In one of my favorite blog posts by Glennon, (I’ve probably mentioned it before) she talks about how at the end of each day when her husband would ask how her day was she would think
“How was my day? Today has been a lifetime. It was the best of times and the worst of times. There were moments when my heart was so full I thought I might explode, and there were other moments when my senses were under such intense assault that I was CERTAIN I’d explode. I was both lonely and absolutely desperate to be alone. Today was too much and not enough. It was loud and silent. It was brutal and beautiful. I was at my very best today and then, just a moment later, at my very worst…”
Our holiday was a lifetime.
Firstly, I thought I had done a reasonably good job of planning and organizing, but it turned out my planning and organizing were still inadequate. (Story of my life?) It felt like we wasted significant amounts of time trying to sort out parking, public transport and making decisions about what exactly we wanted to do in each city. Some things just come with experience, and can’t be helped with even the most meticulous planning, but I wish I’d created a better awareness about where our hotels/apartments were in relation to the things we wanted to see and do. Consider that a travel tip I guess.
All in all the kids were fabulous. I felt really grateful and proud of them. That’s not to say that they didn’t need to use the toilet right as we were stepping on the gondola, or have complete over-reactions to the most minor of injuries, or fret about the injustices and unfairness of who got what souvenirs. There was whining and there was bickering and there were multiple exhibits of what is best described as “hangry” children.
But they walked. Some days we walked as many as 10 miles around the cities we visited and the kids would let their imaginations take over and they would play Narnia (likely due to the audio-books we listened to while driving) and Pokemon (their current favorite cartoon) as we meandered through streets, parks and across bridges. For the first few days the heat was nearly unbearable, but a little ice cream never failed to restore their enthusiasm. They tried new foods, they asked questions, they entertained themselves and each other in the car and they slept like rocks at night.
Even in the best of circumstances it takes great self-discipline, forgiveness and effort to not get frustrated with one’s spouse, and there were plenty of stressful incidents when Richard and I were irritated or angry. I wish I could say we were always patient and kind, but we made it through intact and I don’t think there are any residual hard feelings.
Traveling is hard. Traveling in countries where you can’t communicate in your native language is really hard. I completely underestimated the difficulty of what we undertook. It was sometimes terribly discouraging and overwhelming. I remember one morning waking up, completely disoriented and confused about what city I was in. All my life I had romanticized that idea. “How exciting to wake up and not remember what city you are in!” But when it happened to me, it felt disconcerting and exhausting. I’ll never forget when we were in Venice, VENICE!, and as we walked out the door in the morning I thought to myself “I really don’t feel like doing this today.” I’ve wanted to go to Italy since I was a teenager and there I was, feeling nearly incapable of enjoying it.
But the thing that makes all those difficult things worth it, is that traveling is remarkable. Watching and meeting people, tasting cuisine, experiencing cultures, exploring new ideas, seeing something like the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps, or the Duomo Cathedral in Milan is just something that affects me in a way I can’t give words to. But I love it. I really, really love it. So all the meltdowns, (mine and the kids’) all the over-priced water bottles, all the buses, trams, airports, tolls and humidity was worth it.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and…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.”