“Just don’t get one of those European boyfriends! I’ll never get you back here!” my dad called out as I boarded the plane bound for London Heathrow. I was headed for a semester abroad in England, which turned into five semesters abroad, a bachelor’s degree and a Norwegian boyfriend.
Fast forward five semesters and I found myself staring a longdistance relationship in the eye. The numbing intoxication of Totally In Love was starting to wear off slightly, and the reality of Happily Ever After with someone who grew up an entire continent away from you was a little sobering. But we love to travel! Of course we would visit both families every year! We could live anywhere—we’ll just travel with the kids! Going home to family would absolutely be the priority. And so on.
This is how we ended up sitting at the kitchen table, fourteen years later, crunching the numbers to figure out a budget for getting the entire family of five to Norway next summer, as well as to a reunion of all our English friends and their offspring scheduled for the end of July 2010. I listened to the tapping of the calculator buttons, doodling on the top of my elaborately lettered “European Vacation Budget.” (Am I the only one who practices bubble lettering when nervous?) “Well,” sighed my husband, “this isn’t bad. We only need to be saving [insert astronomical figure here] per month to make this happen.” Cue heart palpitations and shallow breathing. The reality is, we haven’t made it to Norway every summer. Have you ever priced tickets to Oslo in December or August? Renovating an old house and life with three small children has put a serious pinch on our finances and energy levels. But every time we open the newspaper and see flights to London Heathrow, only $299 return!, both of us pause a little too long.
My husband and I were born with deep-rooted wanderlust, and regardless of resources, travel was such an integral part of both of our childhoods that we never knew that some families didn’t spend their summers camped out in crazy places around the world. Both of us are deeply committed to making this peripatetic lifestyle part of our own childrens’ lives, because we just can’t conceive of a life lived without the smell of a strange city, the thrill of waking up in a new place, the joy of deciphering the maps in a foreign language.
The anticipation of a trip, the planning a route on a map, seeing new things, making new friends as you meet up with old ones—not only is this deeply thrilling to a child, but it is also an education that cannot be found elsewhere. Through traveling, you expand your world view to a size that accepts people who eat pickled herring for breakfast and allows for places that don’t offer children’s menus and toys with your meal. The idea that the next place you land might be “different” is not alarming, it is exciting, and it is this paradigm that I hope to give my kids.
There are some tough sacrifices to be made when choosing this life for our family. If you see me on the street corner selling lemonade in November, you’ll understand why. But that our kids would grow up without knowing how cold a fjord truly is, how mossy the castles get in Austria, how high the Eiffel Tower really is? Simply not an option. See you at the corner of North and Main—50 cents a cup.