Ciara Simonson, the 2021 Virginia Mother of the Year®, reached out to us over the summer to share the news of her family being on the road for the next year. This big decision came as her husband, Victor Simonson, was invited to serve as the first African-American Conductor with the Hamilton And Peggy Touring Company. They embraced this as an opportunity for a family adventure of traveling across the country and having some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. American Mothers asked Ciara to share a road diary of sorts every couple of months—things she and her family are experiencing, lessons in motherhood, takeaways from homeschooling on the road, and anything that would speak to being a mom. Here’s an introduction interview with Ciara to kick things off. You’ll be seeing more from Ciara in the coming months.
How did this whole experience begin and take shape?
This is my Great Faith Tour. My husband, Victor Simonson, was invited to serve as the first African American Conductor with the Hamilton And Peggy Touring Company. This opportunity is a call for representation, inclusion, and changing the narrative for Black people in musical leadership. For our family it is a response to our vision for family adventure, to travel across the country, to experience life in different states, to discover new cities, engage different cultures, and develop new ways of being by exploring life outside of our home state and the normal routines in our day-to-day life. It is expanding our circle of social interactions to discover how connected we all are.
We decided as a family that we were going to stay together. If Daddy was going on tour he would not be traveling alone. In less than 30 days we packed up our entire home moving all our furniture and personal items into storage while packing the essentials we needed for traveling over the next year. The decision and transition to our first city on the West Coast happened in warp speed. The month of June flew by with happy trails gatherings with our family and close friends. The beginning of our year-long adventure on the road began the first week of July in San Francisco, CA.
Was the decision easy, difficult, or something that just felt right for your family?
This decision came with a full range of emotions but never a question of doubt about being the right decision for our family. My husband and I hold a relationship vision that we would support each other’s dreams. When this opportunity was offered, I was wholeheartedly on board with him taking the position for the reasons mentioned above. While I was elated with great joy to witness my husband’s musical talent be affirmed, I had an overwhelming amount of anxiety lurking with more questions than answers about what we just committed to. I had not processed the implications of packing up our family to travel for a full year. This was a HUGE change that completely turned my world upside down or right side up (whatever perspective you prefer to use) where I felt completely disoriented having to adjust to a new time zone, climate changes, and the continuous change of environments apart from my usual routines, resources, and go to places for basic family needs for living.
In my mind, I needed a playbook that included a full itinerary with details for every city that included housing, the nearest grocery stores with a pharmacy, best playgrounds, parks, and attractions as I would have it mapped out if I were going on vacation. Not to mention packing for an entire year. Most people can’t envision their lives for a year, imagine trying to plan all things you might need for a year-long trip. I could not think that far in advance around what my family would need for each city we’ll be visiting. I had to come to terms with not having all the details mapped out. I had to accept the trip will not be perfectly planned. I had to own that I will forget and overlook some details and things will get lost or left behind in every city. I decided I will take one city at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time.
I am still adjusting, processing, and developing a new orientation to family life on the road. I can’t say it is easy but certainly can affirm that I am thrilled to be on this great faith adventure and remain open to all the challenges, exploration, learnings, opportunities to stretch and grow beyond my standard way of being and doing things. As a family, we are expanding and discovering each other in new ways.
What were some top considerations as you planned this year of being on the road?
As a mom – One of the considerations I had to address while planning for this year on the road was identifying the support I needed to feel grounded and balanced as a mom, a wife, homeschool teacher, doctoral student, and helping professional. I’ve had to be intentional about claiming the time I need to feel supported and be my best self. It is important that I have time for self-care to rest, relax, restore, rejuvenate, and refresh, to have an adult conversation, to talk to my therapist, or have uninterrupted time doing something that I enjoy. So, part of the tour playbook includes finding childcare in each city, because trying to do it all on my own is not a sustainable option for balanced living.
As parents – Our children’s education was a significant factor in planning for this year. As parents, we agreed to become homeschool teachers. We are now our children’s primary teachers and have become active participants in what they are learning every day.
As a family – Our focus for this year is honoring and celebrating our time together as a family unit. It is recognizing we are better together. My husband and I have always held unconventional schedules with our professional lives whereas, I work in the mornings, and he works in the evenings. This year allows us to intentionally explore, engage, and create memorable moments together as a family by having the freedom and flexibility in our children’s school schedule and our hybrid work schedules.
What does this mean for your kids, your spouse, and you?
We are all becoming extremely agile. We are learning how to flow and welcome each day with gratitude for every day comes with new discoveries. We are learning how to remain open to change and quickly adjust to new environments. As much as I appreciate routines and believe that efficient and effective systems support our goals for success, our environment changes from month to month and that requires us to reevaluate, adjust, and redefine our systems. We are learning how to become minimalist by identifying what we really need to live. I continuously remind my kids that every time we purchase another toy we’re accumulating more stuff to pack and travel with. They each have a box and if it doesn’t fit in the box it cannot travel. I am still trying to develop a more efficient system for all our luggage. We have the freedom to create the lives we want for our family.
What opportunities or experiences will this bring for you, your children, and/or your family?
I believe this experience will build our bond as a family unit allowing us to create memorable moments that will shape and expand our children’s view of the world. I personally appreciate the privilege of time to build a stronger relationship with my kids as their primary teacher with personalized learning activities and knowing they are developing the skills and maturity that aligns with our family values. This great faith adventure comes with the promise of God’s presence. I can’t say explicitly what is on the other side of this tour, but I know that my family and I will be blessed in sharing our faith, hope, and love with those we encounter along the way.