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Sad Times Shared = Good Times

Leaving the US was a little tough for us. We spent some amazing times as a family trekking across many of the Mainland States. And we met some amazing people who became eternal friends. It’s no surprise that we were a little sad to leave to come home.

But let me back up a little first and explain why we had to leave on Christmas Day.

Our Visa into the USA grants us up to six months stay at a time, subject to the approval of the Customs Officer on the day we arrive. (With weirdos carrying bombs in their underwear I’m sure things are only going to get tougher for travelers!) When we returned to the US from Europe the Customs Officer stamped our passports giving us only 3 months to stay. Arguing is not something you do at the US border, so we scurried into the country and went on our way.

When we started planning our way home to NZ we started looking at the dates in the passports and matching them to the calendar. It was then that we realized we had to leave the country by December 26. And if we didn’t we risked having our Visa cancelled – possibly ending our chances of returning again.

And then as we researched options for flights at this time of year we discovered that half the world’s population travels around Christmas… the seats available on flights were pretty slim. We finally agreed to leave on Christmas Day, flying from Boise, Idaho, early on Christmas morning and leaving Los Angeles early that evening. The thought of spending Christmas Day in an airport was not exciting.

Now fast forward to Boise, no doubt you’ve seen the photos of the weeks we spent there leading up to Christmas. Snowmen, sledding, snow fights, Christmas trees, shopping, all of this was great but the best thing of all was that Kathy got to experience a white Christmas – something she has always wanted.

On December 24th we packed our bags and then re-packed them several times as we tried to keep each bag under the 50 pound limit (23 kgs).

In the morning we loaded the truck with 8 large suitcases and 8 more carry on items. We were pushing the allowance to the limit, but then we had been away from home for a long time! We all bundled into the vehicles and were a bit teary eyed as we drove to the Boise Airport early on Christmas morning.

As we arrived at the Airport all these familiar faces started appearing from every corner. One by one they surrounded us and yelled Merry Christmas.


We were swamped by friends from Church who had sacrificed their Christmas morning to come and see the Strong Family off. This was truly a humbling experience. We had plenty of hands to help unload bags and carry them into the airport. We had plenty of helpers to juggle contents as I re-weighed and re-packed bags for the final time!


It was total pandemonium as kids yelled and screamed as they ran around the airport. Everyone was talking at the same time. There was a massive cheer from everyone as the bags were checked in and the overweight bags were conveniently ignored by the attendant full of Christmas cheer.

Our flight was delayed an hour which meant we had extra precious time to hang out with these devoted friends and laugh and tell stories about all the fun times we’ve shared. They all huddled around us and sent us off with a prayer of blessing and protection.

We hugged and cried as we said our goodbyes at the security gate. A burly looking security guard approached us with a box of tissues and proceeded to supply all the teary-eyed with relief. She smiled as she wandered amongst us as if she wanted to ask “Who are you crazy people here crying on Christmas Day?”


If that wasn’t enough, we were serenaded through the security checkpoint by our friends singing Christmas carols and other songs of friendship. They had their noses pressed against the glass as we re-dressed after the security check, they applauded as we re-packed our bags and they waved frantically calling and cheering us as we dragged our feet and headed towards our flight.

We wanted to turn and wave but each one of us were less composed than we wanted to be, so we waved over our shoulders and kept on walking!

It’s true that it was really sad leaving our friends in Boise, and saying “Goodbye” to the United States section of our Strong Family Adventure.

But what makes that sad time so memorable is the fact that it was shared with so many special people.

That’s why I say “Sad Times Shared = Good Times”.

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