I haven’t been publishing many posts lately, if you haven’t noticed. The reason being that I was away on holiday in Europe for nearly three weeks. We spent a few days with my sister-in-law and her family in London; we had my father-in-law’s unveiling in Manchester; and we had my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah all weekend, also in Manchester. However, we did manage to squeeze in extra time in London and a week in France, and I’ll be writing a lot about our trip, particularly to Paris, in the coming week. It was really hard to blog while traveling, as much as I had every intention to do so. For one thing, I was never really alone and was always taking care of the family, and for another we didn’t have Wifi everywhere we went. I also didn’t want to spend my vacation time on the computer. I do enough of that at home.
Anyway, traveling always makes me think about my life. It opens my eyes to new experiences: visual, emotional and culinary at the same time. During our time in London, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the time I spent there as a recent college graduate many years ago. Memories of night after night seeing the finest theatre in the West End, drinking in pubs with friends, spending afternoons watching tennis at Wimbledon and going to the most amazing music festivals came to mind.
But traveling solo and traveling with kids are two very different things, but I’d venture to say that they are equally rewarding. I’ll never forget taking my daughter to Italy when she was just 1-1/2. I was pregnant with my second child at the time. The people in Italy called her “Bambino” and she gleefully ate her way around the country with us. We had a few mishaps – like when we left her only pair of shoes on top of the car and drove off with them, blowing into the air. We left a friend’s DVD player (our savior at the time on long plane rides) on the plane on the way home and had to buy them a new one (fortunately, we took our Travelex travel insurance).
Traveling with kids definitely brings problems, but you get through them. A few years after our trip to Italy, we took the kids to Prague and Berlin at ages 1 and 2. I remember long evenings in the hotsel room with crying babies who were having trouble adjusting to the new culture, as well as behaving on the train rides in between countries. But the next day while touring around some of the world’s must beautiful cities, we were reminded of exactly why we were there: To expose both them and us to new cultures and places. If they were going to cry or be wingy, why not be wingy with us on the road? Otherwise, we’d never go anywhere.
This year our travels took us to the UK and France. Now my kids are ages 6 and 8. Times have changed since they were younger. I’ll not too soon forget the looks on their faces when they went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Nor will I soon forget walking around the D’Orsay Museum and hearing from my 8YO daughter her knowledge the life and history of several impressionist artists. I loved tasting various crepes with them, of course nutella reigned as the all-time favorite for all of us. I loved walking around my favorite part of Paris with my daughter, Le Marais, and telling her about the area’s history as she seriously hang on to every word. I also enjoyed shopping with her, something I have never been able to do before. As for my son, he has been to England so many times, but at age 6, he doesn’t remember much. The joy my husband got taking him to the Manchester United Stadium will stand out in my memory. During our visit to the Jewish Museum in London, they both asked all the right questions. Traveling with them just gets better and better. They’re even trying new foods and the act of keeping a travel journal is becoming more natural to them both.
But I do think that starting when our kids were young helped mold them into solid travelers today. My husband and I never shied away from far away destinations because we have kids. Their experiences will follow them for the rest of their lives and shape who they are. They will be adventurous and open-minded forever more, remembering the time our family slept in a small apartment in the Bastille neighborhood in Paris with no working lamps and the time we got lost looking for our friends house near Avignon. Both experiences worked out – we liked our little Parisian flat and we found our friend’s home. In both places, we hang out with the natives and we have memories that will last a lifetime.
So, what’s stopping you from traveling with your kids? If it’s money, you can get around that by traveling locally. If it’s early wake-ups or difficulties sleeping or keeping you up, they’ll pass and life will continue, either on the trip or after. Don’t be scared. Embrace the challenges of traveling with your children and open up their eyes to what the world has to offer.