Traveling with four kids is different to traveling as a couple.
You're surprised aren't you? I can tell.
Tony & I travelled just before falling pregnant with Caleb. Nearly 12 years ago. It was incredible. A couple of months in Europe. So much romance. Seeing sides of one another we hadn't known. Keeping our sense of humor when things went wrong. Loving the sense or adventure about it all. and talking - about everything! Creating shared experiences we will have until we are old and grey.
Then four boys arrived over five and a half years. We did manage an incredible six days together when I was 20 weeks pregnant with our 'terkecil' (little one) in Phuket (Alli & Paul - we will be forever thankful for that gift!). The same Romance. Fun. Adventure. Conversations. Shared Memories.
But I have always loved our holidays with our boys. They are good travelers. Amazing in a car over long distances. Great walkers. Fun to be with. And they humor their mother when she expresses for the 20th time how beautiful the sunset is tonight.
This trip was ambitious though. Four boys, aged 5 - 10. Eight locations over three weeks, on both coasts of America. Planes, trains, buses and automobiles. Early starts. Late finishes. Many kilometers walked. Amazing places seen. It was wonderful.
But also hard work! Planning for two is different to the madness of six. Lots of little people to get ready and shove out of the door each morning. And they had to enjoy it, because each child reduced our bank balance by about $5000...
So I decided on some family ‘rules’;
Rule # 1: You will be filled with joy at all times, because this is a wonderful privilege. Our luggage costs more than our Pembantu's monthly wage.
Rule # 2: Packed lunches mean more money for museums. I remember looking enviously at those who bought their lunch when I was young, while we ate the vegemite sandwiches my Mum had made (she did buy a coffee so we could sit in the cafe!). I see the same look in my boys' eyes. Now I understand Mum!
Rule # 3: Notice that we are creating life long memories. Binding us closer as a family. Bind strong.
Rule # 4: Mountain lions and bears are good. They encouraged our boys to walk with us (rather than lagging or running ahead) in Yosemite. Ideally I could bring these creatures home on the plane, as I would like to carry a couple with me at all times when we walk as a family.
Rule # 5: I love you. If it is possible, I love you even more, when at the age of five, after 18.5 hours of flying (starting at 1:20am), when you ask how many minutes until we get there, and the reply is one hour, you just nod.
Rule # 6: You should be able to walk down a crowded street without kicking or punching one of your brothers. Even in fun. Really you should.
Rule # 7: When one of the boys asks to do something spontaneous, often something simple, do it. It will probably be the highlight of the day.
Rule # 8: It's okay that your mother is too controlling about when you can read, play iPod, draw or sleep. Its because she loves you. And knows our body clocks can be messed up quickly. And that pens get lost in hire cars. And that if she gives you that book, you'll finish that book, and won't have anything for the next day which involves longer travel. Really - she's thought about it!
Rule # 9: If you are in a foreign city, and it is raining, it is fun. There's nothing like the breathless laughter when we have run fast through a storm together.
Rule # 10: Six tired people means some level of irritability. Lets try to be kind, and patient, and understanding. That one is mostly for your mother.
Rule # 11: The only person allowed to deviate from the plan is the person who came up with the plan. Because otherwise we end up running to the boarding gate. That one I know from experience.
Rule # 12: Your mum is going to take way too many photos.
So how does it compare? Less romance. Much more planning. More pressure to get it right - because it could be inconvenient (& expensive!) if we get it wrong. More doing. Less talking. Sleeping with little bodies because we need two (or three!) hotel rooms. More tiring. Okay, exhausting! Is it worth all of the effort?
Yes. It's still adventurous. And fun. And filled with joy because of the privilege, the blessing. Certainly memories that will stay with us until we are old and grey. But this time with our six. Bound together through that.
I'm already planning the next trip.
161: The privilege of travel.
162: The example of my Mum, though I resented it at the time, of saving money so we could enjoy more together.
163: Shared memories.
164: Mountain lions. Bears. Walking together!
165: Good travellers. Patience.
166: Boys - and their inability to be still!
167: Spontaneous fun.
168: Boys who love to read.
169: Running through the storm, breathless with laughter.
170: Learning to be more patient. Every day.
172: Photos. So we can remember together.