|The Birth of a Traveling Mama|
Where did this all begin? Well, it’s the kind of beginning that is hard to pinpoint. I supposed it started with me, a homebody with a wanderer’s spirit. When I am at home, I love to be at home, cocooning with my little family and unbothered by the outside world. But, after a stretch of being at home, my gypsy spirit starts to call to me to get up and go. It really doesn’t matter where, as long as it isn’t here. "I’ve seen here, I’m bored with here," I tell me husband.
My husband is a big part of this equation too. You see, he hit the jackpot when it came to family travel. By eating beans and perfecting the art of traveling on a shoestring, his parents managed to take their family around the world on a public school teacher’s salary. Every Spring break or Easter break or Christmas break, they were headed to somewhere exciting. And if they weren’t traveling somewhere, they were planning to travel somewhere. As a preteen and teenager, my husband was appropriately unimpressed with the whole experience. But, the wanderlust rubbed off on him too, because when I start to want to take off to someplace new, he has a lifetime of practicing to make it happen.
So in a nutshell, we met and married and traveled together and then had children. When we had our first child, I don’t know that we considered much how that would affect our ability to travel. I was too busy keeping charts of the number of diapers changed in a day and making flashcards to teach my one month old to read. (It was my first baby, so I claim new parent insanity.) Then, when baby boy was 12 months old, my husband had an opportunity to attend a class in Winchester, England. Of course, he had been to England several times, and I had never been. So, we set about figuring out how I could go along with him.
And that was the first of many times someone piped up and declared, "You can’t go overseas, you have a baby!" My first time parent insecurities started quietly gnawing at my plans. Maybe trips like this were another thing, like my previously flat stomach and full night’s sleep, which would have to be sacrificed on the altar of good parenting. But, I just didn’t buy it. I had a baby and I wanted to have more babies, and I wanted to travel. The baby seemed portable enough to me, so we ignored the naysayers, got an expedited passport for the baby, and took off for England.
Two days into the trip the quiet gnawing insecurities of before had become a yelling, screaming toddler with jet lag and teething pain. "Apparently," I told my husband, "you actually can’t travel with a baby." After two completely sleepless nights walking the halls with my writhing sweaty one year old, I was certain that I should have stayed home and completely discouraged. (My sincere apologies once again to the travelers who shared that hotel with us.) Not a very good beginning to what I had hoped would be a lifetime of idyllic family travel.
The following morning, my sweet son and I headed to Stratford Upon Avon to tour the Shakespearean landmarks. Along the way, we stopped to feed some overzealous geese, walked along the river and generally enjoyed the sunny winter day. We ended our day at the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare and his wife are buried. I was carrying my son in a backpack, talking to him about the church and what we were looking at around us. A lady stepped up to the altar where I was standing and listened briefly to my conversation with my son. For a moment, I was certain she was going to think that I had lost my mind, as I was blabbering about Shakespeare with a drooling one year old who was chewing intently on his fist. But, then I heard a crisp British accent say, "Don’t worry that he is too young to understand what you are saying. Everything you say and everything he sees will make an impression on his little brain." I chatted with her for a moment about how I wanted to take him to see new places and new things because I was certain it would help him to develop. She ended our conversation with a sweet, knowing smile and said "Keep doing good." And then she turned and walked away.
That was all the confidence I needed to know that I would continue to travel with my children. I wish I could thank that lady; she has had such an impact on my children and me. That single moment assured me that traveling with children was not only possible, but profitable. And it was the beginning of what I hope will be a lifetime of travel for us and for our children.