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Why Didn't You Tell Me: Embrace the MilSpouse Adventure

I’ve always said that the military lifestyle can feel like a never ending episode of "The Amazing Race," but it was never more true than last summer when I found myself schlepping two kids, two car seats and eight pieces of luggage across Rammstein, Germany.

We were in search of the rental car agency that would rent to those of us from the States (because the one we had reservations with conveniently located across the street from the airport terminal and only rented to those stationed in Germany). I remember looking over at my husband, who was blurry eyed after the red-eye flight, and wondered knowing if I should laugh or cry.

Thankfully, we both chose the former and embraced the crazy adventure we had embarked upon. This choice to jump into a two-week backpacking adventure through Europe was oddly reminiscent of the choices we made when we looked into each others’ eyes at the alter just before heading off to his Basic Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Both decisions had elements of fear, excitement, mystery, and adventure.

Not many things are consistent for those of us in the military -- duty stations, friends and jobs all come and go. But one thing that is always there is that sense of adventure. With each new assignment comes the choice to accept the changes or become paralyzed by the fear of the unknown.

I believe that that's the difference between those that love the military lifestyle and those that are counting down the days to retirement: the ability to embrace, and seek, adventure.

Not convinced that adventuring embracing is for you? Here's four reasons why military spouses should not just embrace the adventurous aspect of our unique journey -- but hunt those adventures down.

4 Reasons to Embrace the Military Spouse Adventure

1. It forces us to try new things as part of our daily lives. “New” is a term that is frequently used by military spouses. At school, our children are the “new kids," during overseas moves we are exposed to “new” foods, and we are constantly adjusting our wardrobe and hairstyle to accommodate the “new” climates and cultures we are moved into.

This “newness” is also prevalent with those spouses who seek to work outside the home. A traditional career is virtually impossible (evidenced by the nearly 90 percent of military spouses who are reported to be unemployed or underemployed) with frequent moves and unreliable childcare. Professionally, military spouses are forced to sign up for “new” classes to finish degrees, take “new” exams to become certified in different states and pursue “new” positions to keep a consistent work history. Heck, a large number of us create “new” businesses that they can take with them.

The bottom line is that as a military spouse, your career will be either be defined as scattered or adventurous; and it is your attitude and fortitude that will determine which of the two it will be.

2. It allows us to dream big. Besides the commissary and reliable healthcare, another fantastic benefit of being in the military is the ability to continually add, and check off, items on our bucket lists.

A rolling stone gathers no moss and the same can be said for military spouses. The constant movement often times allows us to dream bigger than our civilian counterparts. For example, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that we will be living in Japan or Germany next year. We also have the ability to hop on a Space-A flight to Hawaii at any time virtually for free.

Few other occupations allow for this sort of freedom, but it is up to us to choose these adventures. I encourage everyone to explore the options of an OCONUS tour or the various Space-A flights. Both come with their share of headaches, but they also provide the opportunity to dream big.

3. It gives us the chance to share our adventures with others. For me, the quality of any adventure, whether it is a trip or duty station, is 90 percent determined by who is on that adventure with me.

The military lifestyle not only provides us with new destinations but it also places in our lives an amazing peer group of other military spouses who are experiencing similar circumstances. Even the worst duty stations (hello double tour at Ft. Drum during the height of OIF and OEF) can become epic adventures when you have the right group of battle buddies.

The camaraderie our spouses find among their units is usually duplicated (and often time amplified) through the military spouse network. As my time in the Army continues, I frequently find that even if we haven’t been on the same adventure course as someone, I can usually find where our adventures crossed with common friends or experiences.

Make sure that you are actively seeking not only adventure, but your battle buddies to experience it with you.

4. It changes the way we view time. Viewing each new duty station as an adventure helps ensure that time flies by instead of inching forward waiting for the next set of orders. Next time you move, don’t waste any time jumping into your new surroundings. Make an adventure list with all of the attractions around you and start to plan your vacations; two years go quicker than you know.

The same is true with finding a job; there is no time to waste wondering if a position would be right for you. After reading the description and determining that it matches your qualifications, jump on the adventure train and try it out. Your time is limited so the best way to know if a new position is right for you is to experience it.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret our decision to board that Space-A flight with two small children in the middle of the night at Dover just a little during the mile walk to the Hertz rental car agency. The feeling of “what did we get ourselves into” began to creep in but was quickly squashed when not one, but seven cars filled with fellow military spouses stopped to offer us rides or point us in the right direction. Their friendly smiles helped to remind me that we were on the adventure of a lifetime, but it was up to us to make the most out of it!

 

 

Katie was born and raised in northeast Wyoming’s coal country and grew up with a pioneering spirit and a fondness for wide-open spaces. She’s always loved budgeting, organizing, and planning and graduated from Grove City College in just three years with highest honors in Finance. During her professional journey, she has gained experience in small business, personal finance and leader development. Katie is a natural entrepreneur and thrives when finding and conquering physical and mental challenges. Her love for learning and heart for service is evidenced in the various certifications she has attained in order to help others live their best life. Katie’s mission is to help people and organizations leverage their talents to be more effective in both their personal and professional lives.

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