The story goes I took my first unassisted steps on a trans-Atlantic flight to the UK. And the story does not include eye-rolling hipsters or grumpy airline staff but delighted flight attendants whisking me off for visits to the cockpit and sips of juice. As a first generation Canadian, I travelled frequently with my parents, taking a trip “home” at least once a year. This was not your typical concept of family travel, but visits that were essential to my family and made possible thanks to professional parents who budgeted for these trips.
They weren’t always for fun, though. Now as a mother I recognize the stress involved in a last minute trip with my mom to Glasgow, when my granddad was ailing. Traveling solo with a preschooler in tow is never a picnic, but this story goes my mom’s hands were so full she had to hold our boarding passes in her mouth and I looked at her pitifully and said “Teddy’s heavy.”
With my mom there were yearly trips to Scotland, and from there we’d visit with family but also explore the UK. With my dad there were the more typical family vacations to Florida, but also time spent in the country fishing and canoeing.
As I got older I didn’t like traveling with my family. I wanted to hang out with my friends in the heat of August in Toronto instead of in the cool weather in Glasgow. When I got old enough to avoid my then-stepmother, I did, so I didn’t go anywhere with my dad either.
It was after my mother’s death when I was 17, that the travel spark was reignited in me, and apparently my six week solo jaunt to Europe in my twenties mimicked the one my mom was planning to take before she met my dad. My husband talks of a road trip he took with his buddy, and it sounds remarkably similar to the story of my dad driving to Mexico with his friend when they were still teenagers.
I’ve lost count of the number of trips we’ve taken as a family, and I’m acutely aware of the privilege required to be able to say that. Now at age six, my daughter and I are starting to have discussions about living conditions in other parts of the world, and how lucky she is to be able to visit these places. The cost of a plane ticket is something that we must plan and budget for, but now she realizes that many of the lovely people that cross our path when we visit poorer countries would never be able to visit us in Canada. The fact that we are having these kinds of conversations now leads me to believe that seeing the world at a young age broadens the mind, and will help my children grow into the kind of tolerant, kind and open minded adults I hope they will become.
We’ve just returned from our 5th family vacation to Cuba. My husband and I both marveled at how truly we have become a traveling machine – bags are becoming fewer, no real fear of a mid-flight meltdown. Someone wasn’t thrilled about having to sit on his bum when we were landing, but other than that, smooth sailing. And on our flight home, truly some of the sweetest and kindest flight staff I’ve encountered in a long time. But this trip ended with a heavy heart.
My dad died on New Year’s Day.
The last few days of our trip were memorable for the sadness and grief I’m feeling, but also because of the determination I felt to make the most of them as that’s what my dad would have wanted.
Coming home has been especially difficult, as not only am I returning to reality, my new reality is one without my dad. In addition to my responsibilities at work, I also have to make my father’s memorial arrangements, and sort out his apartment and paperwork. And do all this while coping with a grief so heavy that I haven’t eaten or slept much. It seemed like shuttering this site for a while would be the sensible thing to do, but for some reason I feel more compelled than ever to move it forward. My dad was intensely proud of the work I’ve done here, and that probably has a lot to do with my feeling like I have to press on.
2011 seemed to be the year of defending against the naysayers, and it felt very negative to always be on the defensive. 2012, for me, will be about positivity. Obviously I think travel with children is a good idea, I built a business about it. Moving forward will be about telling more stories about travel with baby, featuring more trip reports, and speaking with more parents who’ve seen the world with their baby in tow – all with the mission of inspiring, motivating, and helping families travel with their babies, toddlers, and young children.
Happy New Year, and Happy Travels.