Pondering Travel Past and Future

I’ve been on a spring cleaning fix lately, so that’s how I found myself late Sunday night opening a box that was never unpacked from our last move (almost 2 years ago). In the box I found several picture albums I had forgotten I put together. These days, with all our cameras being digital cameras, we pay for online storage, put together lovely online albums and share with all our family and friends. We do occasionally print pictures, but usually large prints to frame, not hundreds of 4×6 prints. But pre-digital camera I took just as many pictures and was an avid album-maker. I would print all my film once we were back in the states, go through each picture, buy a special photo album for each trip, put all the pictures in order, and caption most of them.

So here I was, late at night, looking though album upon album of photos from trips pre-kids and even pre-marriage. There was my study abroad in Barcelona, a trip to Honduras and Colorado after college, a hop through France and Italy with my best friend when she lived in Lyon, Spain with my sister, Israel and Madrid when I worked in consulting, a month in India with my husband early in our marriage, and our incredible Turkey trip post MBA graduation.
Young and single in Segovia, Spain

Young and single in Segovia, Spain

Newly married and in love by the Bosphorous straits in Istanbul

Newly married and in love by the Bosphorous straits in Istanbul

The pictures made me nostalgic for a simpler time, when budgeting for a trip meant one plane ticket and hostels were perfect cheap places to sleep and fun places to meet fellow travelers. Then I lived near my family so all my vacation days were for me to go where my heart desired. Packing was one backpack and one carry on and took an hour to do. And a flight was down time to read a book, enjoy a movie, or sleep away the hours until arrival.

These days travel is much more complicated. With much of my family back east, and my husband’s family in India, we spend a lot of our money and precious vacation hours going to see the family. Travel now means 3, soon to be 4, full price plane tickets, but only two incomes contributing to the cost. Now hotels need conveniences like, a bathroom in the room, being in a safe area, a refrigerator to hold milk and snacks for hungry kiddos, and the space for a pack and play. Sight seeing is driven by nap schedules, and getting out of the hotel room before 10 am requires significant planning and preparation or an act of God.

This is how we roll these days…

When we were in Japiur I had grand plans for all we could do and see. But after a massive temper tantrum by my son at the Amber Fort, and my daughter having trouble nursing, my husband sat me down and made me agree to one sight a day. One sight a day! It was a crushing blow to a person who once managed to fit in the Louve, Musee d’Orsay, Jardin des Tulieries, and lunch with a old friend on one day in Paris.

He was not happy

He was not happy

However I realize its not just children that slow you down, but also age and appreciation. Even my friends with no children are preferring to stay in one place longer, to truly understand the place, to get to know the culture better, and to enjoy at a slower pace. A current friend of mine went to Italy for 3 weeks, and found it was not enough time to explore the 3 cities she visited, even at a week a city. She is currently living on an island in Croatia this summer, just being among the people and enjoying the culture.

As we plan for our Argentina trip, my husband and I mutually agreed to stay in an apartment in Buenos Aires for the whole time and make one side trip to the glaciers. I said I really wanted to get to know Buenos Aires, live among the people and other families. Let my children settle in and enjoy it. Go at a slower pace. But as I read more about the country, my mind started to work. Maybe just an additional trip to Iguazu Falls, and Patagonia, and wine country, and the beach. Maybe instead of settling in, we move from place to place to see everything. Each could just take a day, we can hop around and see them all!

But all these places require an overnight trip out of Buenos Aires. That would require packing the kids up, putting them on a plane or bus, dealing with making sure they get their meals, sleep, stuff that makes them comfortable. Each takes them out of their comfort zone and each is a potential to stretch them past their limit.

I think about our last trips and what I enjoyed the most. When wandering the caves in Pune, part of what I loved was watching my son climb the stairs and admire the scene around him which was all new. In Japiur I got a kick out of watching all the strangers play trains with him. In Santa Cruz, I loved watching my daughter discover sand for the first time, and her delight when she realized the carousel horse I forced her on goes up and down. Sure, I missed leisurely meals and the ability to see a museum without panic at what my son was touching. But the experiences were different and brought a different kind of joy, they bring a new experience that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I loved watching my son interact with all the new people

I loved watching my son interact with all the new people

So the question is what is a girl with incurable wanderlust and a type A personality suppose to do? People are right, you can’t go back to how you used to travel once you have kids. But do I speed up the itinerary a little and teach my children to have flexibility and drive to see as much as possible just like I do? Or do I slow down my own expectations and learn from the carefree attitude of my young offspring who still take delight in the simplest pleasures? It’s a question I ponder often and one that is sure to come up as we get ready for Argentina.

So for you traveling families, how has travel changed for you? And how do want it to change as your children get older?

Update: I wanted to link back to a beautifully well written post by B at Journeys of the Fabulist, where she talks about how as we sometimes hold on to a promise to return to a place without asking ourselves why.

8 thoughts on “Pondering Travel Past and Future

  1. Yes, everything you said is true. About slowing down to travel with kids, but also about not wanting to rush everywhere all at once, regardless of children. We also started slowing down in our travels before the kids came along. We are definitely getting old 😉

    I think somewhere along the line we reconcile ourselves to what we can achieve in life and the trade-offs along the way – fast vs deep, having simple fun vs building a satisfying work life, family vs self, etc etc. And of course the answer lies somewhere in the middle, just as the answer to the “best” itinerary lies somewhere between Mum’s lust for side trips and the kids’ tendency to explore the same piece of sand for hours on end.

    I’ll be interested to see what your itinerary looks like when you’ve finished!

    • Thank you! We are now committed to an apartment for the full time, so we will likely spend no more than 2-3 nights away from Buenos Aires. Right now it’s looking like our itinerary is mainly being driven by cost. Flying in Argentina is proving to be far more expensive than I imagined!

      • Oh yes, well, there’s that, too! Far more expensive paying for a group rather than just yourself! And of course you have to think of the college fund as well…

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  3. I so agree with you. We really realised how much more travelling with kids cost when we were last looking for accommodation in Thailand. The previous time there I was backpacking and staying pretty much where ever, this time around we didn’t have that much time to look for suitable accommodation, our demands are a bit more accurate with two toddlers and then we even realised that even though we could still manage with a double bed and a cot, not all hotels allow that there. But not all of them have family rooms either. And then there are the airplane tickets… But on the other side: I find that even though you may not be able to fit as much in your day, the small things you do become a lot more fun when there are kids involved!

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