Monday, July 21, 2008

Home... again

We are at an awkward time within my family.

D and I met during a summer when I was walking across the country on a U.S./Soviet Peace Walk and he was off for a bike trip across Nova Scotia. When we both returned, I hosted a group of Soviet teachers who were in the U.S. for a conference. D was fascinated by my travels and by my traveling spirit. I had arrived from my teaching exchange in Russia the previous fall, and I had set up shop in the corner of southwestern Massachusetts in order to have easier access to the borders of New York, Vermont and Connecticut, where I took displays to area schools and taught the children there about Soviet life and culture.

The fall after we met, I packed up my stuff, which fit in my Dodge Omni, and moved to Cambridge to graduate school. The following summer, I was back to the Soviet Union.

I was on the move. Always had been. Assumed I always would be.

My moving, my travels, my way of life were attractive to D. He'd done some traveling, too, but not to the extent that I had. And I brought him on travels in our future together - Jamaica, hiking across England, Scotland and France, traveling about the East Coast, moving to the Midwest.

C has never been the world's greatest traveler, although we were game in his early years. He'd been to NYC, Toronto, Chicago, up and down the East Coast, Florida and Hawai'i, and various Caribbean islands (via a cruise), all by age 7. At 10, he went with me to Amsterdam and Germany. At 11, we went together on a homeschooling cruise to Mexico.

In the past couple of years, however, it's been harder and harder for the three of us to find successful vacations together. We don't quit "fit". D and I love museums and restaurants; C doesn't. C and I love quirky, pop culture stuff; D doesn't. C and D love heights; I don't. D loves the mountains; C and I love the beach. D and I love a big city on occasion... C, not so much.

We'd planned out a couple of last, "big ticket" vacations together prior to C's leaving for college. We were supposed to go to Europe this past winter to see our exchange kiddoes, but changes in their schedule and the deflated American dollar canceled that at the last minute. As for our other two "plans" - Alaska and England - I'm not sure we're going to be able to afford either. And no big deal - it's just the way it goes - we have enormous happiness and love in our life and we've already traveled to many places together.

For our summer vacation this year, we decided to go to Chicago. It was nearby, cheaper than many choices, and would provide visits with friends and family, as well as some memorable attractions (ie. we ALL love aquariums).

When we got there, however, nothing worked - the weather was horrendously sticky and humid, the streets crowded and noisy, and everyone was having a serious freak-out. When we added how much we WOULD be spending for this vacation, the solution seemed obvious - we packed up and went home.

We did manage to see the people we wanted to see before we came home, and we spent the last couple of days happily ensconced at home with books, movies and some delicious food. Which seemed to be more what we had wanted in the first place... I guess.

As a mom, I want to give my child wide experiences. I want him to step out into the world, to know that there are places in the far beyond. Yes, I know we've done that, but as we all grow older as a family, we are truly becoming homebodies. It's weird. I know that, for me, part of the issue is that I find these days when I travel, there's so much that's the same. What I loved about travel in my youth were the differences I could find in languages, stores, food, etc. I find those differences not as pronounced these days, and it saddens me. It's one of the reasons that I'm supporting my local EVERYTHING. (Okay, so that's for another post).

So, I have a question for you, wonderful readers (and a HUGE thank you, by the way, for all the wonderful wishes for a good trip): how have your travel habits changed over the years? Are you doing more of it? Less?

Why?

47 comments:

Mae Travels said...

My experience is that trips we've taken for work, like studying, sabbatical visits or meetings, result in a very different type of experience than tourism. When we meet & work with local people, we get to find out the differences that you mentioned from your earlier working abroad. I think tourist things (like beaches, or a stay in a Chicago hotel/visiting museums) are much more globalized. Even cooking in a condo/going to a grocery store is more "real" than hotel buffet dining.

For me, this has made more difference than the changes to the world over time, though of course I have watched as certain places developed in various ways.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

That's an interesting comment, Mae. I still have found some of this even when visiting folks, however. It's more that certain globalization issues seem to be taking over, particularly in big cities.

You're right on the tourism thing, though.

thailandchani said...

When I was young, I used to travel all over the place and not think much about it. Right after high school, I did the obligatory Europe trip with a backpack and my father's credit card. After college, I traveled on the cheap ~ wherever I could get to on a recent graduate's bank account. My traveling slowed down as I got older and my final big trip was to Southeast Asia (the first trip). Since then, aside from one return visit to Thailand, I have stopped.

To a large degree, I think it's a combination of expense and age. Things cost more now and I don't have the same level of energy.

My final trip will be one way to Thailand.. and I'm done for life then.

~*

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

But then you'll be home, right? ;-)

Much as I don't like to admit it, I think age has to do with my slowing down, too.

eatclosetohome said...

I hated, hated, hated travel as a teen. Now, it's better. I've been lots of places and enjoy other cultures. Still, it's not really my bag. Give me $2000 and I'd much rather buy something durable to make my home nicer than go visit someplace exotic.

I will mirror back to you a phrase from your post: "What I loved about travel in my youth..." Yes. You loved it in your youth...but C is his own person with his own loves and his own youth. You've given him lots of opportunities to love travel, and if he doesn't at this age, maybe the best thing is just to let it go. As you said, the differences are less pronounced these days, so there might just be less to love about travel, especially if you're not so inclined that way to begin with.

TeacherPatti said...

I've never liked traveling. I get really anxious when I'm away from home for too long, and I am so freakin' ADD sometimes that it is hard to occupy me. For instance, after 5 days, we got bored on our honeymoon (we had lived together for over a year prior to marriage, so it was nothing new to us :)).

glamah16 said...

Sorry the weekend didnt work out.It was great meeting you however! Tough situation. Is it wrong to go on vacation and explore by yourself and with friends. You seem to be the one bending and adapting. So if others are not so willing, then spend some good quality time with them when availbale, but dont hesitate to see all you can. You know life is to short for regrets. And encourage them to do the type of travel they want as well.
There is no place like home, but we have to push our limits and explore too!

Sarabeth said...

My family never had the money to travel long range when I was growing up, so short trips to family and other close places were our destinations. When I left home, I traveled as much as I could afford from my new home base of Seattle. I discovered that I had some unease about being a new place. My husband helped me get over that as he'd traveled extensively and alone when he was in college. With our first child, we traveled domestically to lots of places. When the second one came along, travel decreased as cost and the amount of stuff we had to lug, including the kids. With a third, if it isn't a car trip, we don't go. But, we live in a fabulous city with such varied cultures now. Simply by walking out our front door we can experience different flavors of society.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I knew I'd get wisdom here!

Eat Close - Great perspective. And the main thing is for us to ENJOY those breaks together, right?

Patti, finding others who aren't into travel, especially others who live such creative lives (like you) gives me strength. Travel was just such a "value" in my family growing up, that it seems odd not to go with it...

Glamah, you are right as usual. ;-) And you know me now, too! And yes, meeting you was the delight of Chicago by a long shot. And D and I travel pretty well together, and in a couple of years it will just be the two of us in any case.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Sarabeth we cross-posted here. Again, wisdom. I guess that's part of what I'm grappling with - I grew up in NYC. If I lived in a place like New Orleans, Chicago or another diverse place, I might feel better. OTOH, there's a great variety of cultures, etc., to be found in A2, if I put my mind to it, and that might be the best solution.

Jan said...

We always took a 4-6 wk vacation as a kid growing up and in my younger married days we traveled the 800 mile trip home to see family several times.... but as I get older I would rather stay home. let the family come to us. We did just go home a couple weeks ago though and it was an enjoyable trip. But it was so busy seeing people it was not a relaxing one. (((HUGS)))

Warda said...

- Since I can remember, I've always loved traveling. Unlike Emily, give me $2000 and I will book a plane ticket right now to Australia, although it might be a bit expensive than that ;) I don't think traveling is a waste of money, au contraire!
I don't think I would be who I am right now if I didn't have some airports stamps in my passport.
We try to travel as much as we can, though it isn't always easy when you have other priorities in life. But travel doesn't always mean planes and boat and cruises. Road trips are a fun and not too expensive way to see what's around and for us to have a different prospective of our life, where we stand and where we want to go.

Greg said...

Although I travel less now, those trips I took as a younger man continue to resonate. I suppose the responsibilities of employment, etc. are what have kept me "closer to home" as I got older.

anno said...

Your description of the difficulties coming to consensus made me laugh -- they sound all too familiar!

And then, of course, there's money. And time -- who can travel when there's gardening that needs to be done and a house that ought to be painted?

My ideal vacation: an affordable cottage on a secluded sandy beach near a wonderful, easily accessible town featuring world-class restaurants and a great book store. Haven't found it so far, but a girl can dream, right?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jan - you bring up a whole other category - visiting family. We do some of that, too, given that both our parents are on the East Coast. They're both elderly enough, though, that they're not living in places that would accommodate a family vacation.

Warda - Thank you for the birthday wishes! Also, yes, I'm right with you - there is NO way I'd be who I am today without all my travel. I do think I might be changing, though, which is an odd thought for me.

Greg - the economics are a HUGE point. D and I have both toyed with the idea of Peace Corps post-retirement, to experience another culture, but not have to pay for it, and also serve our need to help others.

Anno - wouldn't that be wonderful? Off the coast of Ireland, preferably, but with warm, tropical waters and some sort of jet beam that could teleport me there. Nice fantasy! ;-)

Dru said...

We couldn't afford to travel when I was younger so as soon as I got a job and went on my first business trip, the travel bug hit me hard.

I don't like traveling alone so when my friends who like to travel included me on their trips and had a blast. Last year I took my first European trip to France and I can't wait to travel abroad again, perhaps to Italy.

Sometimes when traveling with others, it's best to take individual excursions that suits your own personal interests so that everyone can be happy doing what they want.

I like the anticipation of traveling, then the sites while I'm there, but the best part is and will always be coming back home.

Welcome back!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks for the welcome back, Dru! The idea of each person taking some time on their own is a great one. Italy is one of the loveliest places on Earth - I hope you get there soon!

Betsy said...

I'm sorry that your trip didn't get off to a good start, but at least it had a happy ending!

When I was in / fresh out of college I had no problem traveling on shoestring budgets. Fleabag hostels were no problem and I slept on benches in airports without ever giving it a second thought!

Now that I'm older I really need a modicum of comfort. That and I've become really picky about food-- if we're gone for more than a couple of days I'd really rather be able to cook for myself because I hate living on restaurant food!

I recently told M that if we won the lottery I probably wouldn't buy any new stuff, but I'd probably become very GREEDY for travel to exotic locales... :-)

Welcome back!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Betsy, I'm with you on both counts - the fact that no arrangements phased me when I was young, and that now restaurant eating is a real turn-off for me - too much food and too much crap. Hmmm... exotic locales sound good, though. ;-)

Lilacspecs said...

Well, and I realize I'm not a normal case, but I guess I travel a lot more now than I used to. Or maybe I'm just travelling to more foreign places now. My first travel outside of the US and Canada was a 2 week archaeology class in Belize when I was almost 20. The next one was a 2 week trip to New Zealand and Australia with my mom when I was 21. Then at 24ish I spent 2 weeks in Ireland for grad school. Since I've moved to Belgium 7 months ago I've been all over Flanders, to Holland a few times and also to Scotland. In April the plan is a trip to Pittsburgh with a stopover either in NYC or perhaps Niagra Falls or Toronto. I know CB wants to take me to Istanbul and other parts of Turkey. I'd love to see Hawaii, Italy and Greece, he'd love to see Indonesia. So yeah, I guess all in all I'm travelling more and we still have lots of travels ahead, I hope.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Traveling is great when you're young, Lilac. ;-) BTW.. definitely do Toronto over Niagara Falls - Toronto is amazing and Niagara Falls is... tacky.

April said...

Forgive me if someone's already said this - don't have time to read all the comments - but my thought is, you have given C enough of a variety, and more importantly, your spirit, your quest to learn, your openness. The rest is up to him. Trust what you've done.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks, April... and you're right, and he's been awfully lucky.

Flower Child said...

Well since I seem to be spending 90% of my time on the road I'll weigh in (typing very slowly on a French keyboard). I chose a career for travel to exotic places. I traveled alone (sans parents) a lot as a teenager. I learned some great survival skills and what it is I truly love about travel (spend on food, skimp on sleeping quarters). This is now what I do (although I am staying in better places). Things aren't exotic as they used to be - checking off locations in the 1,000 Places to Go Before You Die is not for me - but I do find the company, food, and stories to be always exciting. I've seen beaches and monuments, castles and mountains. But seeing them right after a pretty hilarious laugh with my traveling partner makes them different to me. My stories are never about how I saw The David in Florence - it's about how my sister didn't know the word for "check" in Italian and instead asked for the "door". Not about the Eiffel Tower but about how my husband took me to hear the most wretched music in Paris. I am getting a bit more sedentary in my old age - don't like too many connections or too many hotel rooms. But that's easily managed.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

FC, I couldn't agree with you more. I guess my list sounded more touristy than it should have - for C we did more of the tourist stuff, but most of my travels have been with friends or in dives, etc. I like to experience the place, not the tourism. Although, I have to admit, as the daughter of an art historian, seeing the David was actually a huge thrill for me. ;-)

Sandy C. said...

Oddly enough, I moved around quite a bit prior to my marriage, through our marriage, and after having our daughter. That said, I don't think we're moving again for a long time. We're trying to plant some sort of roots.

As for traveling, we never traveled too much overseas before our child. However, it seems as if we've still traveled quite a bit with her. In long road trips, or flying. It just takes a LOT more planning ahead now. No more taking off on a whim or just for a weekend.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Yeah, Sandy, the whim thing really dies after having a child, doesn't it? ;-)

Virtualsprite said...

Wow. I am in awe of your travels! i have always wanted to travel extensively, but I am impeded by a lack of funds. Plus, the Goober is four now, and does not enjoy being cooped up for more than an hour. Oh, and Nature Boy is very much a homebody. We rarely even leave the state!

But maybe someday we'll travel.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Sprite - I grew up in a family where travel was valued above everything else, and as children do, I thought that was normal. We trekked a lot... so as an adult it just seemed kind of natural, but now I'm becoming a major stick in the mud. When C was 4 we weren't doing much travel, either.

Núria said...

Hola Guapa! So sorry your holidays were not as you expected! That's bad news, because going on vacation should always be a wonderful experience... or at least that's what I expect!

My experience is that I enjoyed more with my husband the older we get. It doesn't matter where we go or what we do... beach, mountain, walks, cities, museums, car travel... I guess we are lucky, that's all! :D Our mutual company is the best.

Now if we go with our daugther then it's different, we both feel a bit anxious expecting her to have a good time and not getting bored... that's a bit harder and her taste is different from ours (she is so young).

Wow, I did write a book here ;-)

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Nuria, you nailed it exactly... that's absolutely what we're experiencing now. I'm getting some time away with D next week in Toronto and TOTALLY looking forward to it! ;-)

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I traveled a little bit when I was in college - I spent a year in between high school and college in Norway and then I spent a semester on the Navajo reservation herding sheep while in college. Both of these experiences were awesome and I have always wanted to do more - but money is always the issue - even more so now that the dollar is tanking. But I hope to be in a better position financially when we have children, because I like you, want to open their eyes to the whole world that is out there.

Goofball said...

Oh so sorry to hear that the Chicago vacation didn't exactly worked out as hoped.


eum my travelling habits have not tremendously changed. Mixing shorter city/regional cultural trips with further away exploring vacations. Since I know Jan he added sporty vacations like skiing trips and diving vacations. The first one isn't quite my thing , the latter is :).

we both still have the feeling we want to see Scandinavia and must go back to scotland and I still haven't seen Andalusia and Jan has not been in Portugal yet. And he still has to show me Italy. And then we haven't talked about the differrent regions of India that still call us for discovery and Singapore. China and Japan must be fascinating. And I've never ever been in the southern part of the world: Peru, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa..... Gosh our list is endless. And there's so much closeby we haven't seen yet.

I do find the packing and getting too and from a destination very very stressful to the point I do dare to wonder whether it's worth it? I'm still convinced that it is, but not all travelling aspects are fun at all!

How old is C now? I didn't travel with my parents anymore since I was 15 though. Then I filled my vacation with camps with other teenagers and from college onwards I went on vacation on my own with friends. Is it still necessary you find a vacation that fits all 3 of you?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jenn - your experiences sound completely fascinating. I'd still love to go to Scandinavia - it's definitely on my list, as I like cold climes better than hot ones.

Goofball - you and Jan have an ambitious itinerary! I'd love to see many places, too, but share your trepidation of transport, etc. And yes, we still like to take vacations as a family.

Brillig said...

I grew up a traveler. The first time in my life that I hadn't left the country for an entire year was when I was married.

And then... it all ended.

I haven't been anywhere for 7 years.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Awe Brillig, huge hugs on that one. Certainly, from your posts, it's clear you've been a HUGE world traveler. It must feel a bit like having your wings clipped. There will be post-children, too, though.

Becca said...

We never traveled when I was a child, which was a source of dissention in my family because my father wanted to and my mother did not. My husband is a great traveler, and helped me learn to enjoy it. Although we've not done a lot of traveling (our biggest adventure was three weeks in the UK in 2005), it's one of those amorphous dreams we talk about doing when we retire. Although, it's very likely, given the state of the economy, that we'll never be able to do that!

That being said, I don't yearn to travel, for I've always been a homebody. The older I get, the more my perfect idea of getting away mirrors Anno's comments - a quiet cottage by the sea with a quaint little town in walking distance.

You were quite smart to discern your trip to Chicago was not satifsying anyone and just come home. Sometimes, families feel they must stick it out to the bitter end, and that simply makes everyone more miserable!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Thanks for the encouraging words on the Chicago decision, Becca... it was a hard call. We really did enjoy our couple of days in Ann Arbor, though!

Jami said...

Kids, lack of money, massive increasees in hassles and - as much as I hate to admit it - advancing age have all served to reduce our traveling. It's a LOT less now than it was even 10 years ago. Our big sojourn to New Hamster between Christmas and New Year was the first time we've been anywhere in six years.

Alex Elliot said...

Good for you for packing up and going home! My husband and I spent our honeymoon in our home town. We had just bought our house and had the best time just exploring local restaurants and sites and not feeling rushed. I like traveling, but rarely do it. I hate it as a kid because everyone had to like everything and of course no one did. I know what you mean about things being the same. Sadly, a bunch of us had a discussion at BlogHer about how with the fuel prices, the food really might to start being different from place to place because it will be so expensive to transport it.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Jami, that must be a real change for you, too, because you spent quite a bit of travel time when you were young, right? There's no doubt it's getting more complicated.

Alex, thanks for the support on that. Oddly enough, the issues on food transport may force a lot of things to go more "local" which I would see as a very, very good thing.

soccer mom in denial said...

I too always envisioned lots of traveling with my brood. However, when one guy had a complete meltdown in the middle of the Alahambra in Granada, Spain as an 18-month-old we knew that maybe this wasn't his thing. After he stopped pitching a fit in a mud puddle, he picked up the hand set for the self-tour and started "talking" to an aunt asking her to come get him.

We've proceeded to continue some modified wanderings. We try to stay in hotels with pools (great for exhausting the kids) and don't do the museum thing as much as I want. And Amazing Guy doesn't get to go to the fancy restaurants he prefers.

But now the sheer expense is overwhelming us. I would've thought I'd have gotten my daughter to Europe by now.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Ah... the expense. I think that's going to be a bugaboo for most Americans for a long time to come.

Rebecca said...

come down to Australia and stay with us - we have plenty of room!

We're going away next week - to the GOld Coast - to the kind of fun-filled kiddie place I would have sneered at when I was an independent traveller in my twenties! ha! things change - and I don't mind at all. I'm just really looking forward to lazing around, reading, and NOT cooking at all for five days!!!!

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Enjoy, Becky, and watch out for that offer... you never know! Although I can reverse it and say we'd love to have you here, as well. Remember, I'm used to boys. ;-) And yes, those types of vacations can indeed be relaxing. Have a lovely time!

jennifer said...

Hi Jen-
I read this post and loved it a few days ago. Life got in the way and it took me this long to comment...
For my husband and I, traveling has been the single most important aspect of our lives together. We met in a foreign country and haven't stopped since. We don't have fancy cars and clothes, but we've managed to take our children to (hmmm, I have to count)over twleve different countries in 5 continents.
Traveling is the cornerstone of an open mind. I loved this post.

Leslie said...

Lack of money kept my family and I from traveling when I was a kid. We had one vacation that was wasn't a staycation (at home), and that was to Mystic, CT. I LOVED it.

I've always wanted to travel. It's the thing Dave and I always say we're gonna do, when the kids are older and there's more money.