Over There

“So, I hear that you just got back from Venice?”

Tony, the woman on the other end of the phone line corrected me with the sound of wistful emotion coloring her voice.

“No, Florence. I was in Florence, Italy actually.”

By the sigh that followed the word “actually,” I knew the answer to my next question before I even put it out there, but to ask anyway was proper form. I’m all in favor of letting people gush when they have it in them. Blissful gushing is one of the pinnacles of personal happiness and I, for one, wasn’t going to deny her the chance.

“Oh! It was just so… Oh! All the famous people who’ve lived there and all the beautiful things that they left behind for us to see!”

Smiling, I let her go on for as long a she wished. The enthusiasm in her voice made me smile broadly.

Tony lives alone out here on the island, and is kind enough to watch Lulu Belle for us from time to time. Since her own son, daughter-in-law and grandson live on the other side of the country, it gives her a chance to do grandma duty for our little girl while giving us time to actually accomplish things like work and… work some more.

“Have you ever been to Florence?” The question was asked with the bubble like hope of having a fellow traveler to compare notes with. Sadly, I had to tell her that, no, we hadn’t been so fortunate.

This was followed by the inevitable, “Oh! You should!”

Should, indeed. Acton Girl and I would love nothing more.

We knew all to well what starting a family would mean to our vagabond traveling method. It wouldn’t put a crimp in it. It would crush it in a vice like embrace until turning blue in the face and going limp. Travel, at least for the next seven years or so, would be sporadic, far more tame, or possibly unknown all together. It was a trade we both willingly made, but it still smarts from time to time.

Like, when we think about it.

When I was five, my parents did an incredibly brave thing. They took their very young child and put him on a plane with them. When the door shut, it would not open again for six hundred and twenty-nine hours. Well… perhaps that’s stretching it a bit.

Six hundred and twenty-six hours, then.

It was a very, very long flight from the East coast to Hawaii and when you’re five, the miniature dynamos that run in your chest are controlled by a squirrel that operates your brain, and he keeps them running at full tilt, fueled on a diet of soda, potato chips and pure excitement. I have always maintained that if we could figure out how to harness the power of a five year old, our planet’s energy problems would be solved. That, and you’d wind up with a five year old who’d actually listened to you when you spoke to them.

Win / Win!

I survived the trip and have no memory of the interior of the overhead luggage racks, so I’m assuming that I behaved my self, though memories are a tad sketchy.

That was my introduction to travel and amazingly, things went well enough on that trip that my parents decided to keep taking that little squirrel powered kid with them and I have benefited from that immensely. I had the chance to make some truly amazing journeys as a child and young man and have seen parts of this world that most people know only through history class or movies. Some of the things I saw and places to where I traveled no longer exist at all or are not a place a U.S. citizen could now comfortably walk. For those experiences, I am deeply thankful.

As I grew older, the travel bug stayed with me and with my independence and a new found life-long companion, I had the chance to travel without Mom and Dad and see what that was like. It was great!

Action Girl and I have made several foreign trips together and have really gotten proficient at our own style of travel. We bring packs and travel by train a lot. We look for rooms to rent rather than hotels or hostels. We buy our food at local markets rather than looking for the next restaurant and we are masters at picking a town on a map, hopping on the next train out of town and then making it up once we arrive wherever we picked. If there is no room in town, we’d hop back on the train and try the next stop.


Oh, Eurorail Pass, how we love thee.

We vacationed like this for two reasons. The first is because we like it. The second is that we don’t have the cash to do it any other way. To be honest, I’ve traveled both ways, and I like our method the best. We seem to slip into the crowds rather than gliding over them. Rick Steves would approve, I think.

It’s summer here in Maine and Action Girl and I haven’t been on a jet in about three years. “Getting away,” for us means slipping off to the restaurant down the road while Grandparents watch the kids. We sit in our chairs, chatting about what adorable thing Lulu Belle did today or what Short Stack found at the beach as we sip at our drinks, sample each other’s entrees and make furtive glances at watches to see how much time we have left before running home to relieve the troops. As we talk, a sporadic stream of neighbors and fellow islanders walk by on the way to their own tables and make the inevitable comment, “So, who’s watching the kids?”

Us, being us, we tell them, “the cat” and we’re hoping he gets them litter trained tonight.

But, that’s us.

Short Stack is only three and a half and Lulu Belle, sixteen months. I don’t think we’ll take them on a jet for a while yet. I can just barely remember my trip to Hawaii when I was five and don’t see the point in dragging children on a big vacation that they won’t remember. This weekend, we’re trying something new and visiting a local New England attraction. We can easily drive there and might even have the chance to meet up with my blood brother, The Doctor, and his family. It won’t be Florence, but I’m willing to bet that it will be interesting. With three kids under the age of four, how could it be anything else? At least we’ll have them outnumbered.

We’ll see how long Action Girl and I can hold out before we crack and impulsively buy tickets to some corner of the world. I don’t think we’d have any problem slipping back into old travel habits. It’s just going to be more challenging with munchkins coming along for the adventure. In the mean time, I’ll start getting things lined up for our road trip this week. We’re only driving from the Maine coast to northern New Hampshire, so the journey should take about two hundred and thirteen hours.

It can seem like that car occupants, anyway.

Oh, Amtrak, how I wish you were here. They have overhead baggage compartments, you know.

7 Responses

  1. “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

    “I just like leaving, the arriving part is optional” – planetross

    • I like to think that I arrive over and over again. We rarely have any hard and fast locations that we MUST make. We just enjoy being out for the adventure. Kids kind of change that, though. Someday, perhaps, we’ll get that back.


  2. I used to hitch hike a lot and of course that’s now years behind me and I don’t even have any kids. To be honest, I’m totally over the whole “backpacker” thing.

    Backpacker hostels?

    Only if I had a gun held to my head and was allowed punch out any drunken air-head who bothered me with what a trail blazing hero they think they are.

    My heart always sinks when I see a family with a baby get on board and aircraft I’m on. I know that we’re all in for hours and hours of crying and screaming before the child’s ears equalise.

    There are also few things more annoying that being in a seat in front of a five year old with a hand held video game as they punch the buttons with way more force than what is needed. I’ve had this happen to me a number of times and one of the worst things is the parent’s reaction to any request for the banging on my seat to stop. Sometimes the people who’ve made the choice to have kids, think that the rest of us are just as in love with the idea as they are.

    So, on the behalf of all air passengers, I thank and salute you for travelling in your car, to your next holiday destination.

    • Oh, I REALLY don’t think I could ever do a hostel again unless I was allowed to be hostel, my self. I vividly remember the last one I nearly entered, I swear you could actually see the building sway back and forth with the rhythm of the crazy party that was going on inside. Action Girl and I looked at each other and walked away to find more expensive, if not quieter, lodgings. Well worth it.

      As for crying babies on airplanes, I just don’t want to be that parent. I really dislike air travel, not because I don’t like flying, (I do! I’m even a pilot) but because it’s so damned awful. I just don’t want to contribute to the awfulness with a child who’s going off like an air raid siren.


  3. Hmmmm… We’ve taken our (than) 10months old daughter to Iran and of course we had to take a plane. She behaved very very well. Extremly well, I must say – I was worried that we’d end up with a crying baby and looks full of hatred from eveybody on board. Before we’ve had her we’ve done quite some backpack travelling with buses, trains and stayed in cheap hotels/hostels in Europe and Middle East and worried that our ‘travelling style’ would diminish the first time we took a baby with us. It wasn’t like that at all – travelling with her has been a great experience! Of course we had to adjust our habits and plans a bit (for example you cannot visit three museums a day and staying in loud party-style hostels is out of the question, but sincerely, I wouldn’t want to do that even if she is not with us), but we’ve experienced so many new aspects of a foreign country that we could never have had if we were alone. Of course, I admit, she was ‘just’ 10 months old and taking her on a plane trip now as she is 2,5 it would be much different (harder for everybody). We are already making ttraveling plans for next summer when I am on materinity leave and Seconda is about 10 months old 🙂
    There are quite some interesting travelling oportunities in the US – maybe you should give it a try and be (pleasantly?) surpriesed?

    • I actually think that Short Stack would do just great. He’s a real trooper. To be honest, Lulu Belle is too. It’s just the image of wrangling both of them that makes me worried. Two is (I hate to say this to you) about four times as hard as one. For us, at least it is.

      As things turned out, the trip was a success. We decided on a jaunt to Boston rather than the mountains and we had a lot of fun. Exhausting fun, but fun none the less. Give us a few more years and I’ll start entertaining the idea of all four of us heading to Europe. We’ll get there eventually! In the mean time, we will keep our traveling local, I think.


  4. Florence is overrated and so is Venice for that part. My favourites in Italy are Bologna and then Rome mustn’t be missed.

    Italians are very tolerant of children actually, way easier to travel with children there than in London f.ex. Actually so is Iceland… 😛

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