I recently read David Cohen’s book, One Year Off (etc), in which he describes his family’s experience selling their home, leaving everything behind, and taking the kids on a 14-month tour of the world. Insert sigh of longing here.
I felt hugely envious of those carefree jetsetters, hopping blithely from continent to continent, having dinner in Costa Rica one week and Slovenia the next. I longed to shrug off my middle-class suburban housewife mantle and join the ranks of the Lonely Planet people, trekking about with their meagre belongings (one of which is always a really nice iPad or Canon camera, of course) in a well-worn backpack, eating with locals in undiscovered neighborhood bistros and sleeping in questionable lodgings secured at the very last minute… because really, I won’t know where I’m going til I get there.
A few days later, after telling my husband of my plans to sell everything we own and traipse gypsy-like about the globe with our children, a little reality set in. I began to realize I had roots. Shallow roots, but roots, nonetheless. We have a lot of family and friends nearby, and we are a part of the community in subtle but important ways. Our kids were born here. We have a home, which we’ve worked on and made our own and is a tremendous part of our family fabric.
And unlike Mr. Cohen, I am not inherently dissatisfied with my life.
I like where we are, my husband and I. I like what we’ve done and what we’ve built. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like to travel a bit, of course. I just don’t feel the need to give everything up in the process.
Fortunately, it looks like I might get to have my cake and eat it, too. We are preparing for a very exciting business-meets-pleasure-meets-family-reunion trip to Italy, Montenegro and Paris, just a little over a week from now. I can scarcely believe we’re actually going.
The first part of our trip is for work. Back in 1999, when we were first dating, DH spent about six months in Saronno, a suburb of Milano, Italy. That is where his company is based. I got to visit him in March of that year, and he took a few days off so we could go explore. We went up through Lugano to Pontresina, Switzerland; I have pictures of us standing on a glacier up there. We also visited Firenze, Venezia, Siena and San Gimingano, all in Italy. It was an idyllic trip and really set the tone for our relationship and, later, our marriage.
Thirteen years later, and we are taking our kids back to where we fell in love. I am so excited to show the kids the places we went back in the day and to discover new sights with them. DH and I did go into Milano in ’99, for example, but it was just for dinner; since the weather was uncooperative, we didn’t see much of the city, and then we spent the rest of our time gallavanting about the Italian countryside and never made it back. This time, the girls and I have a laundry list of Milanese sights to take in while DH is working.
After DH finishes with his work obligations, we plan to take a train to Venice and spend an afternoon there. The girls are interested to see Piazza de San Marco and, of course, take a gondola ride.
From Venice, we will take the train south to a place called Bari, on Italy’s eastern coast. There we will board a ferry and do an overnight crossing of the Adriatic to Bar, Montenegro. FIL and the cousins will meet us in Bar and drive us an hour inland to Podgorica, where the cousins live. We will spend four days visiting with them before leaving FIL behind and heading off to Paris.
When we were looking for flights, we discovered that the best connection home (both in terms of time and money) was Podgorica-Paris-Pittsburgh. However, the connection in Paris was very short and, considering it was an international connection at that, we figured we should just plan on spending the night in Gay Paree before flying home the next day. After more consideration, and some begging from O6 to see the Eiffel Tower, we decided one night in Paris would just not be enough; instead, we’re spending three nights there. So we’re bugging out of Montenegro a few days early. We’ll meet FIL in Paris on the third night, hang out with him, and then all fly home together on the last day.
Now the logistics begin: the cell phones (ours won’t work in Europe); the electricity converters; clearing the calendar and arranging for our pet and home to be checked on; money, transfers, lodging and food; big arrangements and small details… all in just two weeks. I am up to the task. Thanks to Amazon, Google and FreeTranslation.com, I think we’ll be able to blunder our way through with just enough grace to go back at some future date. Because I’m sure we will want to.
And this brings me to the vague title of this post. While many folks think of vacation as time “off” from their daily lives, I am looking at this trip as time “on”- learning about a few new cultures, seeing some amazing historical sights, spending quality time with my husband and kids in a fresh venue, and just generally doing something different. I am not looking to “escape” my life; rather, I am looking to enhance it.
And anyway, I am a mom, which means I won’t get a single day off for at least another twelve years.