Have Kids. Will Travel.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain

crying frank

Tired traveler #1

crying luca

Tired traveler #2

I’ve long said that there should be a family section on airplanes. We used to segregate smokers, somehow expecting that little blue curtain to save us from carcinogen uptake. The first class cabin still ropes off their bigger seats and free drinks. Why not at least give parents the luxury of traveling with our brethren? That way at least we know that our kicking and screaming travel companions aren’t alone in their revolt. We could share snacks and mild sedatives in our own little corner of commercial airline purgatory. Business travelers intent on laptop time and stiff drinks might even pay extra to keep us caged.

pyramids

Early wanderlust

I’ve written about the perspective that travel offers, about the necessity of understanding how big the world is, about how it makes time slow and eyes open. For some of us travel is a compulsion, even an addiction. Having a trip on the horizon – even just an interstate road trip – keeps me sane. I get a little crazy if my passport threatens to expire. And here’s the thing: I worry that wanderlust isn’t hereditary.

So I’ve dragged my kids around the planet. When they were tiny, Cody and I insisted that nothing would change – we’d keep pace. We added a port-a-crib to our tent and forced our babies to endure east coast road trips in traffic. When our oldest son revolted and refused to nap in his car seat, we conceded to a few changes.

We slow down. One thing a day. No more running ragged around a new city collecting sights like merit badges. We take our time getting out in the morning, prioritizing an easy breakfast and lazy wake-ups. And we quit early. An hour in the pool or in front of the TV makes the next day bearable.

We plan our food. Feeding four people in an unfamiliar place breeds anxiety and threatens marriages. We carry snacks, but we sit down for meals. This guarantees breaks for our kids and a beer for us.

We wander widely and stick close to home. Some of our best travel has taken us just one state away. We’ve spent a week exploring new places in a familiar city, forcing ourselves to see the familiar from another angle, pretending to be bright eyed tourists. We’ve also lugged a baby and a toddler to Europe. Both trips necessitated adult beverages and significant patience.

We practice the art of anticipation. In about two weeks we will take our boys to Hawaii for spring break. I’d planned an elaborate surprise al a whimsical Disney TV commercials: I wanted to tell the kids about the trip on the way to the airport. But the boys are far more perceptive than I give them credit for and my husband is a terrible liar. They discovered the ruse weeks ago. Now I realize I was wrong. Their travel joy might be measured in direct proportion to their anticipation. Had they not had the opportunity to plan and dream about our trip, the experience would have suffered. Besides, I’d miss out on the “how-many-days-till-Hawaii” whine. Every. Single. Morning.

My boys are big now and generally quiet on airplanes. My eleven year-old is almost taller than I am so his days of short-leg-induced-seat-kicking should be waning, but I’ve been that mom for years. I’ve always traveled with my kids. It was easy when they were tiny – I just schlepped them around in a sling. I boarded more than one flight without anyone realizing I had an infant strapped to my chest. I won’t pretend toddler travel was easy. I’m sure I was every flight attendant’s worst nightmare: two boys under three. But I soldiered on insistent that travel was as good for my little people as it was for me. I can hope that it will make my family’s views broader, more wholesome and charitable, but at the very least it will get us out of “our little corner of the earth.” ~ Sarah

paris

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