Adventuring. I just looked it up and the dictionary says: (verb) engage in hazardous and exciting activity, especially the exploration of unknown territory.
Sounds about right when describing our latest trip. Notice, I did not say vacation. I said trip. Vacation implies relaxation which is hard to do when you lug 2 young kids and another in utero across an ocean, numerous countries, and quite a few times zones to a whirlwind of exploring a new-to-us country in only a little more than a week. Whew! Makes me tired just writing it.
But, you better believe it was an adventure of a lifetime! Exciting, as the definition says. We just returned last week from our adventure in Italy!
There are many ways I’ll go about memorializing the the trip, to be sure (photo books and the like), but here I’d like to invite you to process with me what value “adventuring” has to us and our kids, hazards and all.
It’s easy to paint a glossy picture of our adventures in Italy, the photo-op moments of jet-setting world travelers. But that glosses over the hard parts of travel, international or local, with kids or without! There was the nail-biting stress of narrow roads cut into the sides of cliffs maneuvered in a large rental van (for which we did not purchase full-coverage insurance, lesson learned) while motorcycles, tiny fiats and yes, even buses careened around sharp corners at frightening speeds. There was the miscommunication regarding needing to get the boys back to our rental apartment after a long day of sightseeing only to misunderstand the local bus schedule leading to further delay and further disintegration of our already tired/hungry/hangry states. There was the long day of travel followed by the sensory overwhelm of arriving in a dirty, crowded, smelly city (whose charm we would later discover, but let’s be real the first impression was less than impressive. Talking about you, Rome.) Travel is amazing, but it’s also really hard.
Or rather, to be fair, let’s say it’s hard for someone like me. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to travel, the value of expanding our horizons and experiencing a new place is a HUGE privilege and unbelievably worthwhile. But also, hard.
That tension is what I want to call out. I’m the kind of person who loves routine and habit. My ideal vacation is relaxation. It does not thrill me, energize me, to do something new. I tend to find it stressful. Familiar is my favorite. Sell me all the time shares! I would happily vacation in the same place every year with guarantees like a certain standard of accommodations, well-known/loved restaurants, the usual activities. My husband however, finds the challenges of a new place exhilarating. He pushes me. (Have I said that before? Pretty sure I’ve said that before: being married to a rocket scientist who is curious, adventurous, pushes the limits…he’s good for me.)
So in the spirit of launching our rocket babies to foster that curious, adventurous streak we packed up and took them to Italy. And you know what, for all the “hazards” of an adventure, there were all the exciting parts too. There was the absolute dreamy magic of spending a whole day exploring city now completely isolated, “in the sky”, as the land has eroded around it, accessible only by footbridge.
There was the breathtaking (literally! made me gasp!) height of our apartment perched on the side of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean in all its glory. The crisp, clear, bright-green/blue water washing in waves into the tiny cove where Eddie built a fortress on the rocky beach.
There was the utter delight all over Xander’s face whenever the local bell tower rang the hour. “Ding! Ding! Hurry!” he’d yell, demanding to race to the closest view of the swinging bell.
There was the food. Oh, the food. Fresh pasta and pizza and gelato, and we learned the valuable lesson: spring for the good cheese. Always worth it!
There was the haunting mystery among the ruins at Pompeii.
There was the spectacular beauty of the incredible architecture at the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum.
The breathtaking ornate beauty of Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel or the Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica. The fascinating history right there before our eyes and under our feet.
We talked about all this, the good and the bad, as we strolled along the Tiber, the adventurer husband and the homebody wife. Just realizing the tension exists, it’s a reality, is so helpful. Hold the value of experiencing new places in this world of ours in one hand. Hold the value of routine, regular life, the beauty of home in the other hand. Realize travel will stretch us, even the most adventurous ones at times. We’ll be confused by a different culture, tired from long flights and drives, hungry for something familiar sometimes.
But going is worth it. It’s good.
And being home is good too.