When I was in high school I became aware that a career in art might require me to move to a big city. The prospect of travel frightened me. At that point, I had never been on a plane, and had only visited a few neighboring states. I wondered, How would I find my way? How would I navigate an airport? How would I stay safe?
Looking back, from a well-established speaking career that has required a lot of travel, I can only smile at what was mostly fear of the unknown.
Because now I’m really good at it. I know how to pack smart and light. I’m savvy about what lines to avoid. I’ve learned things that eliminate a lot of the stress and hassle. Of course, I didn’t suddenly wake up one day magically having been transformed into a travel ninja overnight. It took a lot of practice, or as I like to say, tinkering.
The same holds true for traveling with kids. When most parents think of going long distances in confined spaces with their offspring, they only see the horrors that await them. The nightmares overshadow any dreams of the memories itching to be made.
Make no mistake: There WILL be times when you seriously question your sanity and yearn for the sweet release of a bus barreling into you at top speed.
Sometimes the baby blows out her diaper in the car seat on your way to dinner and you have no choice but to head back to your hotel to clean it out with a spatula. (True story.)
Sometimes you get stuck on the runway for an hour with nothing to entertain your overtired toddler but a cup of water and a straw. (Also true.)
But here’s a little secret: when you look backward at an experience, the bad moments fade away while the good memories grow in stature. You feel a great deal of pride at having overcome the negative episodes and they become part of the adventure.
We recently returned to Florida (and the exact location of the aforementioned blowout). It took us three days of reminiscing our past trip before we even remembered the spatula incident. And when we did, we laughed about it.
So yeah, sometimes traveling with kids is hard.
But just because something’s hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Anything worthwhile is hard in the beginning. What’s required are baby steps, gained through practice and tinkering.
Last summer we did a 4,000 mile road trip with the kids to promote my book. People thought we were a tad crazy. But it wasn’t our first rodeo. Lucy was on 34 flights her first year of life. I’ve taken her on several daddy daughter business trips. Now, when we go on a trip with the whole crew, she’s almost like a third adult. And she’s only seven. She’s well-practiced.
Someday soon, we want to travel to Australia and Europe and Africa with the kids. And that doesn’t just happen. We are practicing now so that they’ll be even better at traveling later.
Some parents seem to think there is a time when their kids magically become great travelers. When I was a teenager eyeing my future, I assumed that because I wasn’t a savvy traveler, I’d never become one.
I love traveling. My teenage self would have thought that impossible. But now I greatly resonate with the quote, often attributed to St. Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.”
Whether the topic is traveling alone, with kids, or to any wonderful new horizon in your life, my advice is the same: If want to go to some amazing places, start tinkering.