If you’re a kinda old Canadian you will remember our famous president. I see citizens of other countries reading this in consternation. Canada? A president? I thought they had a prime minister?
The prime minister is in charge of the government, it’s true, but once we had a president in charge of the way we lived. His name was Dave Nichol and he was the president of the grocery chain, Loblaws. He came to power in the 1980s as a marketing genius whose fame grew and grew. I guess he ran out of regular groceries to sell so he had to start travelling the world looking for unusual stuff that most Canadians had never heard of, much less tasted (like Passion Fruit Sorbet – 1983). Like Szechuan Spicy Peanut Satay. Then he would tinker with the recipe until it was a gloopy, sweet, not spicy former shadow of itself and bingo “Memories of Szechuan Sauce” would be born. There were zillions of Memories Of products in the 80s and 90s and everyone was talking about them. I kid you not.
But this post is not about memories of delicious exotic fare turned into preservative laden crap, it is about the real memories that come out of family (budget) travel.
For most of 2014, our family travelled far and wide, visiting 21 countries. There were a few moments of tears and frustration, but for the most part, it was a blissful time. For the parents and the young children. For the teens, not so much. In early July, after five solid months of eating, sleeping, flying/training/boating/driving, wifi-ing and breathing with her family, Firstborn gritted her teeth and declared, “I am SO done with this trip.”
Which makes what happened on December 5, 2014 all the more significant. On that fateful day, the kids and I sat down as usual to have elevenses (tea and cookies at 11 am). Normally, this is the time I read a history book and novel aloud. Today though, we got to talking about our big trip. The kids rehashed all the crazy things we did and argued about where what took place.
In our family, to accurately pinpoint which place is what, we describe the wifi: Remember the place with the lousy wifi where the code was “real ales”; remember the motel in France where Firstborn wrapped herself in her sleeping bag and went to sit outside on the cold metal staircase because it had the best reception. That kinda thing. Once we’ve established the wifi situation in our heads, we can then broaden out from there: Okay well at “real ales”, remember the walk we took and then the people we met when we were at the charity shop? Thank goodness for the invention of internet or we wouldn’t have any way to position our walks down memory lane ;-)
After reviewing our adventures through rose-coloured glasses, Firstborn declared that we should go on another backpacking trip (!). Onlyboy and Paris were aghast and chimed in, “Eight months is WAY too long.” Okay – here comes the punchline. Firstborn says, “Well, we wouldn’t want to only go for 6 weeks because that wouldn’t be worth it!” She said that. I pinky-swear. After debate back and forth, the kids decided that four months would be the perfect amount of time for such a trip and that they would be ready to leave as soon as Early Spring 2015. I would like to point out that we have been home now for less than two months.
This may not seem that amazing to you but it was one of the best gifts I have ever received. To hear that all my children from the five year old to the seventeen year old would willingly hit the road with us again was like manna from heaven. When you have a larger family, there comes a point when you realize that although you have very young children, the time remaining for family adventures and holidays is drawing to a close because you also have older children. This is a bittersweet time for the larger family. Everyone in the family is proud of the older children and excited at their upcoming romances and adventures. But they know there will be a huge hole in the family when they leave. When my older children leave home, we will be bereft, parents as well as siblings.
I am the last person to recommend going into debt to finance a holiday. I believe we live in a culture where instant gratification is the norm and where people are living beyond their means. I would say though, that your window for family holidays is probably a lot smaller than you think. Most people want to wait until their children are older, both for ease of travel and so that the children remember the trip. If you factor in that your children might have jobs or competitive hobbies or sweethearts or grumpy dispositions when they are teens, you might only have three or four years. If an international family holiday is a dream of yours, remember that your biological clock is ticking.
We’re definitely NOT most people so we have been travelling far and wide since Firstborn was 8 weeks old. When we only had little kids and people would comment on how the tots wouldn’t remember the trip, Fahbio and I would retort, “We’re not travelling for them, we’re travelling for us and we can’t leave them home alone.” Badass to the core, I know but you get the point. It’s true that they don’t remember those trips but the journeys are woven into our family history. They have heard their parents reminisce, they see the photos displayed around our home, they’ve sometimes returned to the same place years later, they’ve often met the people we encountered.
Most importantly, those early trips with young children allowed their parents to be the people they wanted to be and that made them better parents. And believe me, they needed all the help they could get in that area ;-) Fahbio and I have always lived to travel. If we had decided to put that aside until our children were 10 years old, we would have stifled an integral part of ourselves. Not everyone feels this way about travel, but for us, it be so.
Today’s Quote of the Day comes from The Tale of a Town, a Community Theatre project. A small team is travelling across the country gathering stories which they then transform into a multi-media theatre piece about a particular neighbourhood. Pretty cool stuff.
To get local people thinking and talking, they prompt them with a few questions. In Ottawa, people gave their stories in either English or French and then a wonderful bilingual play was put on in early December based on the community input.
Tale of a Town: What is no longer in your neighbourhood that you miss?
Anonymous: Mes enfants.
My friend, if that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, nothing could.