My family spends more time on the road than the average North American family. I just did some simple math and during the past calendar year, which I think was fairly typical for us, we spent 66 days on the road. About half of this is accounted for by long summer trips, but the rest happens on long weekends and school holidays. A reasonably flexible employment situation for Matt (some of these trips are working vacations for him) and total flexibility for me mean that we are able to regularly pick up and leave town.
I hesitate to say that we “make sacrifices” to travel this much because we’re very fortunate and I don’t really feel like we’re giving anything up. Obviously there are costs, both financial and in terms of time. The money is easy enough to spend – both Matt and I agree to prioritizing travel over other things in our household finances (and we’re lucky to be able to afford to do this). But the time issue is a little trickier. I’ve already written about how we manage to travel when school is in session, but even when it’s not I sometimes find that leaving town means missing out on some of what is happening here.
As the boys get older and more involved in activities I think that this will come into greater relief. For example, we’ve already told Tommy that even if he makes the post-season All Star team for Little League this summer (a reasonable likelihood given that he is a pretty good player) he’ll have to say no because to do so we’d have to commit to being in town from the end of June through the second week of August and we’ve got five and a half weeks of travel planned during that time. He understands and has agreed to this without grumbling, but I know that eventually I’ll probably have to change our travel strategy to accommodate a more serious commitment to athletics and jobs and other extracurricular activities. Lately I’ve been thinking about a (as-yet very tentative) plan to travel for something like six months the next time Matt has a sabbatical in a couple of years and I wonder if I’ll feel like I can ask Tommy to sacrifice his entire Little League season so that we can visit the antipodes. To me it will be worth it, but will it be to him?
We travel a lot, yes, but we’re not a nomadic family. We have a comfortable home and friends and schools and jobs that we love, all of them location-specific. To spend as much time on the road as we do takes money, organization, and commitment. But it also means that we miss out on some of what is happening where we live, whether that’s birthday parties or team photos for baseball. For now Matt and I try to make reasonable decisions about what our children will have to sacrifice. But I’m very conscious that their priorities and mine aren’t always going to be as closely aligned as they are right now. I don’t think anyone in our family has ever been disappointed in the payoff for those decisions – our trips are pretty much always wonderful. But sometimes I wonder if Tommy won’t have his moments of regret this summer, even as he’s admiring the Alps or enjoying ice cream in Paris.
I’ve shared some of the tradeoffs my family makes to travel – now it’s your turn: What does your family give up so you can hit the road?