Mondays are for dreaming: Thirteen months of family travel

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Today is the six-year anniversary of the day that Matt, Tommy, and I left on our 13-month family travel adventure. I smile as I sit here calmly at my computer thinking about that day. The week before we left was more than a little frantic: we had two closings (for the house we sold and the house we bought), moved our furniture into the basement of our new house where our renters had graciously agreed to let us store it, sold one of our cars, had several crises involving titles and appropriate homeowner’s insurance, and of course, packed. Tommy was oblivious to all of this, but by the time we actually hit the road in a near-Biblical rainstorm, Matt and I were strung out and exhausted and utterly uncertain about whether we’d made the right choice to pull up stakes and hit the road. This was made worse by the fact that when we arrived in Boston we discovered that the apartment we’d rented for the month was gruesome.

There was no one to take a photo of us as we left in our crowded car (yes it was that same little sedan we’re driving now), so I have no visual record of our actual departure. But as I unpacked in that first apartment, Tommy did me the favor of crawling into an empty suitcase and giving me what I consider to be one of the iconic shots of our trip.

We had a lot to learn about traveling with a small child, and learn it we did from Boston to London to Austin to L.A. and all the places we stopped in between. As I wrote in the preface to my (unpublished) book about the experience:

I learned how to get by without any babyproofing whatsoever, how to keep toys to a manageable minimum, how to eat out with a toddler, how little I really care about nursery décor, how easy it was to live without anything but our most basic possessions for a year, how to introduce myself to strangers so that Tommy would have friends, how to pack so that the most critical items were always accessible.

I will never be intimidated by the prospect of a family vacation. Travel may be less glamorous, more work-intensive, and sometimes more costly with children than without, but it is also more deliberate and meaningful. At the outset, I flattered myself that I was going to show Tommy the world and teach him to love travel, but in hindsight I’m humbled to realize that he did these things for me. How? By helping me to focus, always, on what was in front of me.

If you’d like to read the whole preface, I’ve made it available here.

I’m sure you’re asking the 64-dollar question – would I do it again, this time with two kids in tow? Well, why do you think I’m dreaming about it?

Reader Responses

8 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. Hi Mara!
    I have read your preface and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I would definitely buy your e-book and, as you know, I don’t have children. The writing is fantastic, Mara. I feel really proud of you!

    Maybe it’s time to shop your book around to publishers. (Just a thought…)

    Monna’s last blog post..Dreaming of Cadaques on the Costa Brava

  2. Yes please do publish an e-book!!!

    I love baby-in-a-suitcase shots. We have a couple with Jess from various trips and they’re just adorable.

    Happy anniversary! ;-)

  3. Thanks for the encouragement all! I would like to publish the book in some format, and that may be the best one.

  4. Wow 6 whole years already? Congrats! Envy you:-)

  5. Sounds like a wonderful book. You lived the dream my friend. You might want to think about POD. I published through Lulu. The down side is that your book ends up costing more than you would like because POD publisher and seller both take a cut. The upside is, LULU also has an e-book feature so you can make a little more. If you get the publishing package, they help you with ISBN number, etc (I chose published by you). They also have an e-book feature. That is how I am selling most of my guidebooks. Won’t make you rich. Will make you published :)

    Bridget Smith’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday: Join Scouting

  6. Hi Mara, I wish I had a supportive, travel-minded husband like you do (but mine’s ok-haha)!! I’m dreaming of travelling around the world, and I’ve brought the subject up to my husband. The answer was a terrified…no. He’s so straight-laced and he likes to be in control of his life, house, job, finances, future and can’t look past all the possible adventures we could share with our daughter travelling for a year. I’m still convincing him…What’s wrong with taking 1 year sabbatical at work? Any advice on this end? :)

    jen laceda’s last blog post..Hats and Sarouels

  7. First, the picture is adorable. And I’d buy your book to read about your adventures. I’ve never cared that much for nursery decor either, and I’m dreaming of taking that year off. Off to make it a reality.

    Carolina’s last blog post..Five Month Hurrah

  8. Greetings Mara,
    Thank you for sharing your adventures and your writing. I love to see a strong woman powering through travel with little child(ren)! Last year my family spent 9 months on the road traveling through North America, Western and Eastern Europe, plus some Eurasia with our one year old who turn two during the travel, your preface reflects my feelings about our journey like a mirror.

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