So, I’ve written about traveling with kids – Where to Go, How to Go, Where to Stay, What to Pack. The long-awaited next installment will be What to Do. Which I’ll get to eventually because, well, kids and job and moving and life keep getting in the way. (A preview: Don’t expect to do more than two things in any given day, especially if you are traveling with nap-age kids.)
You know what’s much, much better than traveling with kids?
Traveling without them.
We love the kids. We love traveling. We don’t mind both at the same time, and it’s certainly not worth staying home all the time just to avoid the hassle of traveling with them. But really, adult vacation is worth its weight in gold. So for my, ahem, 40th birthday, we set off for Paris. By ourselves. Missing three wake-ups and two bedtimes with the kids. And it was fabulous.
It was a rough week at work. I value work/life balance and I usually have it. In this particular job, I rarely work past five and pretty much never weekends. I check my email once or twice in the evening after the kids go to bed. But due to an unfortunate confluence of conferences, VIP visits, employee evaluations, and our usual high season, I worked every evening the week before we left, which added to the guilt.
And then there was that pesky fear that something would happen and the kids would be orphaned while we were off gallivanting in gay Paree. I’m usually not overly sensitive about the horrible things that happen in the world every day. But every so often, there’s something that really gets to me – the Amish school massacre, or the Sandy Hook shootings, to give two tragic examples. The German Wings suicide/crash was one of those things – for some reason, that plane crash hit me so much harder than the other airline disasters this year. If I hadn’t already bought our tickets and booked our travel before that, I would have changed our destination to somewhere we could drive. But I had already bought the tickets and booked the houseboat on the Seine, and I know, logically, that air travel is not all that dangerous, so off we went – seatbelts buckled, eyes closed during turbulence, trying not to think of my orphaned children, to landing in Charles de Gaulle at dawn on my 40th birthday.
When Clara was 1 1/2, we took two nights to go to a music festival in Morocco without her, and Ian and I have both traveled individually for work and personal reasons, but this was the first time we’d both left in four years. We have two babysitters that we love and trust, and that are affordable compared to what we’d pay in the United States for 64 hours of babysitting. So off we went.
Here are just a few of the reasons I’m glad we did:
– Two amazing dinners, one at a Vietnamese restaurant, one at a French bistro. Both requiring reservations and starting after 8 p.m. (Still light when we finished after 10 p.m., though!)
– Getting to stay on a houseboat on the Seine. It had enough room for four, and a kitchen and laundry facilities, but getting on and off the boat was treacherous and would have been impossible with little ones.
– Not turning on the TV on the houseboat even once.
– Walking until our legs were exhausted, and then walking some more.
– The Musee d’Orsay.
– Sleep. (Not enough, since the trip required one 4 a.m. wake-up and one 6:15 a.m. wake-up to catch flights, but still uninterrupted. And on a houseboat on the Seine.)
– Learning to play petanque – a bocce-like game involving heavy metal balls that Van and Clara would have lobbed at each other.
The kids spent their weekend riding amusement park rides that don’t meet American standards, riding in our babysitter’s husband’s car without carseats, eating ice cream and popcorn, and getting fingerprint smudges all over our iPads.
In short? The guilt was totally worth it.