We arrived back in Canada exactly 2 years after we left for Abu Dhabi. Of the 104 weeks we were gone, we traveled for 18. Not including the exploring we did around the UAE, we roamed the planet for the equivalent of 4 and a half months. People often commented on how amazing this must have been for our kids, which is partly true. Seeing so many countries and people and cultures has definitely impacted them, even if it takes them half a lifetime to recognize it. And there were countless interesting new experiences and tons of fun activities for them. But, I’m gonna let y’all in on a little secret, which pretty much every parent actually already knows deep down.
Traveling with kids is about as awesome as living at home with them.
You know what I’m sayin’? Its full of ups and downs. Of expectations, frustrations, and complications. It’s laughs and fights and great stories. It’s moments of amazing family bonding followed by reaching the end of your rope with family togetherness.
Our kids are truly amazing people. Honestly, they are incredibly flexible, open-minded, and patient. In all our travels they handled uncertainty, long waits/rides/flights, and glitches with poise. They agreed to every tour, day-trip, and itinerary we asked of them. Watching my little family breeze through airport security like a well-oiled machine made me smile every time. But they have their limits.
We hit those limits this summer.
After two years of intense travel, they just really didn’t want to see any more cathedrals or pretty views or cool city squares. Seeing street after street of beautiful European architecture just doesn’t make their soul sing like it does mine. They’re happy to be out for a few hours every day, but by this summer, that was about all they could handle. So we embraced that and all found our happy place. Because you know who’s not tired of cathedrals or views or city squares? Dwayne and I. We’d happily spend all day and all night out exploring, but we knew none of us would enjoy ourselves if we asked that of the kids this time around.
So, we found a new family travel groove. Day time plans, regroup at the apartment, night time plans. Kids choose one or both outings. Whenever they opt out, Jen & Dwayne enjoy date time. WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN!! Four happy campers.
The last stretch of our trip included 4 amazing European cities: Zagreb, Croatia; Budapest, Hungary; Vienna, Austria; and Prague, Czech Republic. Every day we enjoyed some family time out and about, and almost every day, Dwayne and I got to explore these cities on our own. (This piece of family travel heaven is brought to you by comfortable airbnb apartments, wifi, an almost-teenager, and two family cell phones.)
I had moments of wondering if this meant that all this travel was wasted on our kids, but this is just one issue on a long list of things I’m working on releasing control of. My kids’ experience of the countries we visited is just that- their own experience. Me forcing them to participate or berating them for not fully soaking up some amazing venue just isn’t going to help them appreciate it more. If Abby looks back one day and wishes she’d gone out more in Zagreb, she can choose to go back on her own. If Josiah wishes he’d said yes to the segway tour in Budapest, he can choose to go back another day and do it. Or not. Maybe they’ll never get these opportunities again, but that’s their lesson to learn. But, more likely than not, they won’t regret these things. They’re children who will vaguely remember the fun things they did do, the way they felt in each city, and the stories we gathered as a family.
Dwayne and I, however, are grown ups who soaked up all we could of these amazing cities. Zagreb far exceeded our expectations, Vienna was a bit of a disappointment although we managed to fill it with the Hansen version of family fun, and Budapest and Prague both blew us away. I could have done a blog post about each stop, but I’m gonna save those endless photos and stories for my photo album, spare you all the details, and share our highlight shots from each city. (Click or hover over any photo for a description.)
This leg of our trip wrapped up 2 years of world traveling adventures. Individually we all collected new insights and joyful moments, and as a family we made memories I know we’ll cherish and enjoy together for many years.