The Art of Travel

Like most families, we’re able to take a week-long vacation every year. Twice on a good year.

Steve gets 24 days of Paid Time Off (PTO) every year, which includes personal days, religious holidays, and sick days. Some of that time is dedicated to the time between Christmas and New Years, when his parents come to stay with us. Some of that time is needed to cover childcare, if I have to travel for work. And other days are needed to make a long weekend, so Steve can recover from his job.

Also, vacations cost money. Sadly, our pile of money is finite.

Squinting into the sun without makeup in Fez. The days before we could edit pictures and take an attractive selfie. 1997.

For the past couple of decades, those vacation weeks were used up visiting extended family or doing obligatory American family vacations, like Disney and Universal. There were a couple of trips to Cape Cod and the Jersey Shore. We tried to add some adventure to those trips by taking round-about driving routes that took us to the hills of Virginia or sleepy fishing towns in Delaware. But those adventures were small and rather tame.

What Steve and I really love to do is travel to far-off lands. Before we met each other and made babies, we both found ways to roam through Europe on shoe string budgets and a Eurail Pass.

My first trip to Europe. 20 years old. Backpacked around for six weeks.

Every couple has to have one or two things that both enjoy doing. A couple can be complete polar opposites in most ways, but they do need that “something,” a common definition of fun, the peanut butter that glues the bread together.

Because Steve and I met in grad school and in our late 20s, we have way more in common than most couples. in terms of books, politics, taste in furniture, we’re identical. But I think it’s our common enjoyment of travel and better yet, our enjoyment of the same type of travel, that really makes us hum.

Steve is still talking about this fish dinner in Granada in a restaurant that we stumbled upon in a side street.

We like to go places that feel like the end of the world. We like to find remote villages, eat weird foods, get lost, and get drunk with fellow travelers and locals. On our honeymoon, we backpacked through Spain and Morocco. Taking trains deep into the desert, we were the only Americans on train platforms.

Last week, we were in London, Edinburgh, and Inverness. I’ll tell you about our adventures throughout this week. It brought us back to our roots as a couple and as a family, because it turns out that we are lucky enough to have kids who also love to roam the planet. Even the autistic kid.

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7 thoughts on “The Art of Travel

  1. Oh how delightful. The travel and what you enjoy and also that you are finding it again as you reach your next stages of parenting.

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  2. When my husband and I talk about retirement, that’s the main thing we talk about — having the freedom to travel. Jobs (and raising four kids) have kept us at home for so many years, but we’re hoping to travel the world in the future.

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  3. I find it difficult to take the step to make the vacation happen, but I feel deprived when it didn’t (and vacations to visit relatives don’t count for me). We manage a vacation out of the country every couple of years and I miss those years when it doesn’t happen (usually because of scheduling).

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  4. Honestly, the only “vacations” my daughter has been on growing up were trips to visit family, or attend funerals of family members. I spent money on a hotel exactly once: to attend the funeral of my great-aunt in Chicago (because the relatives up there already had full houses). We stayed at a fancy place within a decent walk of the church where the ceremony was held.

    Took the late train up. Didn’t see any buses by Union Station wheb we arrived, so I started walking. It was summer, and very humid. My daughter started bitching a few blocks in, and pointing at every cab going by (“look, there’s another one!”). I heard comparisons to the death march of Bataan.

    But all I could think of was how much money the hotel and our meals were going to cost, and the money I lost from all the work I already missed (my mother died from a prolonged bout with cancer a few days before). It was going to be a *very* tight month, since I still had to pay for my daughter’s place in summer care, even when she wasn”t there.

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  5. My husband and I also share a love of travel – much like you and Steve. Although for us, we like to hike more than we like to drive, but getting off the beaten path is a priority for us too. Because of this, I have become slightly obsessed with the whole points and miles game. It has allowed us to really extend our finite pool of money for vacations and stay in nice places for really, really cheap. For instance, we’re currently working in Japan, and we just went on a long weekend to Okinawa. The flights and two hotels rooms for the four of us cost us nothing. I am a big fan of AirBnBs, but sometimes it’s nice to stay for a few nights in a fancy hotel – particularly when that fancy hotel isn’t costing you anything. I know you don’t have a ton of time on your hands, but we manage to accumulate lots of points and miles simply by running daily expenses (and paying them off in full in each month!) on our credit cards.

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