What not to pack (the night before a family trip)

This is the story about a man who had an impulsive idea the night before he and his family took off on an extended overseas trip. 

First of all, you must understand this is a smart man. He’s an entrepreneur who started his own business from a home-office that paired as a guest room, and which was sandwiched between his young daughter’s bedroom and the master. The cacophony of shouts, singing, crying, stomping, et cetera, could have thwarted his enterprise, but he prevailed. Soon his business grew, and his home-office moved to a new part of the home, separate from the bulk of noise and activity. He got himself a nice workstation, including a moveable desk and an oversized monitor.

This man who can take his business wherever there is Wifi, is doing final packing for the family’s big trip. He will be bringing his work with him, of course. With this in mind, he is suddenly prompted to pack his 24 inch monitor—he can be much more productive this way, he reasons. He lugs the big green suitcase down from the attic. The monitor fits in easily. He shoves in a couple of pillows for protection. “It’s worth the risk of it breaking,” he says. 

The monitor cracks on the first leg of the trip. It may have been due to an overzealous Uber driver swinging and slamming the suitcase into the trunk of his car, but who’s to say? On the next portion of the trip, the suitcase loses it’s handles. The only way to pick it up is for two people to lift each end. Twice, at two different airports, the family waits over an hour for the hideous green bag to appear on the baggage carousel. 

Well, obviously, we are not going to make this mistake! There will be no checked bags on our upcoming trip to Central America. My daughter will use a rolling backpack, and my husband and I both have wheeled carry-ons with detachable backpacks. We can fit seven days worth of clothes and toiletries in our carry-ons. Backpacks, while unable to contain 24 inch monitors, can easily accommodate laptops. 

Sometimes you’ve just got to learn things the hard way, but if you are planning a family trip, there are tons of tips that can help prevent common mistakes! You can find packing tips (with links to luggage options) and much more in Practical Tips for Planning a Family Trip. This is a FREE guide when you purchase a Learning Resource product. I’m very excited to make Learning Resources for a Central American Trip available on the website this Spring! 

In the home, in the world

I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Back in 2006 when I was pregnant, I resigned from my teaching job, lucky that I had the choice. I didn’t know, really, what I was choosing. I didn’t know that my baby wouldn’t sleep anywhere other than in my arms or attached to my side. I knew that I’d be breastfeeding, but I didn’t know that it’d feel like that was all I’d be doing. I had never discerned the extremities of love and loneliness—not like this. Not until I sat, trapped, on my couch, holding the whole world in my arms. 

I loved being with my daughter and I felt confined by my circumstances. It was like the name stay-at-home mom became a life sentence: Stay at home! Mom

Now, here I am thirteen years later, home-schooling. My young-mother self never would have guessed it! She needed space and time. She needed to be held in the arms of time, rocked and soothed . . . loved. She would need to be placed, over and over again, into the space she’d made. 

Reconciling my need to be at home and in the world began by creating a nurturing space—a physical place in my home. This led to a spaciousness in my heart. I wasn’t being given a house-arrest sentence, I was being invited to be at home. To build a strong inner place of love. To connect to the whole world that is inside of me. To make a home for my family to live and be fully, wholly. 

I didn’t “wait” until the time was right to travel. Not in the normal sense of waiting as an inactive state. I was practicing an active form of patience—moving toward an unknown destination. My desire to learn and be in the world is now intertwined with my family life. Side by side with Elle, I want to learn about the world we live in, how humans have inhabited it in the past, and how this relates to how we live in the twenty-first century. 

We are strengthened by the years of active “waiting.” Our travel experiences are informed by the time spent taking a real look at home. I’m a be-at-home mom, even when I’m traveling! 

Are you, like me, drawn to being in the world in new ways? Do you want to connect with others and allow travel to transform you? Do you say yes to this, but feel overwhelmed by this? Maybe my free guide—Create a Memorable and Authentic Family Travel Experience— can help. I’ve put together some resources along with questions for you to consider when thinking about an authentic family trip. Leave your email address here and I’ll send it to you. Meanwhile Mom, be at home, be wherever you are in the world (and the world will be in you). 

Rome: Twenty Years Later— With Family

In 1999, while the media spoke the word Y2K approximately 2K times a day, I was all, carpe diem—I’d just resigned from my first full-time job and was headed to Europe for two months. I was based in the Czech Republic and took trains to nearby countries, including Italy, where Rome was a highlight of my travels. When I walked the Roman Forum, I couldn’t believe that my feet were walking a path more than two-thousand years old. The magnitude of time revealed itself in a way that was completely new to me. Then I discovered gelato. Even ice-cream revealed itself in a completely new way to me. Obviously I was mind-blown. But Rome kept coming at me, with more. I stood inside St. Peter’s Basilica and nearly wept for the beauty. I was twenty-three and my world busted open. I was connected to a deep, deep history of humankind. 

Fast forward twenty years. When I started to plan our five-week family trip to Europe, I knew Rome would be on our itinerary. The fact that Roman History would be part of our middle-school homeschool curriculum, MAJOR BONUS! 

But how would I create a meaningful trip without feeling overwhelmed? 

First, I’d been thinking about my intentions around travel for a good amount of time. I knew that I wanted to travel to Europe because of our homeschool studies; I knew I wanted to experience again that feeling of deep connection. And I hoped that our trip would provide that same experience for my family. 

I spent months researching, scheduling and planning. In September 2019, we flew to Rome and stayed at an Airbnb in the Trastevere neighborhood. We ate considerable amounts of pizza and pasta and gelato. We walked the Forum and the Colosseum. We visited the Vatican Museums and the Pantheon. Our twelve-year-old, not easily impressed, was visibly inspired inside St. Peter’s Basilica. 

But what did Rome do? It kept coming at me, with more. The windows, wide open at our guesthouse, displayed a full moon hanging over Trastevere apartments. There I was, exactly twenty years later in the age-old city, staring at the most ancient time-keeper. And it was full. I was struck, once again, by the scale of time. Something stirred in me . . . this feeling of being exactly there . . . how we each hold together the ancient with what is to become. Rome

All of this, and it wasn’t a perfect trip. There were things that went wrong, things we learned as travelers. I stepped off our red-eye with an intense migraine. Our visit to the Vatican Museum was not as enjoyable as we’d hoped, mostly because of the crowds, although we did love the Raphael Rooms. The Trevi Fountain was so saturated with people we could barely toss our coin.

There are always things that happen in travel that help us learn to be flexible. Some things we can plan for, others are out of our control. Are you planning a trip to Rome with your kids? Click here to subscribe to the blog and receive, Rome with Kids: 5 Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, for FREE.

Don’t forget to check out Travel Resources, where I’ve compiled suggestions based on hours of research in preparation for European travel, and guidance on creating meaningful trips wherever you go!