Welcome to the seventh issue of The Interiors Project which takes us inside the Singapore home of the Cuthberts – Pete and Ali and their sons, Miles and Theo. I have known Pete for more than a decade; we met first as chaperones at a middle school writing conference in Monterrey, Mexico. Pete and Ali have built a gorgeous life together filled with family adventures, travel, a love of learning, a commitment to serving others and a brilliant new business. When we left Mexico, I felt regret that we had not spent more time with Pete and Ali but we have continued to meet up virtually and on the road.
In a way, the road has become home. Passengers on certain legs of the journey become neighbors. Colleagues connect like an extended family. Dwellings become shelters from the storms and provide the calm eye of the hurricane in a fast-paced Asian city; a space to unwind when time allows. Leaving the spinning blur at bay behind draped windows and beneath the tranquil hum of air conditioning.
Ali and I met in Monterrey, Mexico and we like to think that we carry a little piece of each place we’ve been with us. A bit like taking a little page from each person who shares their story with you, and adding it to your own interwoven tale. Because it was our first shared experience together and because that is where we first fell in love, Monterrey will always be nostalgically invincible. The allure of the unknown is a pretty big draw and over the years ties that bind you to an experience and a place begin to snap like weathered rubber bands. The act of leaving is never part of the decision, by that point it is too late and the open road has magnetically pulled you forth.
Living internationally is a gift we unwrap everyday and one that we do not take for granted. That being said, it is only fantastic if you absolutely love this sort of thing. It also takes a constant amount of effort and time depending on your location and your personality. We’re in Singapore (aka “Asia Light”) and thus we are far from roughing it. If anything, it is this comfort and ease that will one day be the reasons why we get back on the highway in search of an exit a little dustier, a little less signposted and one that might require four-wheel drive at times.
I have had an interesting mix of events over the past few months that have led to some raw understandings and reflections on what home is for me, and how it has changed so dramatically and so quickly for us. We are about to close on a small parcel of land in Central Otago NZ, that we discovered when we were looking for a vineyard property over our Christmas holiday. Part of us being pragmatic and diversifying our future investments, the other part playing out a romantic dream of living on our own vineyard, with silver hair, and our own wines in the cellar. To think about spending a significant chunk of time outside of Canada each year when we are no longer teaching was the first realization that “home” was not Canada like it once was. Home seems to have become an unfixed place that will allow us to live out our dreams with family and like-minded people who will make it a richer experience by sharing it with us.
The second experience was living here on my own last month when Ali, Miles, Theo and our nanny, Rebecca, flew to Canada for a family visit. It was the longest time I have been on my own in years and a shock to the system to be the one left behind in a silent condo. I’m sure it would have been easier on me to be away for a month, than be left for a month. Our small 151 sq. meter, 3-bedroom ground floor condo became huge, cavernous and void of the chaotically fun energy a three year old and a fourteen month old kick up every waking moment. This did not feel like home – and so I filled it with 55 cases of wine from the warehouse and got selling before I became the next Willy Loman. We run our own wine company, The Odd Bottle, here in Singapore for fun as we are passionate about wine and bringing people together. When Ali and our boys returned the other week, I realized that this condo would never be home without them in it.
The latest reflective moment was taking 22 grade 8 students to Cambodia to build houses in a rural village just outside Phnom Penh with Tabitha Singapore. This was the 5th year I’ve run this trip and it is my favorite weekend of each year. It is an experience that gives our students such unparalleled perspective and pause. We work hard building ten houses and as our vans pull down the red dirt road after a blistering hot day in the sun, we can see in the rear view mirrors the families carrying their belongings up into their new abodes for their first night under a tin roof and above floorboards. As you can see, the timing of this opportunity to wax poetic about the notion of home is rather serendipitous.
We are fortunate to have called Monterrey home. We are fortunate to call our lake house on the shores of Lake Huron home. We are fortunate to currently call Singapore home. We are fortunate to have the option to call Lowburn, NZ home one day. For some, home is more of a physical address than it is an environment, and for others it is an open road weaving into the distance. For us, home is where you are able to make your dreams happen with the people you love.
Hope to meet you on the road.
Peter, Ali, Miles and Theo
Cuthberts On the Road
You are invited to leave a note for Pete and Ali in the comments section.