Research, research, research…
Library books, purchased books, maps, websites, blogs, and more books. All in the name of research.
That’s what my husband’s been doing, every free moment he has had for the past three weeks… Yes, three weeks ago we spontaneously – and really, I mean rather impulsively and totally-out-of-the-blue – decided that he and our 9yo needed to start our family’s world travels (well, we’ve been to Canada, and it is wonderful, but why don’t I think that counts?) without further ado. He bought their tickets to Iceland exactly one week later (that’d be two weeks ago for those of you who don’t care much for math), and off they’ll go in exactly four months (well, four months from yesterday, but I’m one of those who doesn’t care much for math – my apologies to my brother the physicist and all the math-loving mathematicians out there!).
That’s right, in four months the two of them are off to explore ICELAND.
They are going to have SO much fun. And I am jealous. Excited for them, but jealous…
The thing is, I’d love to go myself, and I’d even love to pack all five us up and go, even though I think the youngest – currently 22mo – is at the absolutely most challenging age to travel with: he can walk and run and climb, and insists on doing all three, regardless of any fasten-seat belt signs that might be alight; as of yet, he has no patience for watching three movies in a row on what I believe to be the most essential travel item to own with kids, the portable DVD player (the iPad and iPhone work as well – it’s all about giving them endless amounts of the “screen time” that is strictly regulated at home); he doesn’t care a jot for art museums or restaurants, or the need to stay quiet within either; and he carries with him (or rather, we serve as his personal Sherpas) five times as much luggage as I do (and for the record, I like my shoes, which take up a lot of space). No, I’d love for us all to go to Iceland, but have you checked out the price of tickets to anywhere lately?? Multiply that by five (because Broder will have crossed over into that over-2yo status requiring his own seat, even if there is no chance whatsoever of him actually sitting in it when there are two siblings to tackle and two parents’ laps in which to bounce), and all the work we’ve done in getting rid of our credit-card debt goes right out the airplane window.
But even before we were married, Bill and I have planned on travelling the world with our kids. We have always believed that international travel (or even just travelling out of your hometown, but what a gift to be able to journey to far-off destinations that truly challenge your assumptions of what is normal or expected or routine) is vital to our children’s education. Our goal is to raise children who will grow up to be open-minded, socially-conscious, citizens-of-the-world. In this vein, we’ve long hoped to take the kids out of school and travel to one new country a month for twelve months in a row in some future year where all three kids are just old enough to appreciate such an opportunity, but also young enough that taking them away from their peer group back home (aka, high school) won’t make them despise us until they reach 21yo (at which time they will, we hope, come back to their senses and appreciate we had provided such an opportunity). But with such a wide age-spread between our kids (our eldest is seven and a half years older than our youngest and will be a junior in high school by the time he’s her age now), and also really, truly, and finally recognizing what a frightfully expensive proposition it would be for both of us to take a year off work and travel around the world (unless someone wants to give me a book contract for chronicling such an adventure right now?? I’m more than willing to negotiate…), we started realizing that perhaps, just perhaps, we could instead take one of the kids, when they’re ready (age 9 anyone?), on shorter (1-2 weeks, say), more cost-efficient trips (read: we don’t have to pawn any non-existent family heirlooms to afford our travels), once a year from here on out?
I’m not sure why we hadn’t thought of this before. It’s not ideal, of course, but eventually all five of us will travel together, and it’s true: NOW is really the best time to start travelling with Paisley. She’s so engaged, and open to new experiences, and ready to have her horizons expanded; she is still absorbing everything around her like a sponge (and will happily talk the ear off of any stranger that comes across her path). She’s able to pack her own bags and can sit on a long flight as well as any grown-up (no one likes long flights, but a good book, a good movie or four, and a bag of Goldfish crackers are her Nirvana). And as Bill noted (not knowing he was completely selling me on his taking her off on the first leg of their global domination tour), if we start travelling with her now, by the time she’s in high school (and possibly not wanting to spend any time with us at all, as high schoolers are wont to do), she’ll probably be insisting that we go on our yearly family trips abroad. Heck, she’ll probably be thrilled to plan the trips herself, by then (And hey, parents of teenagers: don’t burst my bubble here! A mama can dream!). So even though we’d rather all travel together, isn’t there some value in at least one of us starting to take the kids out into the wide world when they hit that age-ready age? SOLD!
So, now that we’d decided the when (NOW!) of one parent taking one kid off to one new country a year, we needed to decide the where. The most logical decision was to visit our fantastic and beloved neighbors who are currently living in Beijing for the next year and a half (we miss them, AND they have an insider’s perspective to travelling in China). But… And this is a BIG but… that meant our 5yo (who absolutely adores our neighbor’s 5yo and 7yo boys) would not be able to visit Beijing (as he won’t reach the age-ready age of 9yo, or even 8yo, by the time our neighbors return to the States). And if you think for one minute that he wouldn’t be devastated by this, and would let us have one day of peace until his first excursion abroad, you haven’t yet experienced one of my son’s epic temper tantrums (I take full responsibility for the drama-gene my kids seem to have inherited), and just how LONG he can throw them for… Just ask my neighbor: she heard more than a few through the open (and closed) windows. Because I just can’t cope with a year and a half long tantrum (can you see me shudder?), we had to think of somewhere else.
After perusing several travel websites, Bill discovered that, hey!, did you know that there are some great deals on non-stop flights between Seattle and Reykjavik?? And hadn’t one of our other neighbors travelled there with her kids and had a good time? And, how cool is this?? There are HOT SPRINGS all across the country that you can soak in all day long!!
Well, that was easy… Now how about the when? Spring Break? Nah… for some crazy reason, three days didn’t seem quite enough time to plan (the kids’ Spring Break was last week). How about as soon as Paisley gets out of school? Tickets are still available. Cool; we’ll buy them in the morning. [Cut to the next morning.] Wait! The tickets are gone?! Well, how about the end of summer? No, don’t wait! Book now!!! That’ll be four months to plan.
Research, research, research…
Where to stay? A rental apartment owned by a sweet family with a young baby – check. Where to go? The Blue Lagoon every day, or at least several days, to soak away all travel fatigue – check. What to do? A ride on indigenous Icelandic horses through ancient Viking ruins – check and check!
Though Bill’s tried to include Paisley in some of the planning, so much of it is done late at night after everyone is in bed that that’s one of several lessons we’ve already learned for when I get to take her on a trip somewhere next year. In addition to needing more than four months to plan, it looks like eight days (two of which are travel days), just aren’t enough – Bill recommends at least 10-14 days. Fine by me! But where will I take her? Bill: “I bet you take her to Paris.” Me (guffawing): “No, I will always be taking the kids somewhere warm. And with a beach.”
Of course, the 5yo believes he should be able to go to Iceland first. Or anywhere first, really. But he’s finally come around; a couple of days ago I asked him where he wanted to go on his first trip abroad: “Beijing!” When I explained our neighbors wouldn’t be home by then, he quickly replied, “The desert.” Hmm… At least it sounds warm. Then I asked Paisley where she thought she and I should go on our first trip together. She thought for a minute, then shouted (really, she shouted, that’s how we talk in this house): “PARIS!” Me: “Really?? Paris??” Her: “I want to see the Mona Lisa. And I want to climb the Eiffel Tower. And I want–” Wait, how did she already know this much about Paris?? So much for the beach…
So, Paris it is…
Mais, où est la bibliothèque? I need to do some research.