It doesn’t take long for that itch to appear. You know the one, the travel bug bites and you get such an itch you just can’t wait to head somewhere different. Our trip to England in November was amazing. While I loved visiting family and being in the place that was my original home, I also got joy out of sharing that experience with my husband and kids. Seeing them have new experiences was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Aside from our visit to Chatsworth, the trip itself didn’t have any “outstanding” locations to visit. Instead, our trip was spent primarily with family members, visiting simple yet inspiring locations, and taking long treks through fields and trails. We spent more time in nature than usual, and the experience was relaxing and cathartic.
Coming home, heading back to the daily grind, has left me happy for the comfort of routine, yet desiring to recreate that feeling of more time in nature, less nonsense, and the urge to see new things.
I’m also itching to travel again.
I’ve always felt there is no better learning experience than to travel and be around folks different from yourself. Diversity, new viewpoints, new experiences make for a very different education, one you can’t learn in schools. I want my children to see new places, meet new people, and learn about viewpoints outside of what they see in their day to day. It will serve them well in the future.
While I always want to head back to England, as my family is there and I love the tightrope walk between the familiar and the different, I also want to see some new places. We’re kicking the idea around of spending time on a ranch this summer (new experience), seeing a football game (not new, but always fun) and maybe taking some local road trips for the occasional weekend away. Even a few towns over can be a new experience.
One of my goals this year was to keep moving. Not only in the exercise sense, mind you, but in the physical sense of traveling and soaking up whatever experiences I can. Time to keep that goal moving forward! The excitement is planning the new places we shall go.
Well, we made it back from England, safe and sound. Actually, we made it back sleepy, cranky, sweaty and breathless from running to catch a plane, but all in all, full of good memories. I am learning more and more about how our family likes to vacation, which will help me plan trips better in the future. What I’ve learned is that we like a trip with some downtime, peppered with interesting things to do, and moments of making our own fun. It’s the people and places that make it special.
We arrived in England on Thanksgiving. It was weird to leave a country so invested in the food and holiday of Thanksgiving and arrive to a place that didn’t acknowledge it at all. Because we flew overnight, I found the rest of the week I stumbled through a sort of time warp, not knowing what day it was. Our flights were uneventful. The rental car situation, however, was not. I had purposefully rented the same type of car I drive in the US. I knew it was big enough for us and our luggage, without being too big to park or tackle UK roads. The area we were staying in was full of small, tight British roads, with a mix of one lane country roads and tiny villages. I had figured tackling the above in a car I was familiar in was a good plan, especially as I was driving on the right side of the car, left side of the road. When I arrived at Hertz, however, I was promptly told they didn’t have the car I’d reserved, nor anything similar. “You do,” I ignorantly replied “I’ve reserved one.” Not so much. My only options were a tiny car too small for our basic needs of people and bags, or a Mercedes. Sounds like a no brainer, right? Except the Mercedes was a 9 passenger van, It was HUUUUUGE. I was left with no choice. I needed a car we could fit in. The passenger van was the only option.
Y’all, when I tell you this thing was big by American standards, you can only imagine how big it was by English standards. It was a bit of a gas hog, so a half a tank of diesel cost me over 50 pounds. It was difficult to park in the tiny lots designed for tiny cars. The struggle was real. Honestly, I was glad we had it fully insured, because I was nervous through most of the trip. We got lost a couple of times, and the GPS took us down one lane country roads through sheep fields, with a stone wall on each side and no space to pull over. I’m not a religious person, but even I caught myself saying little prayers that no car would come from the other direction, because one of us would have to reverse, and I couldn’t see out the back window well of this monster. My husband grew tired of me giving myself props for navigating that beast as well as I did. I was proud of myself. 50mph hairpin turns down tiny country roads? Nailed it. Returning the car was a hot mess, however. I pulled in and the attendant from Hertz pointed to a tiny parking spot. No way could I have gotten the beast in there without risking the cars on either side. I told him that wouldn’t work. He pointed to another equally tiny spot with cars parked crookedly either side. He got angry and said he’d park it. He literally missed the car next to him by an inch, but gave himself almost no room to exit the car. He squeezed out, and told me to get in. I did, figuring he was processing the return. He then shouted at me “will you please leave?!” Needless to say, Hertz won’t be a company I’ll be using in the future. I messaged them, got no response.
During the trip, we stayed with my aunt and uncle, two of my favorite people. They have a house in the countryside, and are antique dealers. We spent our first day hanging at the house with them, having an easy day. The following day, we hit the pub with them and my cousin for her birthday and had lunch. It was delightful and laid back. Saturday was spent preparing for my cousin’s birthday bash. My daughter had begged for us to wear matching dresses, and I didn’t disappoint. We had similar dresses, matching cardigans, and matching shoes. The smile on her face made all the hard work and money spent getting her the right dress all worthwhile. One of the best parts of the night was having such a large group of family all in one place. Normally there are folks I don’t get to see due to distance or time constraints, but we had a large group of us. Many beers later, we were all singing Queen to finish out the night. Perfection.
I got to visit my grandfather while I was there. He looked good. Thinner, older, since my last visit. Since that time, my grandmother had passed, he had been ill, taken a few falls, so all in all I thought he looked well. An added bonus was that my dad flew over to meet up with us (he goes to look after my grandfather every other month) so 4 generations all sat in the living room catching up. As members of my family have slowly died off, it doesn’t escape me how special that moment was to have all of us together. My grandfather handed me a beautiful pearl necklace belonging to my grandmother, and asked my dad to take me to her grave, which he did.
Another amazing aspect of the trip was our visit to Chatsworth. If you’ve never heard of it, please take a peek here: https://www.chatsworth.org because it’s simply an amazing place with a lot of history. Each Christmas, they decorate the house in a theme. This year’s theme was Once Upon a Time, focusing on fairy tales or children’s stories. Everything was stunning. After walking through the house in awe, we stepped outside where there was a beautiful Christmas market. All the vendors had little wooden huts to sell their wares from. You felt almost back in time. I fell in love with a few things but knew I couldn’t tote them back in my suitcase, so I had to step away. It kept raining while we strolled the market, until finally we got so wet we decided to call it a day. In true “our luck” fashion, as soon as we pulled out to leave, the sky turned blue again. Regardless, we had such a great time, and it was a perfect start to our day.
We also walked the Tissington Trail and meandered around Tissington Village. This is a tiny place that will take you back in time and make you wonder what year it is. The church has big arches and beautiful stained glass windows that bring the light in. Some info on Tissington (click on take a photo tour) is here: http://www.picturesofengland.com/England/Derbyshire/Tissington
One of my favorite moments of the trip was our visit to Bakewell. The village of Bakewell is pretty and was quite busy. As we parked at the Agricultural center (perfect place to mark the monster van) we strolled over the bridge crossing the little river to head into town. The bridge was covered with “love locks”, which is where people take padlocks, write their initials or loved ones names on, and attach them to the bridge. I’ve seen this done in Pittsburgh on my travels, and have always wanted to do one. Silly, I suppose, but I love sentimental things like that. As we strolled the village, I saw a sign in a shope window advertising they have and engrave love locks, so we went in and purchased one. The thing was HUGE. We had our family name, and hometown with USA engraved on it, and set off to find the perfect spot. If you’re ever in Bakewell, as you cross to head into the town, on the right side, 3 sections from the end of the bridge, you’ll see a huge lock…that’s ours.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend as much time with my cousins as I would have liked. Their work schedules didn’t allow them much free time or they had stuff going on. It’s hard, because I miss them so much, but I get the life gets busy. One cousin, thought she was working long hours and had a ton of stuff going on, was a rockstar in her efforts to make our trip special. She got us the tickets to Chatsworth and also made my daughter’s vacation bucket list complete. She has two horses, and my daughter has been asking about those horses for well over a year. My cousin took us up to the stable one night and let my little one pet, brush and feed the horses, as well as give them carrots and apples. Whereas I was a bit nervous around such giant, majestic animals so much bigger than I, my daughter had no fear, introducing herself to all the horses in the stables, giving them a carrot, and gentle stroking their noses. She was a natural, clearly something that runs in my family but skipped me. The last full day of our trip, after we’d walked around Tissington, we planned to go to a pub at the end of the trail where we had parked. The stables were within walking distance, so my cousin had us meet her there. Her big horse was saddled and ready to ride. She put my daughter up on the horse and walked her to the pub where my dad met us for dinner. My daughter beamed from ear to ear, absolutely thrilled to pieces. My cousin walked, leading the horse, while my daughter sat on the horse, so proud and happy I almost cried a little with joy myself. I knew a little girl’s vacation dreams had come true when she responded “I really think we should move to England….or at least, can we come back for my birthday?” Sorry kiddo, it’s a little out of my budget to just jet back and forth, but yes, we’ll be back.
I stopped at my mother’s grave to say hello and goodbye. I always do. I also popped by my grandparents grave to do the same. I mentioned I would love a sign. On the way to the airport to come home, I noticed the car in front of us had a bee sticker on it that resembled my tattoo. Bees are a symbol I relate to my grandmother. In fact, one of the things I learned during my trip was that my younger cousin also had a bee tattoo for her. I felt like I got my sign.
I didn’t realize how tired I was until I got on the plane. I was so incredibly tired I went into the plane lavatory and had a quick cry, like a toddler does when they are overtired and cry about nothing. I composed myself, went back to my seat, and watched a movie to stay awake so I could make sure my daughter ate. If she doesn’t eat, and she’s tired, she gets beastly. Afterwards, I was so tired I couldn’t even recall the movie I watched when my husband asked me. I was in a fog. I got home, fell asleep at 7 PM and slept for 15 hours straight. I hadn’t slept well much in England due to the sinus infection, so my sleep bank needed refilling in a big way. I woke up feeling like a new person.
All in all, a fantastic trip. I can’t wait to go back.
So we’re in the 24 hour mark. I can’t believe our big vacation is upon us! I, like usual, am in chaos. In all honesty, I’ve done a lot. Picked up all the little things we need but often forget before a trip. Travel bottles for shampoo/conditioner, small toothpaste, a luggage scale, snacks for the kids, earplugs, etc. I put the travel alerts on my credit cards, notified the cell phone company, did all the check ins online for the car and the plane. I bathed the dog, made sure we had food and supplies for the animals, had keys made for the house sitters, and made sure I have my GPS preprogrammed for the trip (it was WAY cheaper to have the rental company ship me one to use rather than deal with it over in the UK).3
I’ve also answered the same questions from the kids 80 bazillion times, so much so that I just typed out an itinerary for my daughter to follow so she knows what’s happening when.
I still have to drop the dog at the sitters, drop off keys, feed the kids and get them showered, and then begin the packing. Oh yes, and tidy the damned house. Did I mention I am working tomorrow morning too? Why NOT work right before a major overseas trip when you have tons of stuff to do? I am rethinking my choice there.
Packing isn’t horrible, it’s just SO time consuming. Why? Because I have to sort through everything, pack it, and then start unpacking when I realize I’m being ridiculous and don’t need all the masses of stuff I have packed. It’s a process, that’s for sure. Wellies? I need those. I also need my heels for a party, and shoes to wear each day, but do I need more than one pair for daily use? And so it begins. A suitcase piled with shoes. One that my husband will gaze at with lifted eyebrow before telling me I am being ridiculous. I will realize he’s right, and begin to sift and rethink everything. Before you know it, it will be late, so late, and I will cry from being over tired, as if I’m a little kid again. He will tell me to go to bed, and I will gratefully do so, only to frantically get it all done in a few minutes before we leave for the airport. I’m a last minute kind of girl.
I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get off here and go get stuff done, don’t you agree? See you all soon!
Ahh, vacation. It’s my first day back from a weekend trip to visit family, and I already need another vacation. Not because of the family, we had a fantastic time, but because I came back from a Saturday and Sunday away to a shitstorm of work to do. I digrmyess, however. Every year, my step mother’s sister throws an annual weekend up at her house. Since my dad married into the family, they also include me, my husband and kids. The weekend is filled with laughter, days spent at the lake, and lots of food and beer. It’s always a fun weekend. This year, I think we had 16 or more.
Saturday, while lounging at the lake, watching the kids play in the swimming areas and in the sand, I got into a conversation with my…let me see if I get this right….step cousin’s wife. We were talking about our kids, and how they are growing up so fast, the usual. She lives in Brooklyn NY, and she overheard her son tell me how excited he was for school this year because at his school, the kids are allowed to leave the school and go out for lunch unattended. I was completely fascinated by this revelation, and his mom (I’ll refer to her as E) filled me me. Apparently, starting in 4th grade, the kids are allowed to leave the school building and can go for lunch. Completely unattended. In Brooklyn. I was a bit amazed that the school, never mind the parents, would ever go for such an idea. I live in relatively small town suburbia, and parents here are CRAZY intense. Helicopter parenting is mostly the norm, if not encouraged. Parents direct every aspect of their children’s lives, friends, interests and activities. Kids are placed into a LOT of activities because the general thought is that they must be active ALL the time. They must be kept busy. I have friends who have their kids in about 6 activities a week. It looks exhausting, not only for the kids, but for the parents who have to drive to (and most attend) as well. The idea that this school in NY would allow kids as young as 10 to just leave the building mid day and roam to a local restaurant unattended was something I struggled to fathom, but I was intrigued.
For those of you who follow my blog, you may remember I wrote a while back about how I was trying to let me kids have more freedoms, more independence, and promote a sense of self responsibility and good decision making skills. It went swimmingly, until we had a falter when my daughter forgot to communicate she was going to a friend’s a few houses down and I couldn’t find her. After that we had to place new rules and explain the communication process. Things have been going really well, except that it got so hot the kids haven’t really wanted to venture outside too much, never mind riding bikes etc. Hopefully, we will work on things more in the fall.
As we talked, E explained that the school allows the kids to leave, unattended for lunch, mostly due to a problem with overcrowding in the school. There really isn’t enough room in the cafeteria. She said the kids have a radius that they can go to, about 2-3 blocks, and their are crossing guards at the intersections (and to make sure the kids don’t go outside of the “zone”. On those blocks, there are a bunch of restaurants the kids can choose from, they bring their own money, and buy lunch. I thought about how this would fly where I live and giggled, because it never would. After hearing the layout of their school’s plan, it seemed like quite a good one. The kids have choice, are given responsibility, there are crossing guards to keep them in the general vicinity, and frankly, it was a great way to keep local businesses afloat. E explained also that the principal is a very strong leader, explains the process to the kids very clearly, and they are fully aware that one misstep means they lose the privilege. They haven’t had any issues, because the kids take the privilege so seriously, they don’t want to lose it. Also, with the volume of people in the area, parents feel that the kids are far safer than wandering in the suburbs.
I explained to her my realization earlier in the year that there were so many things I knew how to do at a young age that my children have never learned, simply because they have never had to learn it. Road safety, because I am always there to walk them across the road, for example. All those little things, that really are big things, because I am always there to do it for them. She said she had had the exact same realization, and it really bothered her. The interesting thing was that with one of us living in the city, and one in the suburbs, we each had a different set of skills we realized we had never taught our kids because we’d always been there to do it for them. Also, the kids needed different skills based on their location. For my kids, bike riding was more important, but for her kids, there wasn’t much of a good place for her kids to ride. For her kids, navigating their neighborhood during rush hour was more important than for my kids, who don’t see a lot of traffic in our area.
Both of us have decided a change is in order, and we are working to give our kids more flexibility, responsibility, and more LIFE skills they can do without us. While the skill sets may be different based on where we live and the needs that arrive from that, the mentality is the same. Our parents let us learn the hard way, on our own quite a bit, and it taught us good, solid lessons. We weren’t hovered over and coddled. We were treated as little people who had to learn to live in a complicated world. I see moms on social media claiming their kids are never out of their sight, that they do EVERYTHING for their kids, and that they keep their kids in activities and busy every minute of the day. Know what that tells me? Those kids likely won’t be able to entertain themselves if someone isn’t telling them how. Those kids will miss many an important life lesson. Independence and self discovery is important! If someone does everything for you, how do you learn to do it yourself?
I recalled the conversation I had with the police officer who came that day my daughter left for her friend’s without telling me where she was going. I was honestly really, really frightened and questioned my decision to let her do more on her own. (And trust, there were the people who had to make nasty comments about what happened, but you know what? 0 craps given.) The officer told me that I was doing a GOOD thing. That kids should be outside playing. He also said that one thing he runs into all the time are kids of helicopter parents. He said these parents hover over their child’s every move, thinking they are doing the right thing. He said that he sees the end result of that, where if a parent goes to the store and runs 10 minutes late back, the kids (old enough to stay home themselves) the kids freak out because they don’t know how to cope for a few moments outside of expectation when the parents aren’t there. He sees a lot of kids without some basic life skills, because they have never been taught them or had to learn them. When I recounted this to E she thought it was really interesting, and we discussed how true this probably is.
Statistically, we are at a time of lower crime, but more ways to communicate it. Our kids in some ways are probably safer than we were when we were younger. Yet parents are more protective and are helicoptering. I have seen parents call their grown children out of work. I have seen parents doing laundry for grown children. How did we get here, where we are so focused on our children that we have stifled them?
One of the greatest feelings I had as a kid was the feeling of being trusted with responsibility. I felt so grown up, and appreciative of any new independence, that I worked hard to keep the privilege. As a kid, I flew overseas by myself! I traveled 3000+ miles myself, with some oversite from the airline. I arrived, got my bags, and found my ride. I navigated airports like a pro. When I traveled with my parents, they had me tell them where to go, what our next steps were, etc. In time, I learned my way around our frequented airports, knew how to travel responsibly, and became comfortable that I could manage travelling on my own. If I got separated from my parents, I knew I had a plan to stay safe and find help. I knew road safety on my bike. I knew how to speak to adults, how to navigate my corner of the world, and even another area of the world. I walked comfortably across town at 12 years old in a town overseas. It saddens me that after being pushed to hover over my kids, I have neglected to teach them some life skills, not for not wanting to, but for not thinking of them. Why? Because I handled everything for them. The more I talk to people, the more I notice parents having the same revelations. This year, I am going to teach my kids the process of navigating an airport and how to travel safely. Time to let them fly, just not by helicopter parenting.