“We do not remember days; we remember moments.”
For me, travel is one of the most rewarding aspects of life. A passport stamp of confirmation that “I have arrived”. Not only have I entered a whole other world via a full body scan and an accepting customs officer, I’ve put myself in a position in life that allows me to explore the various corners of the earth. Sometimes I simply have to breathe and take in the years of hard work, the sacrifices we’ve made and the positive choices in life that have all combined for us arrive at this exact spot in life. I look back at some of the decisions I made as a teenager, even a few as an adult, and it could all be so vastly different. But here I am, crossing invisible border lines, snapping photos of epic scenery, pushing the limits of my family to new heights, all in the name of feeding my soul.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing many different types on travel. I’m not talking weathered backpacks versus rolling suitcases or the choice of luxury hotels over shared bathrooms and floor mats. I’m talking about the importance of experiencing travel in your own personal, various forms. I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and I’ve been fortunate enough to indulge in travel as each of these.
As a Family:
These will always be my favorite for the simple fact that it involves all my special people sharing an experience alongside of me. There is nothing I want more in life than for my children to see the world, to view various ways of life, to immerse themselves in new cultures. It’s so important that they realize our hometown is not the definition of life in the world. We are simply a needle point on a giant ball of water and risky ledges. I want them to appreciate all life has to offer, the scenery, the history, the art, and most importantly the people. From the international friends they meet poolside, to the warmth of incredible locals, to learning about the legendary creators like Michaelangelo and Bernini. They’ve had their hair braided by a Cuban mom living away her own children, fed, named and loved the resident resort kitten missing some of her face, made new friends who tragically lost their own Dad to war, and seen that not every family lives in a suburban 2 storey with a large back yard and a picket fence. Travel as a family provides so many lessons, and it’s vital to me that they learn and appreciate just how fortunate we truly are. I’m trying to teach them that circumstance doesn’t dictate happiness, it’s our choices and our views on life.
We try to be gracious tourists, spending time learning as many key phrases as we can, focusing on the important ones like “please” and “thank you”. We adapt to our surroundings and do our utmost to show respect for the country as well as other travelers along the way. It’s how we roll. We’ve bonded over plates of local cuisine, cleaning melted gelato from their faces in Italy, watching huge grins as a kind Parisian gentleman made fresh crepes, and our family devoured a Florentine steak while overlooking the Tuscan hillside. We’ve supported eachother as we challenged the Cinque Terre trail, rode in awe across the Peak2Peak in Whistler, watched Old Faithful’s water show, built sand castles on beaches from Prince Edward Island to The Mayan Riviera and pulled off the highway for some back country camping and fishing in our beloved Rockies. We simply enjoy being together. And as a family we constantly talk about future goals and dreams. It’s a fine balance of being happy with what you have, but knowing the importance of continuing to strive. I want them to appreciate and enjoy their daily lives, but remain inspired by the idea of an African Safari or the trek to Everest base camp; loving their own home, but aware of the pull of lands far away.
No matter whether we are camping or crossing datelines, we make it a priority to reconnect as a family. Spending 24/7 in close quarters for a month, or even a weekend, will absolutely test your family’s relationships. When all you have is eachother, you learn about patience, cooperation, resilience, and sometimes even forgiveness. But it’s also about love and humor, creating fond memories, learning to cope with the unexpected, how to live outside your box, and most importantly, strengthening the family bond.
As a Couple:
I cannot stress how important getting away as a couple is, especially when you have children. This can be the most difficult trip to pull off, and sometimes it feels as though the planets need to align in order for it to happen. There is nothing that brings to light just how much we do as parents than making an agenda, maps, extracurricular requirement list and emergency contact sheet for whomever is taking on the childcare task. What is every day routine to us, can all of a sudden seem daunting and stressful. We have to remind ourselves that somehow we survived our childhood, and this isn’t Gramma’s first rodeo. And then there is the guilt. What if those sweet little faces cling to my leg? What if I cry? (And I do…but most often when I spot their gorgeous faces at the airport to pick me up!) For me, I struggle with wondering how I can possibly go somewhere and my children not be able to experience it with me? They’ll miss out! But in reality, what would be missed is the chance for Mom and Dad to have some time alone to reconnect as adults in love. We tend to say our goodbyes and head to the airport, quietly fist bumping eachother when we see the families in line struggling with 2 car seats, carts of luggage and an unhappy toddler. We know it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, grab a cocktail and enjoy the bliss of knowing we can close our eyes by the water without the fear of someone drowning. And there are some trips that are just not meant for the kids. Like the time we went skiing Valentines weekend, or the time we went to Oahu. It was an adults only trip, and while there was plenty of booze and laughter, we were able to experience things like surfing lessons, swimming with sharks and the ever-so-cool “Snuba”, which are adventures normally avoided with the kids in tow. We’ve also done Italy as a couple as well as a family and they were two completely difference experiences. As a couple we were able to have 20 hour days, jam packed with cathedrals, museums, galleries, 10pm dinners and miles and miles of walking….and not once did we have to factor in an “exhausted, sleep deprived, hangry, needs a break like-2-hours-ago” child. We face timed those beautiful faces and missed them terribly, but it gave us a chance to be on our own schedule, a novelty for any parent. We reconnected, appreciating eachother in a new light. Your trip doesn’t need to be extended and it doesn’t need to be far. We’ve gone a few hours away to the mountains, and it’s the same result. Renewed sense of your life as a couple, as people outside the defining lines of parenthood. It does exist….trust me.
As a Daughter:
Last summer my Mom and I went on our very first vacation together, just the two of us. I am so fortunate to have such a supportive husband who loaded the kids up for a week of camping while this Momma hopped on a plane to Mexico and spent the most relaxing week of her life. It was honestly the easiest trip I’ve ever been on, as my Mom and I were on the exact same page. Eat, Read, Sleep, Repeat. We enjoyed early mornings grabbing a great spot by the Carribean Sea, where we’d read and doze off to the sound of the waves, only breaking the coma to eat fresh salsa and guacamole, go for a walk, do yoga poses on the dock or take a dip to cool off. Not once did we even stay up late enough for the theater show. No one needed me, I had no schedule, no pressure and a buffet where dessert constituted dinner on more than one occasion. It was glorious. Upon return, I was chatting with a friend, and she asked me “But weren’t you bored?” That would be a resounding ‘No’…..Not.Even.A.Little.Bit.
As a Friend:
I had my first ever “Girlfriends” trip recently. This type of trip relies heavily on the type of people going, as you blend a cocktail of personalities and preferences, but I knew the other three had morals and values very similar to mine, so I hopped on board. Again, the planets aligned as my village of people shared the responsibility of my daughters over 5 days. There is nothing that will make you appreciate those around you like the support they give when you need them most. It’s pretty heartwarming actually. This trip was especially nerve wracking for me, as it was during school days and Dad was on duty to get the girls ready and to class for the first.time.ever. He’s such an incredible Father, but he’s always been the dedicated work horse, and as the stay at home mom, school has always been Mom’s turf. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I’m a bit of an enabler, and perhaps a pinch control freak, but I had nightmares about messy hair and missed lunches. This trip forced me to let go of the reins, pushing me way beyond my comfort zone. It taught me they can actually survive quite well without me….ok, maybe this makes me a little sad, I like to picture myself as the appointed family superhero. It was a great few days of Palm Springs weather that required full pool submersion. We ate, drank and were the girls from “Canadia”, rocking out to the amazing live mic version of “Straight Outta Compton” in the hotel lounge. I found myself most homesick on this trip, and I think it’s because I am used to having at least one of “my people” with me, but I am thankful for the experience and for knowing I have some pretty amazing ladies in my life.
There is no “right” way to the travel experience. There are people who venture out and people who prefer to remain close to home. Never judge someone else’s journey as you have no idea where they are in their own life. It’s their journey. What’s important is that you decide what it is that you need, and to not feel guilty when your vision doesn’t include every single main player. You deserve the break, the chance to indulge, the opportunity to look back on a memory and see it as nothing but a moment in time that helped you define yourself outside of the every day labels. Your are an individual who is part of something larger and you need to celebrate that once in a while, let your hair down, rediscover yourself, recharge and reconnect. Every once in a while, we all deserve to check in with ourselves, by completely checking out.