September 8, 2014
If you were ever cautious before becoming a parent, the risk averse type, the kind of person that could never wing it, it increases tenfold when you procreate. The children come along and you start making more lists than you ever made before. The organising itch becomes borderline OCD as you try to control everything, usually without success, thereby making the obsession worse, stressful even, so much so you might not really do anything interesting anymore, for fear of tantrums, or sleepless nights in places that aren't familiar to you or piles of laundry anywhere other than near your own washing machine. But then you're reminded that you have to live, and make plans, and those plans might have lists, but they're plans nonetheless to do something, anything out of the ordinary and so instead of just a little weekend away, or a trip to the zoo, you spend what feels like YEARS planning a massive, ambitious trip to as far away as you possibly can, to a timezone that screams jet lag and no mercy, on planes that after just a few hours become impossibly uncomfortable and inexplicable to the little people travelling with you...
I imagine everyone does it the way we did. I expect people spend years if not months planning it, REALLY planning it. Every dollar and thought that went into that trip was scrutinised, considered carefully, discussed at length... it wasn't promising to be a romantic, seat-of-your-pants whirlwind holiday, more a closely guarded itinerary of places and people to see, with pretty much no room for what-the-heck. Everyone does that, right? I assume so, because you can't just turn up to a place and expect to wing it and surely everyone spends hours poring over at least four or five spreadsheets (in the one workbook), trawling the internet and googling 'travelling without tears' before embarking on a nutcase holiday as far away from home as is possible, to a place that isn't exactly renowned for its reliably warm weather.
I think I'm being a little unfair on myself. This wasn't just a holiday. It was a pilgrimage, something that had to happen, something we had to do NOW otherwise my mental well being was going to suffer because nearly 6 years away from the place I will always call home was eating away at my memories of long summer days, the million shades of green and the smell of real fish and chips, the kind with vinegar.
And so we did it. We travelled home, with our children, 5, 4 and not quite 2. Aside from the nearly 6 years of thinking about it and 2 actually planning it, it took 30 hours to get there and a little less to get home. It wasn't easy, but that's not what I think about when I look back on it. The stuff I worried most about before the trip is the stuff I can't even remember now.
We stayed in my parents' house, experienced a week of non-stop rain, travelled in double decker buses and shopped for groceries in supermarkets that sell wine. We saw landmarks and beaches we've only ever seen in books, and we visited places that are etched in my heart and soul, hoping the children would be happy there too (they were). We saw the best of our friends and family as they welcomed us with open arms and kindness and love and warmth and unending generosity. We travelled to places we hadn't been to before too, ate food that was new, and saw a side to our family that I am so proud of, the willingness of the children to fit into whatever the day had to offer and to accept the constant moving around without too much of a peep. We saw people we haven't seen for years, soul mates from another time of my life, when parenthood, love, marriage all seemed so far away, so grown up. We trashed a hire car (that wasn't in the plan) and experienced GPS, much to the delight of our road obsessed boys, and most of all, we had a real, true, break from the norm and came back feeling like we'd been away forever.
So, the lists, the planning, the itineraries and months and months of meticulous organisation and worrying, it was worth it, though I couldn't have done it any other way. Every second was worth it. We did it, our family, and we had a wondrous time. I can't say we regret a single thing, though at times I didn't find it at all easy and shed tears at times when I'd imagined being happy, but that's life anyway, except on holiday there was always wine and food and nothing and nobody to answer to, except each other. We spent every moment together, for 7 whole weeks, and that in itself was pretty special. From Ollie's beautiful little journal to the gazillions of photos we're still sorting through, it was an experience that made us all better and one which made me excited that there'll be a next time. I really hope so.