I’ve been busy this month solidifying summer vacation plans, and while there are always some details that need careful attention or adjustments, what strikes me most about this empty nester holiday stuff is how easy it is, how few things need to be nailed down when you’re only organizing for two adults.
I remember well—and a huge part of me will always miss—the days when my children were small, despite all the work that went into planning even small excursions then. The labor was well worth it in the fun and memories we created, but it was exhausting at times, physically and emotionally.
Plus our budget was always tight, a common yet frustrating fact: often your finances are at their shakiest at the time in life when you have the highest set expenses, the most mouths to feed, the most bodies to dress, and, simultaneously, the most things you want your kids to experience and see.
Recently I returned from a ten-day combined work/pleasure trip, where I carried a backpack and one small book bag—and that’s it. Parents of young kids carry more stuff just to go to church or for an afternoon at the lake. Stroller. Diapers. Wipes. Changes of clothes. Water bottles. Sunscreen. Toys. Food.
Nowadays, I literally live by this travel mantra: Oh well, if I forget something I need, I’ll just pick it up somewhere. That attitude doesn’t really suffice when you have infants or toddlers and have to plan for possible delays, lack of access to restaurants, etc.
It’s nice to know where I’ll be staying, but it’s not critical in the way it is when you have children. As my adult son, who, along with his girlfriend, will be meeting up with my husband and me for part of our trip, said when he realized they’ll be arriving at our destination a day or two before our reservations kick in, “Oh well, we can always car camp.” Exactly. That’s totally an option when you’re an adult. Spontaneous car camping doesn’t work with small kids. To swing an overnight in a vehicle, you’d have to be completely non-spontaneous and make sure you had enough of everything mentioned in the list above—plus bedding.
I also—gasp!—actually sleep the night before holidays. I know. Crazy stuff, right? I’m not up until three in the morning doing all the things I didn’t have time for when I was running after youngsters—and then kept awake, though beyond tired, by racing thoughts, wildly going over and over all the things we still need to do before leaving the next morning.
Do you think I’m protesting too much? That perhaps I’m trying to sing the praises of empty nester trips only because I miss past ones full of kids and mayhem so much? (After all, you’ve read almost eighteen years of my thoughts. You know how much I loved traveling with my kids!) Okay, you got me. You’re partially right. As I said at the beginning: the work and the craziness and the busyness of planning and taking trips with your family is always worth it. For kids, every trip from the treat of a lifetime Disney vacation to the most simple getaway, camping excursion, or road trip is chock-full of new moments and first time experiences. I loved every minute of that and found it precious and joy evoking to get to relive that newness, that freshness, through their eyes.
But I also see things anew and differently traveling alone as an adult, unencumbered. Some opportunities open up that aren’t available or practical with children in tow.
So yes, I confess I look forward to taking my grans on overnights and/or holidays (hopefully my kids will be the kind of parents who let me, LOL!). I’ll happily shoulder the extra work, carry the gear, and shell out the money. But in the meantime? It’s great fun to travel light and to, instead of revelling in the thrill of others’ first experiences, keep having some myself. Hopefully that part of trip taking never changes.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
“The Trips They Are a-Changin’” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, August 16, 2017 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”