In the Season 6 finale of How I Met Your Mother (riiiiight around the time the show started dropping off in quality), there is a running gag where Marshall thinks, incorrectly, that he will soon succumb to food poisoning and lose his lunch. The clock ticks down until it hits all naughts, but miraculously he doesn’t get sick. Right now, a few days before our upcoming trip to Germany, I feel like Marshall – Baby M came down with something yesterday and I feel like it’s only a matter of time – I will be getting sick, it’s only a matter of when. Here’s hoping it’s the day AFTER we get to Germany (because I doubt I can cycle through fast enough before).
Anyway, my paranoia about getting sick has had me reflecting on the ways becoming parents have changed the way we travel. It’s changed in the obvious ways – we pack differently, think about our destinations “kid-friendliness” more, and we spend more time in each city instead of running from place to place. But to me, that’s not the biggest thing that’s changed for us since having M.
What’s different now is our planning process. Or, to put it bluntly, our lack of planning process. We aren’t huge planners in general, but pre-parenthood, I’d always have the particulars of an itinerary locked down. I know that’s not for everyone, but that’s what we used to do. An example – in summer of 2010 Jess and I hiked Mount Fuji with a friend. It was a bit of an endeavor because we landed in Tokyo from Taipei and went straight up the mountain, quite literally. Two months before we even left the States, I started absorbing everything I could about the trip to Fuji – which train to take to which subway line to which bus station to which bus to which town to which bus to which shop to buy what supplies to take which trek up in what timeframe. By the time we got on the plane in Taipei for Tokyo, I knew the plan by heart – I had even looked up screenshots online of the bus and train stations to know what things looked like. This is the way I used to plan vacations.
Now? We barely have time to figure out where we are staying. I struggle using Tripit to keep track. For next week’s trip, all I’ve locked in are our transatlantic flights, hotels, and car rental. But I know next to nothing about each of the towns. Let me list for you what I know about where we are going:
– Garmisch-Pantenkirchen is supposed to be very picturesque and I think we can take a cable car up into the mountains
– Salzburg is a city where I can buy chocolate with Mozart’s face on it and do Sound of Music tours (coincidentally, the reason we are going to Salzburg)
– Berchtesgaden is where Hitler killed himself or something? Band of Brothers? Also, lots more picturesque scenery
– Vienna…sells sausages? I don’t even know. I think there is a park somewhere. More Mozart? Hot weather? Wow…definitely need to do more research on this one
– Munich…beer? I know I can buy a BMW there but I think that might eliminate some of my travel savings
Writing that out, I kind of wish I was joking but really that is almost fully the extent of my knowledge heading into this trip. Why? Parenthood.
It’s not like we haven’t taken all of the guidebooks out from the libraries like we did in the past – we’ve had the guidebooks for months. I just don’t have any time to read them and neither does Jess (in fact since we had M she’s outsourced a lot of the decision making to me which is nice in that we don’t need to debate anything but also stressful because I don’t like the full responsibility!). We try to alleviate this issue by spending more time at our destinations. The idea is that it gives us more time to get a feel for a location and we can kind of explore it at our own pace. In the past, when we had say, two days in Paris, we needed a plan to maximize our time. Nowadays, if we get to see one “sight” per day, it’s basically a win.
I haven’t been traveling this way long enough to really consider which way I like more, though I know plenty of people without kids travel with even less plans that this. It’s just new to me. It’s kind of cool in the sense that you get to explore new locations on your own terms; at the same time, I feel like I might “miss out” on more of the local flavor if I’m stuck with only guidebooks that I read an hour before I land (instead of using the goldmine of the internet in conjunction with the books).
So, life is different with a kid, what else is new? I’m just happy we get the chance to take M to experience different cultures for a fraction of the price we’d be willing to pay (and in greater comfort). Just like I enjoy traveling because it changes my perspective on things, I know that the changes to the way we travel now that we have M will open my eyes up as well. And that’s pretty cool. I’m sure she will hate traveling by the time she is eight just like she will hate playing the piano once I start forcing her to do it, but hopefully by the time she’s eighteen she’ll appreciate it! I’d better start loading up some posts for when I’m gone though so I can hit the (guide)books…