In our single years, we trekked across the world unrestrained. We didn’t hold sleeping babies until our arms cramped up. We didn’t weather a toddler’s tantrum while one of us was pulled aside by the TSA for inspection. People didn’t glance at us getting on the plane trying to hide their fear that our seats would be close by. We didn’t fill our pockets with Juicy Fruit gum, or collapse a stroller at the gate.
It was easy, yes, but I’m not exaggerating when I tell you…
I liked traveling when I was young, and I liked traveling as a couple…but I LOVE traveling with my kids.
It reminds me of Christmas. Christmas is fun as an adult, but nothing beats the joy of watching my kids run out to the tree in their pajamas, jumping and shrieking with pure, senseless abandon. It’s like being a kid all over again…except better.
Not all things are magical, like being stuck in an airplane bathroom with a toddler who takes one-hundred-years to poop, for example. Or my husband’s legs falling asleep because he was a human pillow for nine straight hours.
Sometimes it’s hard to travel with kids, but sometimes it is wonderful, and thats what makes it worth it.
For me, travel is about the being together and exploring together; it’s shared memories, and shared discoveries. It’s the two boys who’d snorkel until well past dark if we let them. It’s the girl who stands in the ocean and sings, “I’ve been standing at the edge of the water…” at the top of her lungs.
They remind me to notice and find joy in simple discoveries. A broken shell, a washed up starfish, an ice-cream cone at the local shop. It’s like Christmas, only better.
These are the inside jokes we will tell at the dinner table when we are old and they’ve brought their own spouses and children.
We’ll tell how Haven became a nudist as soon as she felt the warm ocean breeze. We’ll tell how Scout touched a sea cucumber for the first time and screamed so loud I thought he’d been impaled. We’ll tell how they chased crawdads at night and collected shells at dusk.
We’ll tell how we went on an adventure together and we were never the same.
It certainly isn’t perfect, and if you met me after a sleepless flight you would not want to be my friend. Think Miss Hannigan from Annie, except less drunk and more tired.
The kids still bicker over bizarre things like who gets to keep the dirty bottle cap and whether or not that (particular) crawdad’s name is Fred or Tinker. Sometimes we just want everyone to be QUIET FOR ONE SINGLE MINUTE SO WE CAN THINK.
The thing is tantrums, and snacks, and peed pants happen anywhere we are in the world, so why not the Rarotanga? Why not the South Pacific?
The Cook Islands are our first stop on a five month round-the-world trip. This place has captivated me. The people are welcoming, authentic, and caring. We feel embraced and I feel strangely comfortable, like it’s a place we’ve always belonged. It is safe here, with plenty to do and see, but isn’t overrun by resort culture.
Our villa is steps from the beach and I can perfectly position myself between two girls napping with the screen door open, and two boys swimming. Sunbathing heaven.
My three-year-old has probably watched the movie Moana twenty-five times and she knows every word of every song. The only thing she understood about this entire trip was that she was going to Moana Sands (the serendipitous name of our hotel). To her, she is Moana, and this is her village.
I’ve always wanted kids. I always wanted to travel. As I grew up it never made sense to me that the two things couldn’t go together. Somewhere in the throes of pregnancy and diapers and toddlers I clung to the dream that someday we’d travel. Someday we’d take the kids to see the world.
As I sit here writing all my babes are fast asleep. We are halfway across the world and everything is different, but yet with my littles snug in their beds it is all the same.
I expected travel with kids to be exciting and adventurous, what I didn’t expect is for it to feel so right and comfortable.
They are my home. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world, if have my people, I am home.
More of my recommendations for the visiting the Cook Islands coming soon.