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), managed to get the help of someone like this Man and van in croydon to move 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. And that was just the beginning because we hadn’t even made the full transition of moving into our new home by this point. With the way it was going, I was just about ready to give up completely. There were just so many things for me to do that it was just getting on top of me, and I hadn’t even thought about getting home warranty cover at that point. My friend told me to have a look at a company similar to First American Home Warranty (https://homewarranty.firstam.com/homeowner/home-warranty/california) as she only had good things to say about them and has used them quite frequently due to her appliances breaking most of the time. She said, and I quote: “They are lifesavers!” Well, they must be good then, and once I had this bit of information, I was able to ease my stress and focus on the job in front of me. But like anything, this didn’t last long.
We barely had time to get our carpets cleaned, thank goodness we could click here and find a company pretty quickly. 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. It was so stressful and it wasn’t a good time in our lives. When we turned up at the apartment it was dirty, messy, and just generally gross. It looked nothing like the pictures and we were both super disappointed and upset. Matt then noticed an issue with the roof so we had to use a Roofing Contractor Directory to try and find a repairman. I’m not sure what was wrong with it but we both decided that it needed fixing ASAP. The roof got sorted quickly but it took us a while to get everything clean and tidy again. Bad experience!
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?