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 As I wrote in the preface to my (unpublished) book about the experience: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?