There was a time — not too long ago — when I researched cruises. All-inclusive. Unlimited food. New islands to add to our list. Shimmering blue pools. Scheduled activities. Over-the-top shows.
What appealed to me was the effortlessness. All we had to do was pay. Show up. Eat. Drink. Get on the boat. Get off the boat. Get on the boat. It sounded glorious.
I was probably exhausted at the time. Not too exhausted to spend a few hours scrounging the internet for cruise deals. But exhausted enough to feel like this was the answer.
Well, Ben wasn’t on board.
Why spend money on mindless relaxation when we could have another awesome adventure? You know, where we miss our train stop by 20 miles and retrace our steps alongside a highway dotted with monasteries (Romania). Happen upon a side-of-the-road restaurant serving dairy-free desserts — perfect for our Little One — at exactly the right moment (Bermuda). Climb a mountain wearing our then-baby, while I shook the entire time (though I was not the one actually holding him) (Chile). Stumble upon a marzipan museum in one of two Marzipan Capitals of the World (Estonia). Run out of gas in a national park in Patagonia, over 100 miles from the closest gas station.
You see, adventures aren’t exactly relaxing. Actually, at first, they’re kind of stressful. They are a patchwork of plans and many unknowns. Nothing is seamless. You know what you want to do — but nothing ever goes as you imagined. You just don’t know what to expect.
And perhaps that’s the exact opposite of what we need right now.
For the past two years, we’ve been on an adoption journey, attempting and failing to adopt a baby — three times. The process has been exciting, terrifying, and wildly unpredictable. While expectant moms across the country told us they wanted us to adopt their babies, we happily signed onto their journeys while trying to learn more about them.
Driving into the Illinois countryside for ultrasounds — with the expectant mom showing up hours later and often not at all. Buying baby wardrobes at the request of the expectant mom, only to learn that she gave birth and chose not to let us know. Finally obtaining medical records and then having the mother disappear into thin air, with no trace or text message left behind. Never leaving a room without our phone in hand so as not to miss an update — which rarely came. Trying to see red flags along the way, so that we wouldn’t be too surprised when it didn’t work out.
But never really knowing why things failed. Whether it was a grandparent who intervened against the mom’s wishes, child services who stepped in, or a mother who chose to parent because she actually always wanted to all along.
Adoption has been another kind adventure — one that’s given us a new perspective, lots of stories, a tougher skin, and some very, very hard days. Maybe it will be our journey to another Little One and maybe it won’t.
But in the meantime, as we take some time to heal, we set our sights on a vacation. But not the type with palm trees, a beach, and colorful umbrella-laden drinks.
Something adventurous and fun. Something that will get us out of our routines. That will make us feel brave, dumb, small, grand, silly, revitalized. Where we’ll be together 24/7, feeling like the three of us are our own little world, talking, eating, searching, discovering, figuring things out, and making memories together. Something that will shake us awake, and remind us how big and beautiful the world is.
See, what I love most about travel adventures often happens a few days in. That’s when I’ll remind myself, oh wait, I’m on vacation and there’s no reason to stress. We can do it all. We can do none of it. We can get lost. Little One can miss his nap. We can eat cookies all day. Little One can eat cookies all day. Never sleep. Sleep in the same bed. We can take a train ride that takes five hours instead of two. Little One can scream on the plane.
None of it actually matters.
The stakes when traveling are low. So low.
When I remember that, and this always happens, I feel the anxiety that’s been building up — from life’s challenges both big and small — drain out of my fingers. I remind myself to slow down. Walk more. Schedule less. Grab a third cup of coffee. Eat another gelato. Become more present with my Little One. Say yes instead of no.
And then I open myself up to delightful, life-affirming adventures.
The beautiful cove we’d never have found if we didn’t keep going. The cows that kept our car company on the cliffside — during that unexpected eight-hour ride. The incredible pizza place near the dingy train station in middle-of-nowhere Italy, which we ingested while sitting on the sidewalk. The murals at the top of a massive staircase in Valparaiso that burst my heart open —- even before we discovered a 12-piece band practicing nearby.
The feeling of gratitude for being alive and healthy. For having a family I love.
So… where should we go?
I was actually hoping that you could help!
We just have a few prerequisites:
- Somewhere that’s great for travel in the summer.
- Somewhere that doesn’t require getting vaccines/pills ahead of time because I don’t think we’ll plan our trip too far in advance.
Right now, we’re considering Japan or a country in Central Asia. But nothing’s set!
What destination would you recommend for an extraordinary adventure with our three-year-old in tow?