Have Your Kids And Travel Too.
Okay. I know what you’re thinking. (Because, along with the rest of my vast array of talent, I am also a reader of minds. It’s amazing.)
You’re thinking, Really? She’s doesn’t even HAVE kids. I’m so done with this. Someone go make me a sandwich.
But trust me — you don’t have to have children to know that what I’m about to tell you makes sense. It’s all inherent fact. (Like, if you’re a girl who went to middle school during the 90’s, you probably had a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. And if you’re a guy who went to high school during the 90’s, there’s probably a tragic story floating around somewhere involving you, a bottle of Sun-In, and a none-too-happy mother.
Am I close?)
The thing is, we all make excuses for ourselves every single day to avoid doing the things we know we actually want to do. If we have a daily checklist filled with a medley of easy things, hard things, and easy-or-hard-things-that-will-bring-us-closer-to-fulfilling-our-long-term-dreams (like traveling more — with or without children!), we’ll probably work to complete them all — but in that order. Because we don’t actually want to do the things we want to do because we’re terrified that we might fail. Which means those long-term dream fulfillment items almost never get crossed off. Or at least not frequently enough to build any momentum. Which is kind of doing yourself a huge disservice. It’s like you’re treating your B and C-list items like your high-level, salaried corporate employees, and your A-list items are stuck taking out the trash and mopping your floors for minimum wage. And the kicker is that you need to take out your trash and mop your floors — and you need to do it damn well if you don’t want to wake up next year, and the year after that and the year after that wondering why you didn’t get the bucket out sooner.
I’m serious. Get out the bucket.
In other words, those A-list items we dread doing so much should get paid accordingly because they’re the very structure on which we base our self-esteem.
I can tell you from experience that facing failure and rejection when it comes to pursuing your dreams is not fun. There’s always a certain amount of wallowing and self-pity and face-to-mirror name calling involved. But I can also tell you that failing at my attempts to do the things I love still feels better than failing to attempt at all.
A story –
My friend Danielle is a parent I admire. One day, when we somehow found ourselves watching someone else’s kid while we were lugging a bunch of coolers to a park for my husband’s promotion party, the little girl, who was probably around 3-years-old at the time, fell on the sidewalk. Of course, my immediate oh my GOD this is not my kid and now she’s hurt and I’m going to get sued and she’ll probably be deformed forever because I suck at this reaction was to gasp and run to make sure she was okay. But with a guttural, authoritative, “Uh-uh!” from Danielle, I froze and stared at the little girl with an apologetic beta dog lost look in my eyes. Meanwhile, the girl was staring at both of us, not quite sure how to react. Danielle asked, not unkindly, “Are you hurt?” The little girl shook her head. “Can you stand up?” The little girl nodded and did. “Good. Dust it off.” The girl just looked at her questioningly. “I said dust it off!” Her tone was a brilliant combination of patient exasperation. The girl looked down at her knees and made a couple of slapping motions with her palms. “Good. Now let’s go.” The little girl actually beat me in her recovery from the shock of it all, and off she went in pursuit of Danielle.
It wasn’t just a “shake it off” lesson in tough love — it was a life lesson in learning that self-pity is a complete waste of time.
It sounds silly, but I remember that moment every time I want to bask in the wallow. If a toddler can dust it off and get her shit together, then so can I.
So. I want you to think about the excuses you make for yourself when it comes to the travel you know you want to do, but you’re just not doing. Whether it’s the kids, the money, or the job holding you back, all can be overcome. And hey. The effort now is better than the constant self-beratement and regret that comes with never trying.
Travel doesn’t have to mean “far.”
Okay, look. I know I said parenting isn’t hard, but I lied. Having spent a bit of time with friends and their children, I get it. Kids are exhausting. And it’d be really easy to use that as a reason to not travel.
But I’ve talked about this before — there are lots of ways to explore the world without stamping your passport and purchasing visas and taking out a second mortgage to afford airfare from North America to anywhere in the eastern or southern hemispheres. Sampling foreign cuisine is one of the best ways to experience another culture. And sure, while eating the food from a country in that country is probably the most authentic way to do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to cook it yourself. TBRW is my favorite ethnic recipe resource, and we’re lucky enough in this day-and-age (at least in the U.S.) to have access to all kinds of exotic ingredients in our local, suburban grocery stores. Many towns also have specialty food stores. And, when all else fails, there’s always this. Check out my recipe page if you’re looking for a place to start.
Okay. So your kids are picky eaters and you don’t subscribe to my parents’ philosophy that they eat what you give them or they don’t eat at all. Fine. (It totally worked for my sister and me, for what it’s worth.) There’s a very good chance that you have to opportunity to travel locally if you check out your paper or city/county/state tourism website to see what kind of festivities are happening.
Many of them are kid-friendly, and if they aren’t, go ahead and book that sitter so you can enjoy some grown-up time amongst the gorgeous hillside vineyards at your friendly neighbor winery.
Don’t want to go because you might miss them? Missing them is better than resenting them. (Obviously, don’t elect to go during important milestones like birthdays and the publication of their first novel at age 14 — unless you want them ending up in therapy the next time you’re off to Cancun.) But really. The kids will forgive you. I promise. Especially if you bring them back some fancy sparkling grape juice.
Vineyard view at Banner Elk.
Wine tasting and festival crowds aren’t quite your thing? How about camping? If you’ve got the equipment (Justin and I’ve had a garage sale-purchased tent collecting dust in our garage for the last 9 years), camping is a super affordable way to get out of the house and bond a bit with your family — even if the farthest you go is your own back yard.
Have a hankering to go a little farther? Look into WWOOFing or HelpX — each offers the opportunity to work with families all over the world (including the U.S.) in exchange for food and lodging. Many embrace couples and families because they tend to be less flighty than a solo backpackers, but there are opportunities for everyone. My friend Erin and I used HelpX when arranging our two-month hot sauce making stay in Costa Rica!
Vacation days are for vacations.
Not for saving up until you’re ready to retire (I’m talking to YOU, military and government employees), not for emergencies, and certainly not for lounging around on your sofa watching a Mad Men marathon.
Listen. I try not to judge, but I’d judge you for that. What I’m saying is, TAKE THOSE VACATION DAYS! What are you waiting for? They’re not going to take themselves. Working too hard is among the top 5 regrets of dying people. Europeans get far more vacation days than the average American, and guess what? They use them. That’s why, in my totally unscientific observation, they are overall healthier, more relaxed, and happier people. (Plus they take naps and find it acceptable to day drink — two other traits I think we should be quick to adopt.)
It’s only money.
Really. It is. And I understand that having kids means a certain amount of it needs to be relegated to living expenses and college funds, but if travel really is a deep-down dream priority for you, then you have to bring that priority to the surface if you’re ever going to make it happen.
Is it cheap? Not really. But the experiences you garner — and the experiences your kids can garner — are worth so much more than the latest and greatest gaming system.
They might not understand that now, but they will.
What do YOU do — or do you plan to start doing — to make travel a reality?