There are SO many bits of expat life that make zero sense to the normal people.
Here’s one, though, that makes no sense whatsoever, even to me: I absolutely love traveling with my family.
I know what you’re thinking. “Who doesn’t?!”
But I’m not talking about being there, I’m talking about getting there.
Actual travel days.
Packing apples and crackers in a plastic bag and pulling grumpy, groggy kids out of bed so we can catch a taxi at 4am. 24 to 36 hours of trekking through train stations, subway tunnels and airport terminals. 14 hour plane rides with screaming babies, old men who snore and a choice between bad chicken with rice or beef with bad noodles. Hour long customs lines, overpriced airport food, lost baggage, late arrivals and jet lag.
Seriously . . . I love jet lag.
I told you – it makes no sense at all – but I would bet that someone reading this just said “amen”.
It took me a while to figure it out but some of the best memories that I get to build with my family are every bit as much on the journey as they are at the destination. Shifting our perspective from angst to anticipation changes everything. We don’t muscle through the travel to get to the good part anymore. We own travel days. They ARE the good part.
Here’s what I’m learning to do with travel days.
Broaden the hype
Adding getting there and getting back to the pre-trip conversation has multiple effects. For starters, it gives us two extra days to enjoy and two less days to dread. It’s pretty normal to see travel as a worthless necessity that eats away from time doing the good stuff.
Again – we are not normal.
We talk for weeks about what movies we’re going to watch on the plane. We chart the course with our kids and get especially excited when we get to fly through a new city. We do goofy little Jones family “hoo-rah” huddles to start the trip.
By GO time – we are primed and ready.
Abandon good parenting
There are zero other moments in our child rearing experience that we would even consider allowing — no wait — encouraging our kids to watch movies for fourteen hours straight and stay awake as long as they want.
Seriously — who does that?
I’ll tell you who. We do . . . but only on travel day.
My kids are good at airports. They feel comfortable there. They know how to navigate any airport in the world and if it has been a while since they traveled, they get itchy to fly.
I can’t tell you how much I love that. Watching them tow their carry-ons to the gate or jump up and down when our bags come around the baggage claim carousel are some of the great joys of my parenting career.
Don’t judge me.
Chart the journey
Skipping ahead twenty years I’ve realized that we are going to have some pretty amazing pictures to show our grandkids. The Great Wall of China, the Statue of Liberty, the Bone Church, the Burj Khalifa and we’re just getting started.
These are some of the experiences that my kids will remember forever but every bit as much as the selfie worthy moments, their childhoods are being marked by travel days.
It’s a part of who they are.
I’ve got pictures of myself at the St. Louis Arch and Disneyland . . . but I sure wish I had one of me sleeping in the back window ledge of a ’78 Buick LeSabre.
*note – children sleeping in Buick window ledges has since been deemed both dangerous and illegal . . . but someone reading this just said “amen”.
Always, Always, Always go Video on demand
Disclaimer – This is a first world problem if there ever was one. I know there are much deeper and more painful issues that the people of the world deal with every single day.
It is a sick, gut wrenching feeling to walk on to a 14 hour flight with your family and see that there are no little TV’s in the back of the seats.
Make the most of Jet lag
Having kids that are WIDE awake at 2 am is generally not a good thing. The frustration and the battles that can be born out of that are not pretty. Considering the facts that jet lag is a direct result of MY life choices and is an ongoing, consistent reality for my kids, I do not want it to be a topic for their future therapy sessions.
So why not embrace the fact that no one is tired, pop some popcorn and watch a movie? Or find an all night donut shop? Or go for a walk?
Live the memory
My buddy Dan shared some simple brilliance with me years ago that completely changes my perspective on every single travel day.
“Live the memory.”
Memories are awesome but they are always in the past — so STOP and be conscious of the fact that the memory is being built RIGHT NOW.
I’ve only got these kids for a little while, and I am loving this wild and wonderful adventure that we are on. We get to do things that I didn’t even know how to dream about when I was their age.
I don’t want to miss a moment.
Especially travel days.
Does that make me weird? I’m ok with that.