WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – I used to dread Friday afternoons. That’s when Kate would drop off the kids at my apartment for their scheduled weekend with Dad.

Once I had them, I’d watch the clock the whole weekend until I could get rid of them again on Monday morning. If I returned them to Kate without anyone getting hurt, I considered the weekend a success.

I’d give them each an iPad on Friday night. They’d have unlimited screen time in my apartment until Monday morning.

I’m not proud to say this, but I was a babysitter, not a father.

It wasn’t any different when Kate and I were married. I was so stressed about work, I was never mentally present. Even on the weekends, when I didn’t have work, I’d be in my own little world, either fiddling with my phone or watching television while Kate played with the kids.

“Having kids was supposed to be the greatest joy in life,” I thought. “So why does it feel like such a chore?”

I now realize I had no connection with my children. No wonder I felt like a babysitter…

Fast-forward two years. We get up together. We eat together. We brush our teeth together. We play together. We travel together. We sleep together. We’ve done tourist stuff together, and we’ve shared A LOT of cramped hotel rooms together. We spend ALL our time together.

Most importantly, when we were on the road, there was no work stress or any other drama going on in the background. Just day after day of fun and adventure. “The Endless Vacation,” we called it.

Here we are in Egypt, with the Sphinx behind us…

imageChecking out the Great Sphinx of Giza

And here we are walking around Xi’an, China (we stayed in an old army barracks that’s over 1,000 years old)…

imageWith Dusty (11), Miles (9), and Penny (7) in Xi’an

At first, we found it exhausting to be in such close proximity. I wasn’t used to it. I don’t think any of us were. There was a brief adjustment period.

Then one day, I noticed we were laughing almost the whole time. We were playing together. We were telling jokes. And stories. The kids were making fun of Dad. We were playing card games. We were even having long conversations about economics!

I realized this was how fatherhood should be!

As the trip went on, I started to notice little things about the kids I’d never noticed before… and I started to see how different they were from each other. I don’t think this would have been possible without living every day for an entire year in each other’s pockets.

The challenge of traveling around the world brought us together, too. We had to pull together… and look out for each other… and encourage each other… on the long journey through sometimes challenging places like India and Rwanda.

We were like a little wolf pack, or a pioneer family on the frontier 200 years ago… all for one and one for all.

I’ve never been on a successful football team or anything like that, but now I can imagine what the camaraderie feels like. Except I got to experience it with my own children.

Here we are in India…

image With Kate and the kids in India

A Decision I’ll Never Regret

I read a blog post recently titled “The Tail End.” The writer looked at the total number of days he will get to spend in person with his parents over his lifetime, assuming he continues to see them about five times a year and both his parents survive into his sixties.

“It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time,” he says. “I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time.”

This insight made me sad.

First, I thought of my own parents. Even before this lockdown started, I’d see them less than five times a year. Usually about twice a year. They’re getting older now, and both of them have Parkinson’s disease. I’m probably into the last 2% of the total time I’ll get to spend with my parents.

Then, I thought of my kids. I may have only 10 more good years of them living under my roof, seeing them every day. After that, they’ll leave home, and I’ll probably see them a lot less. As the blog writer points out above, I will have used up something like 90% of our time spent together by then.

The bottom line is, I have a lot less time to enjoy my kids than I realized. Can’t waste it anymore.

That’s the thing about our trip. It’s been a great adventure. When we explore new places, the kids get a great education. But the real magic is in how it has transformed the relationships we have with each other and brought us all together.

“We meet people everywhere we go,” I told someone when we were in China. “But for us, this trip was never about meeting other people. It was about meeting each other.”

And that’s why – no matter what happens next in life for us – I know I’ll never regret the decision to take this family sabbatical.

– Tom Dyson

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Tom dedicated the last few postcards to the emerging oil situation. He explained what’s going on and why oil is an important commodity to watch – during and after the COVID-19 pandemic (catch up here). And so, oil is on readers’ minds today…

Reader comment: Hi Tom, Thanks for sharing your life voyage with your family for all of your readers. I guess your head is starting to swell a bit from all the rave reviews. Nonetheless, I agree with all the eloquent stuff many have said about you personally and your writing style.

Also, thanks for all your pounding the table on gold, backed up with great economic analysis. I have been mostly listening to Bill Bonner and Doug Casey’s group in recent years. Also, I loved your analysis of the oil shipping situation. I went ahead and looked at a few shipping stocks. I bought a small position on one Friday and am up 10% on Monday. It looked pretty solid and was breaking out technically.

Reader comment: I agree with you about the long-term price of oil. I think once the world starts moving again, we will burn through the surplus faster than expected. Then, the price of crude will start to rise and go past $100 a barrel to $200 before it slows down. I own mineral rights in West Texas.

Reader comment: Following your first Postcards discussion on the oil glut and storage problems, I purchased small amounts of four oil tanker stocks. In three trading days, I am up 27%, 13%, 12%, and 9%. Also, in early April, I began building positions in several gold mining stocks. All are doing well with one up almost 100%. I think your mojo is definitely back!

Tom’s note: As always, thank you for your messages! Please keep writing us at [email protected].