“The tickets are booked!” My hubs shouted. We high-fived over the laptop. We had finally booked our airline tickets to France and Spain for this summer’s big family trip. We had been poring over travel dates, video chatting, WhatsApp-ing, and emailing with friends in Spain and France, double-checking dates, and verifying airplane fares.
A large part of the fun of a trip like this—or any trip really—is the anticipation.
This family vacation, unlike an unforgettable tour we did around the United States three years ago, will include lots of visiting with friends.
All the friends we’ll visit are friends I made in the 80s and 90s, during the years that my family had hosted exchange students or I’d studied overseas. Now here I am, over 20 years later, bringing my family with me like so much luggage to meet the people who became part of the fabric of my life.
Now here I am, over 20 years later, bringing my family with me like so much luggage to meet the people who became part of the fabric of my life.
Some of the friends we will visit we’ve already hosted in the meantime, and we are thrilled to be sleeping under their roof on our upcoming journey. There is no greater comfort than traveling to a foreign country and knowing you will land in the home of someone who cares about you. Where there are snacks, food, rooms with doors where you can rest, eat a homemade dinner, and enjoy the creature comforts of a home. (Plus it’s an opportunity to learn about small differences in homes: light switches, electrical outlets, general size of home/rooms, things kept in a fridge.) A cultural exchange, if only for a few days.
There is no greater comfort than traveling to a foreign country and knowing you will land in the home of someone who cares about you.
Though I majored in Spanish and minored in French in college, I do not use the languages on a regular basis and so my language level has degraded from mastery to rusty. Our son is studying French and our daughter is studying Spanish, and as new learners of the language, they will likely be uncomfortable about using their newfound language skills. However, we will be encouraging them strongly during this trip. My husband only speaks English with a smattering of Spanish words, enough to be dangerous and elicit chuckles from native Spanish speakers with his good-hearted, smiling attempt at communicating.
Covering a lot of ground over a short period of time will make for a planes, trains, and automobiles vacation. Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Southern France, and finally, Paris. Yes, it will be a lot. Sí, we will eat a lot. Oui, we will be tired. No, we will probably not visit that recommendation that you have in mind (but go ahead and make it—who knows?).
Before the trip, my kids (who will be aged thirteen and fourteen on the trip) are responsible for researching places they would like to visit in the cities where we are traveling. This is on purpose. It increases the anticipation and gives them ownership of the trip. The destinations they choose may be strange or off the beaten path. And that is OK. I do not want to overwhelm any of us with excessive museum visits or history stuff so one of my goals is to have time to wander, walking the streets, stopping at a café for a cup of something refreshing while we watch the city go by. Then we will enjoy evenings with old friends who are kind enough to open their homes to us.
The destinations they choose may be strange or off the beaten path. And that is OK.
A large part of the fun of a trip like this—or any trip really—is the anticipation. The planning, reviewing maps, learning metro systems, discussing foreign currency (the Euro for this trip), studying tourist sites and other areas of interest. Before we even get on the plane, we will already have been anticipating this trip for months.
Personally, I am giddy with anticipation. Not just to take my family to places that hold a special spot in my heart, but also—and most importantly—to share the generosity of the people in those special places. The places would not be special without the people. I hope that my family will gain a tiny bit of ownership of these wonderful people and places from this trip. I’ll strive to show them in a short period of time what I learned living away from my friends and family: that the world is filled with people with open arms.
Today in this world things unknown to us seem scary. Strangers seem strange and foreigners seem foreign. But people are just people with loving hearts. And if we don’t get to see the most famous tourist destination or go to the top of the Eiffel tower or it rains on our heads the whole time, the one thing I hope they can learn is that everywhere you go in the world is filled with people just like us.
And so we relish the anticipation of this exciting summer trip.