The travails of travel (with a 15-month-old)

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We just returned from a two-week trip to Seattle en route to an Alaskan cruise and are now in the process of adjusting back to Eastern Standard Time aka completely sleep deprived and befuddled.

Before we left, a friend of mine with two preteens and a lot of stamps on her passport gave me some advice that I would come to replay over and over throughout the course of our trip. She said, Kathleen, you need to understand, for your own sanity, that this will in no way be relaxing.

It was a good, if depressing, reminder (and only partially burst my pre-holiday bubble). But, to be honest, I now realize I didn’t fully comprehend just how non-relaxing this trip would truly be. I told myself this type of vacation was not meant to be restful. This is ALASKA we’re talking about here: the point was to have an adventure, to make memories, have new experiences. We’re prepared. We did research, made LISTS, so many lists. We bought a new hiking carrier for Leni, for goodness sake! We got this shit covered.

Well, as you have probably inferred, we did not and perhaps could not have prepared for the actual reality of travel with a 15-month-old. And in many ways, Leni was a star. She dealt with the first long travel day like a champ, far better than I, in fact. Given that she had been awake for 18-odd hours with only two cat naps; was car sick at one point (damn those Seattle hills!); followed by a 2 hour wait (on the grass outside our VRBO rental – we were 4 hours early for check-in) for our cabbie to return our aforementioned hiking carrier (that was surreptitiously left in the car after the chaos of L being sick); and, oh yes, adjusting to a whole new environment and time zone – yes I’d say she did quite well. Ne’er a freak out in sight.

The adjustment proved a little more trying for the poor little love the following day and she’d become quite distraught randomly during our outings, which is very unlike her. We still managed to make the best of things, but it seriously put my husband and I to the test. Jose was on carrier duty as we explored Seattle and adjusting to the seriously hilly walks with the extra load, the summer heat, and L’s unpredictable moods — well, let’s just say, we all have had better moments. And we could both have been a little gentler with each other.

We had to learn to communicate in a totally different way. I was completely off the grid and wasn’t using my phone so we couldn’t just wander off without potentially losing track of one another. And Jose is a wander-offer so it wasn’t easy. Both of us were adjusting to this alternate vacation reality in different ways, too, and it sometimes meant we weren’t being very thoughtful of the others struggle.

Another thing that we came to learn on the Cruise ship, in particular, was that we had to be willing to take turns relaxing, as it were. Someone had to be with Leni in the room when she needed a nap or at bedtime. So we’d alternate who got to go out. Meaning we rarely did any relaxing together. One night, my parents (who were with us along with my siblings and their families) watched Leni for a couple hours while we had dinner and went for a swim, but otherwise we were rarely seen together outside of family excursions. And we were basically taking turns keeping L occupied during those times anyway. It’s really hard to get on the same page when you never get any one-on-one time.

So now that we know, will it be any easier the next time? On the one hand I think, yes, probably. We’re a little tougher, a little wiser. On the other hand, kids are endlessly changing as are relationships, so I’m guessing we’ll have different needs the next time around. Having said that, as long as we can keep talking and practising a little loving kindness and laughing about the shitty stuff, I think we’ll be just fine.

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