In September we are taking our two boys, our dog, a few worldly possessions, and moving to an island for a year. You read that correctly! A few short months ago if you had told any of us we would be relocating our family for the better part of a year to live and serve in a third world country we would have thought you were nuts. But then Carla and I went to the Dominican in February to install a rainwater harvesting system with the Aquascape Foundation. Both of us fell in love with the place, the people, and most of all, the opportunities. When we returned we started to talk and found many reasons why we shouldn’t do it. We’ve never done something seemingly crazy like this before. We both grew up living, and playing, in the Chicagoland suburbs; having only really left the area while attending college. Our kids are in a great private school, playing sports, in clubs, and they have a good network of friends. We have a wonderful church, and even family, close by. My commute to work is less than ten minutes, and there’s a Panera on the way which I find myself stopping at sometimes multiple times a day. And living in Chicago we have our pick of a half dozen great, not good, pizza joints which all deliver. We speak the language. Life is good, and so are we. Those are all equally good reasons to stay or throw a monkey wrench in the whole equation and go! We choose the monkey route.
We fear our kids are soft. It’s not their fault, or really even ours. They, as we, are a byproduct of our squishy environment. We find our biggest parenting battle is setting up, and enforcing, rules around their time playing video games. Really?! Soon we hope to think and act completely differently living in a third world country.
Almost ten million people live in the Dominican Republic. Half of them survive on less than $2.00 a day. Their struggles are far from electronic conveniences and revolve more around finding food, having access to clean drinking water, and shelter. Soft isn’t in their vocabulary! Neither unfortunately is opportunity. Maybe, just maybe, the Wittstocks could provide them something; and in the process learn a whole lot more about how the majority of the world lives, and our role in it. If we came back semi-fluent in Spanish, that wouldn’t be a half bad trade off either.
We are under no illusions — this isn’t going to be an easy adjustment. For 23 years I’ve eaten, breathed, and slept Aquascape. I hate being away from my team and family the majority of the winter due to business travel, but I love seeing our customers and the mental stimulation of what I do. But next winter, not only will I be away from my team, but I won’t be on the road doing my dog and pony show either. My family will be my mental stimulation now. Homeschooling the kids will replace seminars for contractors and retailers. Instead of cheering my boys from the sidelines we all will be organizing, and coaching, sports camps for the local community. I won’t do Rosetta Stone on my own but I will do a daily Spanish tutor alongside my wife and kids. Why do I feel they are going to pick it up so much faster than us?! Bottom line life is going to be different very different. But what we want to install in our kids and hopefully ourselves for that matter is different isn’t better or worse it’s just different. Life is what you choose to make of it good or bad. That’s easy to say “living the dream” out in suburbia. We are all looking forward to putting that and ourselves to the test in the Dominican.
Finally I’d like to give a huge shout out to the Team at Aquascape. It’s because of them we can live out a dream (albeit one we hadn’t thought about living) and serving in a third world country. I can only imagine how much I’m going to miss being here fighting alongside them in the daily battles that occur in the war of business today. Thanks to technology, I will be connected with email, Skype and of course can fly home on a moment’s notice if need be. But, I also am not going to the Dominican to stay connected, but rather disconnect. And in doing so I plan on re-envisioning the business and my role in it. I plan on writing a book, or maybe even two, while I’m down there. And of course, I still will be blogging every week, only this time my kids will be doing it as well. Blogging will be part of their homework and so will be shooting and editing footage for their own documentary of our experiences and that of the community we will be serving. Watch out Sundance the Wittstock brothers are coming! So even though we will be gone we really won’t be at all. If you want to stay in touch with us we are only a click away … or an hour and a half plane ride from Miami. Feel free to come and visit us! The children and families of Jarabacoa would appreciate all the love and support you can give them! And thank you as well for your love and support that has emboldened us to make this life changing move.
Carpe Dominican Republic!