax and sleep. I won’t give any to Thaddeus though since I’m not sure about how his little body would handle it, or whether it’s ok to give to babies, but I figure if I take it he’ll probably get a little extra magnesium boost in my milk, right?

  13. Use your normal routines and habits. Staying with your regular routines as much as possible can help you adjust from jet lag. These routines can be subtle cues for your body about what is about to happen and can help your body figure out its new schedule.

    Routines and habits help young babies to understand the world around them. Since we always read a story and sing a specific song to Thaddeus before putting him down for the night we will continue to do that at our destination and while traveling. I also have a little rhyme I say to him while I’m changing his diaper, and a song that I almost always sing when he first wakes up from naps. All of these things will help him to know what is going on when in a strange environment and it will be important to continue these things.

  14. Upon arriving at our destination spend as much time in the sunlight as possible, as soon as possible. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your body adjust from jet lag. The pineal gland, which is responsible for regulating your sleep wake cycles is very significantly affected by sunlight, so spending time in the sun shine can help your body to shift its natural cycles to your new time zone.

    This trick works with babies and with adults, so we will all be making sure to get lots of sunshine, which won’t be hard since we’ll be at the beach our first week in the states. At night time we will also try and keep the lights low, the curtains closed, and have little to no TV or internet time at night, which can both effect sleep cycles.

If you are interested in more info about flying with a baby I recommend that you check out Delicious Baby. It’s a great site packed with information about traveling with babies, toddlers, and kids. Here is her wonderful article about Jet Lag with Babies, Toddlers, and Kids.

Well, even with all those tips and tricks I’m still super nervous about how my son will do with jet lag, but I’m hopeful that some of this stuff will help him and us.

Do any of you have any additional advice for dealing with jet lag? How about for dealing with a baby who is jet lagged? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.