I realized that my daughter and I are a lot alike in the following ways:
We both struggle with transitions (what toddler doesn’t?). I don’t exactly get in a funk about the fact that it’s time to leave the playground, or get into or out of the car… but I can’t seem to keep it together when fun is over! I bawled like a baby on the plane back from Turkey, got upgraded to first class when leaving Nepal on Thai airlines because my sobbing was ridiculous, and for Christ’s sake can I not even leave Canada (like, down the street) without getting into a funk? Nope, I can’t. Post-travel or post-fun blues are just what I do.
We are both triggered, in good ways and bad, by traveling. M is in her element exploring brand new places and diving into a new routine. So am I. When we come home, we wrestle with the lack of stimulation, the lack of something to look forward to, and the lack of whatever it was we enjoyed while we were away. M is a champ on any trip, but wait for it… we both crash and burn the week after! It has happened every time!
More fun = harder crash. The more amazing the experience, the worse we are a few days later. We can’t seem to manage our exhaustion or our let-down without some kind of inner (me) or outer (her) temper-tantrum. Even when not traveling, we’re always going somewhere, doing something new. Neither of us looks forward to just being at home, unless it’s for a limited amount of time.
I kind of feel like I gave birth to this child, or at least transplanted my genetics to her!
All that being said, my kiddo was a dream on the trip, just like in Germany. I was seriously one proud mom. She’s polite, she’s compassionate, she makes new friends everywhere, and she tries new things eagerly. She’s cool with being in a strange bed and she even handled what turned into a 7+ hour roadtrip with as much patience as I did! She’s just so much fun! I foresee so many great mommy-daughter trips in our future!
Since she’s so much like me, I bet that tomorrow we’re going to sit down and make a list of possible next adventures. Repeats welcome!!!
So! As always, after I travel I want to travel more. Unfortunately, I’m flat broke and have some bills to pay, so I cancelled all my other summer travel plans. I’m still planning on one week in Mexico (hopefully I’ll have a group of people) in February, and then… yes, I have to go back to my beloved Nepal, and I want to do that in a year and a half, for the their holiday season!
Tikaa day for Dashain (the largest Nepali holiday) is October 11th and Tihar (next largest holiday, with lots of lights that look like Christmas lights) is October 28-November 2nd. I’m not sure I can get more than three weeks off, so I may aim for Oct 13th (arriving the 15th) through the 2nd (arriving home the 3rd).
I know M will love the colors and festivities of Dashain and Tihar, and honestly I just miss my Nepali family so much. My niece will be 9 this year! How did that happen??? I dream of seeing her playing with M, of hearing Nepali everywhere, and eating daal bhaat with my fingers.
For sure, I will be planning some longer layovers to avoid what happened on the last trip… and there are some pretty fantastic airports for kids (like Singapore) to head for!
I realized that I have to travel, or die a little inside. I love traveling so much, I love languages so much… there’s nothing more that I’d like to do than travel more, and travel with my daughter. More than that, by the time she is in grade school I want to be traveling for extended periods of time… perhaps to language schools that offer concurrent children’s classes, perhaps to live in Europe for one year of her elementary school education. And of course, to Nepal, so that she can see an entirely different side of the world first hand, but where I can communicate and have friends and family.
I am glad I became a nurse for the solid income to fall back on, and no lack of ability to find a job around home and anywhere in the US. However, going to nurse practitioner school was plain torture. I wish I could find a career that allowed me to travel and study languages. Then I would be truly happy.
It is very difficult to imagine living my dreams because I sometimes feel that the weight of the world is on my shoulders here at home. My mother worries a lot about what I’m doing with my life, and how I will care for her in the future. All I know is that she’d either come with me, or live with her cousin, or we’d make some arrangement that worked. I also would never sell my cottage, as it’s been in my family for generations and is “home” to me. So I’d not only have to have enough money saved to cover living expenses where we would live, but also the yearly expenses on the cottage.
I’m also not sure how I’d make a living. It’s very discouraging, as a nurse, that my travel options are so limited. It would be nice to be able to teach English as a Second Language, although the chances of getting a job in Europe are scarce. Still, I would enjoy doing it at home, maybe part time, as I would get to meet many people from different cultures. It would also perhaps help me get a job in Asia, even Nepal, if we wanted to do a year abroad.
It seems my options are to just keep traveling short-term, work part-time or per diem as a nurse and take longer traveling trips if I can find a temporary job teaching English, or somehow save money and just travel short-term, little trips like I’ve been doing… not my favorite option.
Maybe my dreams just aren’t a real possibility. Anyone else struggle with how to do what they love and earn a living?
Our week in Germany was everything I hoped it would be. We had no jet lag, M slept great all night. In fact, she slept in until 10 or 11am every day except the last! We stayed with family, my cousin and her husband and three kids, ages 7, 9, and 11. The kids were all great helpers, and I never needed to push M in her stroller or get her in or out of the van. They would chase after her and pick her up and keep an eye on her for me… it was great!
We had the guest room, and my cousin had a van, so we didn’t have to worry about transportation or accommodation the entire time. We could eat cereal for breakfast, make a pot of coffee, and relax in our pajamas until we felt like going somewhere. My cousin’s husband is in the navy, so she is not working while in Germany, and they are coming home for good in a month. This meant that they all wanted to go out and do things, too, so we all went together!
We arrived in Stuttgart, stopped at the base for groceries, took the kids to a neat playground where M scored a cupcake off of a local family’s birthday celebration, and then headed “home” to my cousin’s apartment in the town of Holzgerlingen.
We took the train into Stuttgart’s Killesberg Park and rode the world’s oldest electric carousel. The kids enjoyed the playground, there were animals including flamingos, and we finished out the evening at a beer garden, complete with enclosed play ground for the kids! Thanks to this beer garden, M insisted on doing “cheers” with every drink thereafter.
We went up into the Black Forest to the small town of Triberg, which boasts the so-called original cafe that served “Black Forest Cake”. We ‘hiked’ up to a waterfall, but the path was paved so not exactly a hike, although it was very steep. We didn’t go up to the top, but maybe about halfway. M enjoyed exploring the rocks and dirt. After that, M and I went to an open air museum (Schwarzwalder Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof), while my cousin and her kids went on a nearby alpine coaster. M liked the animals and play area, and I loved the history.
We went to Affenburg Salem, Germany near Lake Constance, to Monkey Mountain. It’s a large open air enclosure dedicated to preservation of the Barbery Macaques (they are native to Algeria and Morocco and are an endangered species). You can feed them popcorn (only if they are sitting on a fence) and guides are posted all along the trail to enforce the rules and to answer any questions. Along the way you also see fish, ducks, deer, and of course, the huge pelicans or whatever they were that built huge nests on the buildings.
The big kids were all very excited to go to Sensapolis, a huge indoor play area for kids of all ages that featured four story structures representing a space ship, a castle, a jungle, and a pirate ship, all of which were immaculate with plenty of tunnels and lots of attention to detail (way more than you’d find in the States). Humongous slides (with age limits) that went down at 80 degree angles could be found in the space area and a Swiss Family Robinson style network of tunnels and bridges crossed the interior near the ceiling, so kids were guaranteed a getaway from their parents. Older kids can also zip line across the interior from the “Jungle” to the “Castle”, and there are rock climbing walls for younger and older.
Parents, as usual, can enjoy beer, wine, or coffee in the dining area. Because my daughter is two, and the place is huge, (and she sometimes is aggressive toward other kids), I had to chase after her everywhere. I was very tired from running around the place.
On our last full day, we took a walk in Holzgerlingen, and it was probably my favorite morning. The town was lovely, we hit up a bakery and a grocery store, and I got to use my (terrible) German. M behaved so well, walking beside me holding my hand instead of needing to be restrained in the stroller.
In the afternoon, we took all the kids to the local pool. In typical German fashion, it had everything: splash pad, pool with water slide, and separate lap pool. And a play area, of course.
That night we stayed over in a hotel near the airport, as we had to get up at 3am. When it came time to sleep, I realized that I didn’t have M’s bottles. My cousin saved my life by driving them back to us!
It was a relaxing, fun vacation with the exception of the airport days. I wish we could’ve stayed longer!
Well, we did it! We survived 18 hours of continuous travel, including four airports, three flights, one shuttle, and one two hour car ride… oh, did I mention that was all one way? Many people told me I was crazy, brave, and amazing… and looking back I have to say they were right, and also that it was very worth it! This post is about what went well, what didn’t, and what I learned.
For a two-year-old, M did really well at times. She poo’d and peed in the potty throughout the airport/airplane experience, keeping her diapers dry! She did well on our short flights, four out of six total flights for the trip were less than one hour. She didn’t dump her cups of “pop” (I let her have sprite a few times), she put her tray table down and drank it like a big girl, and she enjoyed looking out the window the one time we had a window seat, flying her little toy airplane around and remarking on how high in the sky we were. She loved it when we were late to our connections, because I ran through the airport and she thought going “fast” like that was great fun. During the two hours she slept on our long flight, I had a glass of wine and got to watch a whole grown-up movie! I found that I had packed adequate changes of clothes, diapers, bottles, and snacks. She did not get sick or have earaches. The friendlier people on flights let her sit in their laps, play with their jewelry, and gave her snacks. People don’t realize how much that helps, especially because my daughter is so friendly and enjoys that a lot.
The play areas in Frankfurt and Stuttgart were great! We missed our final flight to Stuttgart and got put on the next plane. It gave us time to relax at a play area for a full hour, and really helped her mood! Stuttgart’s play area had a ball pit… she convinced me to get in it with her. As we were leaving, I couldn’t find our boarding passes. I finally found them after I dug through the ball pit! This goes under “good” because I thought it was really funny, and we had a great time at that play area.
We got to the airport way, way too early. We sailed through security and waited 3.5 hours to board. I seriously overestimated how long it would take to get through customs at the Canadian border and security at the first airport. She slept a total of 1.5 hours the whole travel day headed there. She slept a total of 2 hours going back. I slept a total of 0 hours both ways. She did require all her changes of clothes for small spills or pull-up overflows (when I couldn’t let her use the bathroom because we were running to her next flight). She refused to eat anything of substance, despite me trying to give it to her. She only ate veggie straws, fruit snacks, handisnacks, juice, and milk the entire travel day. On our last long flight, she called the young man to my right “daddy” the whole way, even screaming “help me daddy!!!” when I was forcing her to sit in the seat and she didn’t want to. She would try to crawl into my seat and then into his lap… and he was so not into it! The people around us must’ve thought her dad was a real dud, not helping me with her at all!
I cried when we missed our flight (the only one we didn’t make), because I ran so hard to get there and they were closing the door. They wouldn’t let me on even though I was only seconds late.
Activities with multiple pieces, like puzzles? She just threw them. When she got mad? She threw her bottles into the aisle. Grabbed my glasses off my face and threw those, too. She did NOT like being restrained… she wanted to jump on the seats, even tried to climb over them, and run full out up and down the aisles (which I let her do periodically). When I laid her down she would kick her feet at me, or try to hit me when I made her stay in her seat. In her car seat, she kicked the back of the seat in front of her NON-STOP, like 7 hours straight. I turned it rear facing, but it was too upright for her to sleep. On the way back, we didn’t use the car seat (long story below). I had to fashion a restraint from the airplane blanket and the lap belt so she couldn’t release it constantly. She would buck her hips all the time trying to slide out, so I had to boost her up ever few minutes. She was getting exhausted and sick of being restrained constantly. Her “listening ears” ran out of juice and no longer functioned. She would NOT keep her shoes on no matter what, and ended up needing to go through security barefoot because I couldn’t fight anymore about it. When I tried to put them back on she screamed and kicked. At border patrol she wouldn’t let go of the railing when our turn was done… the officer wasn’t the least bit amused. I gave her a cup of ice, she dumped it in the seat.
Mostly, it was a constant battle to keep her in her seat, even with my lap belt/blanket restraint (that worked pretty well). She hated it. She hated the car seat even more. She could not enjoy the activities I brought because of the pieces and her throwing problem. The only things that helped for short times were her favorite snacks, her kindle, and cartoons or movies. I made a big mistake scheduling short layovers. We had to rush to our next flight with no time for her to visit a play area, use the bathroom, or get out of her stroller at all. She went from flight to stroller to flight, restrained the whole time, and this made her about as ornery as I’ve ever seen her! The few times we had time in between flights for a play area, she was in a much better mood.
Canada was totally great about the car seat. They checked it on the short flights at the gate and returned it to me with the stroller so I could bring it on the plane for the long flight. Coming from Germany, they were totally not getting it. The Lufthansa crew appeared confused and befuddled when I checked in but wanted my car seat, when I brought it through security, and at the gate. I explained many, many times that I needed it on the plane for the long flight. I explained it to them very thoroughly when they took it with the stroller NOT to put it with the checked baggage. But, they did it anyway. They told me I could get it in baggage claim, so I went there and it didn’t show up. This meant I had to go back through security, but only after a 30 minute debate with baggage services. They told me it would be sent to my next gate, and it was not. I was forced to get on the plane without it and devise my own restraint using the blanket and lap belt (only around her waist, only to block the buckle so she couldn’t keep undoing it). I went through security a total of three times on the way home, plus customs and border control and weird passport check lines between gates in Frankfurt. It was maddening. No such thing as an easy connection!
My baggage did not arrive at all at my final destination, including the car seat. The only upside to this was that I received a free brand new car seat, an Evenflo Titan, and it’s mine to keep. It goes up to 65 lbs forward facing, whereas my old one only went up to 40 lbs. They are delivering my luggage to my house today.
WHAT I’LL DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME
1. Longer layovers, especially at points of entry! The running at top speed and not being able to make a bathroom, food, or play stop before the next flight really killed us. Missing a flight is disheartening, too.
2. Err on the side of more snacks, not less! Going I took what I thought was too much, but on the way back I only brought a few things and ran out. Not good since we had no time at our layovers to buy more, and she got hungry and I had nothing to give her (#momfail).
3. No small pieces. Nothing that comes apart or has pieces, no matter how big they are, or if they’re foam. The magna-doodle was good, as it was large enough and the pen piece is attached with a string. Books are also good, as they don’t come apart. But puzzles? No. Crayons? No. I won’t be bringing things like that until she’s like… 5.
4. Don’t get there too early. Three and a half hours before boarding??? That was nuts. We should’ve at least gone to a playground in Windsor or something once we realized how early it would be.
TO USE A CAR SEAT OR NOT TO USE A CAR SEAT
Because of the car seat debacle coming home, I ended up going both ways on our long flights. I used the car seat for our 7 hour flight going to Europe, and didn’t have it for the 8 hour flight coming back.
Car seat Pros: She was strapped in and could not get out, or buck her hips and slide out, like with the lap belt. The car seat I used (the Evenflo Tribute) was light and easy to install forward facing.
Cons: Rear-facing, it was quite difficult and also did not have enough of a recline. She was basically sitting at a 90 degree angle so she couldn’t sleep like that. Foreign airlines may have no idea why you aren’t checking your car seat, and you may spend minutes to hours explaining why you need it to them.