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The Red Dress.

Hi. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a moment, and honestly the emotional capacity, to write.

We’ve been home for two weeks now after spending two months traveling across Europe. Two months, eight countries, three kids and twenty flights is/was a lot of work, but I could have kept going. Our last night in Iceland before flying home was one full of mixed emotions; gratefulness to my traveling companions (Kase & Kay) for taking time out of their lives/jobs/relationships to make this trip a reality for my kids and I, as I truly couldn’t have done it without them. Feelings of sorrow at the reality of why were on this trip in the first place and how I wished Brian was there to experience some of these moments with us. Feelings of chaos and nervousness during those first few airport check-in’s as we figured out how to work as a team to get the backpacks, carseats and kids all to the same place at the same time. But mostly, feelings of pride, knowing that we had done it, I had done it. I planned, booked, scheduled, coordinated and arranged flights/trains/accomodations/ for 6 people + a 7th and an 8th, who each met up with us at different stages of the trip, and I had done it well, and we were all still smiling. That alone was worth it’s weight in gold.

The kids are born travelers, troopers waking up at 3AM for a 6AM flight to explore a new country, walking miles everyday through unknown cities to see mountains and castles most only talk about visiting someday, utilizing trains, cars, planes, boats, busses and taxis to get where that days adventures would lead us, eating foods with ingredients we couldn’t easily recognize served by people we couldn’t easily understand and most importantly smiling their way through countless photos they were asked to pose for during and in between all of the previously mentioned. These kids are amazing and I’d take any and all of them again with me for the same trip in a heartbeat. They each had a meltdown or two, but they’re kids, they would do that on a bad day even if we weren’t traveling around the world. The adults each had a meltdown or two also, being tired, hungry, homesick, without reliable wifi.. but those moments were fleeting and we came together each night to talk about our day, to make plans/travel arrangements for the following day, and to put the kids to sleep, happy. I really can’t imagine this trip having gone any better than it did and I’m eternally thankful for the opportunities and experiences we took advantage of during these two months.

I’ve wanted to debrief both in thoughts and words since our arrival home, but haven’t really known where to start. My first thought is just to express my gratitude to all of you for following my family on this adventure. For offering your support and encouragement along the way, for asking questions and giving recommendations of places to see, eat, visit and even introducing us to your friends halfway around the world. Every country we visited now holds unbelievable memories for us as a family, moments in time now cemented by memories of laughter, of remembrance, of coming together to problem solve, of blazing a path for ourselves, the kids proving to me, and me to the kids, that we can do this.

I know a lot of you followed our journey through our photos shared on social media so you’ve seen a glimpse into some of the activities we did and moments we shared as a group, but I know a lot of you have questions about things we did and places we visited. The number one question I’ve been asked isn’t even really a question, but a statement. “That red dress!!” Which is then followed by wanting to know the story of it. That photo was captured by Brae Hunziker, (@braehunz) a dear friend of mine and Brian’s who I asked to meet up with us in Greece to film some of our journey. He’s an incredible videographer/photographer and will be putting together a short film for our family to remember some of these moments with. I had arranged a photographer in Santorini, Greece to take some family photos of the kids and I against the backdrop of Perissa with it’s iconic white and blue buildings and the vast ocean behind it. The sight is breathtaking and I knew having photos capturing these moments would be something I’d treasure forever. In the process of booking the photographer, I saw some of his other photos which included a woman standing in this bright red dress against the same backdrop I was wanting in our photos. I commented on the spectacular photo and he let me know he had dresses for rent for photos like this. I was sold. Who knows if I’ll make it back to Santorini anytime soon, and as these past 15 months have taught me (hopefully all of us) is that life is fleeting and you need to make the memories now, step outside your comfort zone and take the risk if it will bring you joy. That red dress brought me joy. After our family photos, Brae was asked by the photographer to help with the photo shoot and happened to look up as the photographer was getting his camera ready and snapped that photo you all saw on social media a few weeks ago. It’s a stunning photo. I look empowered. I look strong. I look peaceful. I look confident. And this is exactly how I felt in that moment. All of it and Brae captured it perfectly. I recently got the photos back from the Santorini photographer and will be posting them on social media shortly.

Other things you’ve wanted to know:

Favorite place? Norway. Norway was such a (beautiful) surprise. We stayed about an hour outside of Oslo in a town called Asker, in a bright red farmhouse with sweeping views of the ocean from our back patio. We’d wake up each morning, put on a sweatshirt and one by one make our way out to this back patio to drink coffee, watch the kids jump on the trampoline, Addy eating anything/everything in sight and then set out for a day of adventures. It was an unbelievably happy place, I could see instantly why it was Brian’s favorite place on earth. I look forward to bringing the kids back again to make more memories here. Malta was a close second to Norway. Malta was also not on our original roster of places we’d be visiting, but after spending a few days in Athens, Greece, we decided we’d seen enough and to change up our plans a little bit. I knew nothing of Malta, except that it was an island country somewhere near us and that it was supposedly beautiful. I typed Malta into my google search engine, hit photos, and was instantaneously blown away. Stunning red sunsets meeting with the blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Sand colored castle walls behind the white masts of sailboats in every direction. It took me approximately 2 minutes to decide we’d be taking a detour to Malta instead of heading back to Athens and I just needed to get the crew on board. I showed them the same photos I’d looked at and everyone had the same reaction, “Let’s do it!” Next thing we knew, we were landing in Malta. We spent our time here sailing up the coast, lounging on floaties in our swimming pool, exploring the ancient city of Valetta and finally jet skiing in the Med on my birthday (a first for me!) This specific leg of the trip was so unbelievably special, we decided to commemorate it by getting MALTA (!) tattoos on our way to the airport. Malta will forever have a special place in my heart and the memories made here in those 5 short days will not soon be forgotten.

Best moment/best memory: There are truly too many to name. I think the most special moments and memories were the milestones reached. Kasey worked diligently with Hudson the first week of the trip, offering unlimited pep talks, and he was potty trained by the time we left the Netherlands. Izzy shouted in victory after taking her floaties off in our pool in Malta and swam with the confidence only seen in 5 year old girls figuring something out for themselves. That was a damn proud moment to witness. And Adeline took her first few steps while standing next to me in our hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland. These are moments any parent would be proud of witnessing their child accomplish, but the added element of being in such special locations around the world made them even more incredible.

What other questions do you guys have for me/us about this trip? Or traveling with kids? I really hope seeing us do this has inspired in yourself a sense of confidence that regardless of your circumstances, it’s important to see your dreams through. To go after what you want, to make the best of your situation, and that it might take some planning/saving/coordination, but the first and most important step is to find it in yourself to say you’re going to do it. Put it out there and then start working towards the goal. You won’t be sorry you did. Thank you again for all of your love and support. <3

For more photos, follow me on instagram: @ashley.bugge AND @2months7countries

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Stunning! You asked what questions we have about your travels with kids....mine is—how do you afford it financially speaking? I would love to travel Europe with my husband and daughter, but the limiting factors are money and being able to leave work (and still have 2 jobs waiting for my husband and I when we return)! Any advice would be appreciated.

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