When I was a little girl, I dreamed of one day writing for National Geographic magazine. Every month, I would scan my dad’s newly delivered issue, imagining myself in the exotic landscapes, walking through the ancient streets, and swimming in the clear waters pictured on each page. While I didn’t land my dream job, my desire to travel never faded, and I was fortunate to find a willing travel partner in my husband. My dreams still involve extensive traveling: running a marathon in every state, setting foot on every continent, touring national parks with our kids, and exploring as many countries as possible in our lifetime. But most of all, I hope to pass on my love of travel to our children, teaching them the trip is always worth it.
To Travel or Not to Travel
When my husband and I married, we honeymooned in Costa Rica. It was there that we vowed to invest in one big trip a year. Nine years later, we’ve traveled to seven countries and twelve states. We may not drive the fanciest cars, follow the latest fashion trends, and many of the walls in our home lay bare, but the memories we earn from our travel investments are worth more to us than any material item.
It was pretty easy to travel before kids; we just needed to decide when and where. Having babies definitely made things more challenging, but it did not keep us housebound. During the three continuous years I was pregnant and nursing, we kept our vacations stateside. A year after our second son was born, we decided to go to Spain — a trip we were planning when I found out I was pregnant with our first son. We were on the fence about leaving two babies for such a long trip, but an older couple at a cocktail party convinced us how important it was to go on trips as a couple. They advised us to never feel guilty about taking time to work on our relationship since, in the end, it will benefit the entire family. We took their advice to heart and it’s kept us traveling.
Each time we board a flight without them is difficult. The anxiety and mom-guilt I have leading up to the trip sometimes makes me question if it’s really worth it. It is worth it every single time. My husband and I need time away to reconnect, to remember who we are, and to have a conversation without being interrupted 500 times. It is so easy to lose yourself in parenthood and careers. For us, traveling strengthens and revitalizes our marriage. We stay up late, sleep in (until 7:00 a.m.!), talk about our future — all the things we did when it was just us. Eventually, it will be “just us” again. We can’t lose that part of our team just because we’ve added some more players.
While we have traveled extensively, our kids have yet to leave the Southeast. It’s not that we don’t want them to experience the places we go; it’s that we know there are years ahead to take them with us when they will actually remember the trip. And let’s be real, it’s also much easier (and cheaper) to travel sans small children. Next summer we will be taking our first big trip as a family. My husband and I are preparing by planning a mini-vacation without kids!
Placing a Price Tag on Memories
I know traveling, especially the cost, can be intimidating. We were in our 20s when we first started and didn’t have much extra spending money. But we found ways to cut costs on otherwise expensive trips. At the time, I traveled to some fun destinations for work, like Las Vegas and Germany. My husband would tag along so we only had to purchase one plane ticket. One year, we used credit card points to fly to the Pacific Northwest.
We’ve stayed in some questionable hotels, knowing we would barely be in them. Sometimes it is better to spend a few extra bucks though. Only once in nine years have I broken down in tears on a trip, and it was over a hotel room in Rome. I can slum it, but this was beyond any bad hotel I could’ve imagined. Fortunately, my husband found an open room at the hotel right across the street and all was well with the world again. At the time, I thought it ruined the trip; but looking back, this is one of the funniest memories we have from our travels.
The internet and apps have made it so easy to find cheap and decent travel. Some of my favorites to use are TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Hopper, and Kayak. Had TripAdvisor been as well-known back then, I probably would’ve avoided that Rome hotel!
Sharing adventures with friends is also a great way to save money. We recently traveled through Ireland with our best friends. Splitting the cost of the rental car and all the AirBnB’s greatly reduced our expenses. Plus, it was so much fun making memories with another couple we don’t get to see as often because adult life gets in the way.
Visiting foreign lands isn’t the only way to vacation. The mini-vacations we took to Asheville, NC and Chattanooga, TN when I was pregnant were just as fun and unique as our other vacations.
It can be hard being with someone 24 hours a day, in close quarters, in a foreign country, or just away from the comforts of home. It took a few vacations together for my husband and I to really understand how to make the most out of our trips. We (and by “we” I mean “I”) eventually figured out the best formula for our vacations: a good mix of city and countryside. Some people can lie by the pool or ocean all day, every day; others can’t get enough of museums. It’s important to try to make everyone happy, but realize you can’t make everyone happy all the time. Communicating must-see items and expectations on the front end of the trip will make the actual trip that much smoother.
Even if you have the ideal vacation planned, some things are just beyond our control. This past April, we flew to Boston for five days. It was a trip I’d spent over a year planning. It began when I qualified to run the 2018 Boston Marathon, basically the Super Bowl of distance running. As the trip got closer, the weather radar looked worse and worse. I decided I could let the weather ruin my experience, or I could suck it up and make the most of it.
In the end, we faced the worst race conditions in the marathon’s 122-year history. Near-freezing temperatures combined with driving rain and a constant headwind, with gusts up to 35mph, made for a dangerous, uncomfortable, and quite painful race. I didn’t reach my goals — in fact, I ran my worst race — but it was by far my most memorable and worth any tears I shed. The next day, the clouds had cleared, the wind died down, and we had an amazing time exploring Boston.
The Boston Marathon was an accomplishment to celebrate and a trip to remember, so I love having an Aviate “BOS” hat to commemorate this experience. This is a perfectly functional and stylish way to remember the cities I am fortunate enough to visit and run races in. Between my bucket list “BOS” hat and my hometown “BHM” hat, my collection is off to a great start.
So Mama, let me just say it again: take the trip. The sun won’t necessarily shine on every second of your vacation. There may be terrible hotel rooms, a bad meal, or horrible weather, but it’s important to remember you’ll eventually look back on that stormy time and (hopefully) laugh. It’s better to have one bad minute, hour, or day on vacation than to never experience the adventure at all.