Friday, March 11, 2016

European Adventures

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was a world traveler.

Nothing extreme, mind you - I wasn't a solo backpacker criss-crossing the globe and becoming a bartender at random cities that struck my fancy (though I did fantasize about it).  Instead, I was a more intense version of a college student with a Eurail pass.  I lived in England in my early 20's and I explored all of Europe, many times over, and then I added in a bit of Egypt, Southeast Asia, and Australia.  When I wasn't traveling, I was researching and planning my next trip.  It was my passion, my hobby, my avocation, and seeing the world - at least part of it - made me feel humble and free.  

Slowly but surely, adulthood crept in, and instead of traveling internationally for months at a time, my trips took the form of week long beach vacations, visits to family, and Disney World expeditions.  It's not that I don't appreciate or enjoy these holidays, but they are for relaxation and fun, instead of discovery.  At times, when I would really think about it, my lack of ability to travel the way I used to would depress me, or leave me feeling trapped.  But I would quickly remind myself that those days are over.  My life, now, is my kids, and that's okay and wonderful and someday I will travel again, if I even want to by the point I am able.  

Then last year, I went to London for a long weekend without the kids.  It was my first time abroad in nearly five years, and it absolutely invigorated me.  Being there - in my old stomping ground, so far away from home - reminded me of who I had been before motherhood had taken over me.  It was like a breath of fresh air, and I returned home determined to not let it go so long ever again.  It was a first step in a journey of reclaiming me again, and one that is ongoing.

But what about the kids?  Though London for a weekend was wonderful, I yearned to do a longer trip where I could actually get over the jet lag.  And who is going to watch my three kids for 10+ days?  And could I really be without them that long anyway?  

There's only one solution - take them with us.  

And so, next week, my husband and I are taking our three children - ages 2, 5, and 7 - for a 10 day trip to London and Paris.  

Many have said we are crazy, and perhaps we are.  It is a 7 hour plane ride over, after all, and the kids will be hit with crazy jet lag.  Once we are there, it's not like the kids are going to be super into the cultural aspects of each respective city.  They are picky eaters and they hate to walk anywhere and they have trouble sleeping in unfamiliar places.  

We're going anyway.  And I'm super excited anyway.  

For one, I'm thinking of it as an adventure.  We are taking the kids on their first international trip, and there will be ups, downs, and hiccups, but we will ultimately prevail!  The key is to be laid back and keep expectations low.  I'm not expecting long attention spans or an abundance of patience or even an appreciation for where they are.  I just want them to come along for the ride, enjoy themselves as much as possible, and to have a bit of mercy on their mother and father.  

I also think this trip will be good for them - for the 7 and 5 year old, anyway.  When I was 4 and 7, I traveled with my family to India, and even though I've never been back, the experience had a profound effect on me.  We forget how naive and ignorant children are - the idea of a different country, of a different language, of people living differently, is so foreign (no pun intended) to them. They don't understand the concept of a completely different culture.  To be sure, I understand that London and Paris won't provide the culture shock that India will, but it is something.  It's a lesson that the world is a big place, and that it's worth exploring.  

Beyond anything philosophical,  I think they will actually have a lot of fun!  Who knew, there are tons of kids activities in both London and Paris?  Internet research has revealed a plethora of parks, museums, and other kid-centric attractions.  And of course, we are going to Disneyland Paris for a day.  How could we not?  Additionally, I plan on bringing various forms of electronic media to keep them entertained whilst their parents sip beer at a pub in London, or wine at a cafe in Paris.  (This is vacation after all).

The fact is, I want to become a traveling family.  I want my kids to experience the fascination of seeing the world.  The world is a scary place right now, no doubt, and it's easy to be safe and stay home and do what's easy.  But that's not how I want to be, and it's not what I want for my kids either. May I raise three wanderlusts in training, and may this trip be the first of many.  

Wish us luck!

[And by the way, if anyone has any tips for kid friendly activities or restaurants in London and/or Paris, please send them my way!]

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  1. You will have a wonderful family holiday! Don't worry too much about the flight- it's really not that long at all... Although my viewpoint may be skewered as an Australian. My husband and I just booked a trip to Hong Kong with our toddler, and I think I even used the justification "8 hours isn't a long flight!"

    I love London and we discovered some great kids activities when we were there last summer. If you have time, I would recommend Kenwood House. It's a beautiful house on Hampstead Heath which is free to enter and even has a dedicated kids activity room. You and your husband can take turns watching the kids while the other one wonders around the house! Plus there is a great cafe overlooking the Heath that sells yummy scones and home made cakes.

  2. I took jonah to London when he was 1 (we tagged along on a business trip so he didn't engage much ). We particularly enjoyed visiting Greenwich and Kew gardens. London is really quite easy with kids, aside from all the stairs (but people were very friendly and someone always offered to help carry our stroller up and down!). Have fun!!!

  3. Take simple scooters for the 5 and 7 year olds! Last summer we took our 4 and 6 year olds for a month to London and Paris. We all had a fantastic time -- I would do it again in a minute -- and probably will in a year or two! Both cities are incredibly kid-friendly. While there, we noticed lots of kids getting around via scooter and ended up acquiring two. Best ever! It quieted all complaints about walking and they kept up with us! They were welcome almost everywhere (and were checkable at the museums) and made getting around so much easier.

  4. Luxembourg gardens in Paris are a must. Bring cash, because the playgrounds are a pay to play and are not free. We were there 2 years ago, and there was a trampoline park, carousel, treehouse/playground perfect for the 5+6 year olds. Plus the sailing boats in the fountain. You are going to have an amazing time!

    If you have one, consider bringing a baby carrier in addition to the stroller. It was very hard to get around with a stroller.

    And consider skipping museums that were on the list for mere cultural purposes. My kiddo was 3, and all he remembers from the trip was he got to ride in an overnight train to Spain and had breakfast while the train was moving! By all means, go to the interesting museums (and give the kids a sketchbook to draw a copy of their favorite art)

  5. Check out for city guides for kids! Good luck!

  6. Try the London Tranport Museum, it's great for children that age. There is also a Time Out for Children in London, very useful. In Paris, go to la Villette.


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