Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love, “To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”
About 47 minutes into any flight with little ones (or maybe it’s while going through security with four bags three kids and a double stroller) I start swearing that Gilbert was dead wrong. Or maybe she just never traveled with children.
Because traveling with kids is flat out exhausting.
Two weeks ago our family flew to northern California for our annual family trip. As we were checking into the airport for our flight to San Francisco, the familiar apprehension about what lay ahead started to fill me, along with all the thoughts of “Is this worth it? What were we thinking?! Mental note to never leave my Church-Park-Target-Costco-ChickFilA-Home radius ever EVER again!”
But then as we sat at our gate, just a few minutes before the boarding announcement came, I thought of my two sisters who are marathon runners, and my brother who runs ultra-marathons.
My siblings don’t stand behind the starting line of a race and think “WOW – the next 26 miles are going to be so. much. fun.!!” No, they stand at that starting line, pumped with adrenaline, knowing that they are about to embark on an extremely difficult emotional, mental, and physical journey. They’re about to accept a personal challenge, to fight towards an impressive goal, to run towards the reward of victory. The fun lies at the finish line, with a heart full of the joy of accomplishment. The pain and the hardship of the journey makes the accomplishment all the sweeter.
Traveling with babies and toddlers has always been like running a race for me. Either that or having a baby. It hurts like hell during the process, but at the end of the day when the finish line is behind me, my camera is full of pictures and my heart is full of memories, I always decide that it was worth it.
Travel is near the very top of my husband and my favorite things to do. We both feel very passionately that it’s an important part of life experience. Even though we live on a tight budget, we’ve traveled all over – nationally and internationally – with our little family. We set aside money in our travel fund each month and make whatever sacrifices necessary in other parts of our lives so that we can take a yearly trip and introduce ourselves to the planet. It’s been such a blessing.
This year, we visited northern California.
Sonoma Valley is as beautiful and wonderful as every Napa calendar says it is. We drove the Pacific Coast Highway and introduced the kids to Earth’s biggest ocean. We saw the Giant Redwoods forest. In Bodega Bay we saw the place where Hitchcock’s thriller The Birds was filmed. In Santa Rosa, we walked through Snoopy and Charlie Brown’s hometown (well, home to Charles Schultz. Snoopy’s all over the place). We took a ferry boat ride from Sonoma across the Bay to San Francisco. It was incredible to see Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the mouth of the Pacific, and San Fran up close. The boys’ favorite thing about San Fran was the trolley cable cars that fly up and down the street past the pier.
In Calistoga we got to see the Old Faithful Geyser – one of only three in the world. Our boys insist Old Faithful was their favorite part of our trip. Sonoma has a kiddie park called “Train Town” where they’ve literally set up a kid-sized Old West town that the train drives through. The train ride there was also a major Bear Cub hit.
And then of course, there was wine country. Hundreds of vineyards, some huge, some small and family operated. We stuck to the family-friendly vineyards, for obvious reasons, and the kids enjoyed picnics, strolls, and animal petting while the Hubs and I sampled the libations. It was rather dreamy.
A vineyard highlight for me was the Francis Ford Coppola Winery. While the ambiance in the tasting rooms was too uppity and snooty for my preference, the gift shop and museum pieces were well worth the stop. On display were replicas and memorabilia from Coppola’s most famous films. On loan to the Winery just for the month were all of the Oscars that The Godfather films won. We also got to see and touch the famous desk and chair from Godfather I. So cool.
Fair warning – vacation photo dump below. I didn’t edit a single picture because time – can’t seem to grasp enough of it these days. But here are some highlights from our 2014 adventure, in all their #nofilter glory.
I found the boys spinning the atlas in our family room the other day, pointing to the places they want to visit next. Mark insists on Israel and Luke says we’re all going to Australia next year. Ha!
I’m so glad we’ve been able to share parts of the world with them. I hope their hearts continue to capture the inquisitive, curious, adventurous spirit of their Daddy. Because I really do hope they get to keep reading and dreaming and exploring the world.
Note: If you’re using Bloglovin or Feedly and about 20 pictures don’t show up, click on “View original” if you want to see my photo dump from Cali. 🙂