In a simpler, more nimble time in our lives, my beloved and I could drop everything and go traveling, from glorious extended trips to outlandish weekend getaways.
It all began with our marriage. When Savvy was on exchange in France, we sealed our nuptials in her host town and spent the next four weeks traveling in southern France and Spain. I somehow convinced my employer that this was a good idea even though I didn’t have anywhere near that much holiday saved up. Later, we lived in Japan, Israel, Cambodia, and finally China. Each new place provided unique opportunities and challenges for creative travel.
Though we barely had any money while living in Cambodia, we still managed to see some interesting places in the country. One of our most memorable trips involved hiring a makeshift rail raft to take us down the train line to a remote village. The “rafts” were made from little more than four wheels on axels, a bamboo floor, and an outboard motor with a belt linked to one of the axels.
After a two-and-a-half hour ride, we arrived at the village that served as a jump-off point for an additional one-hour motorbike ride to an isolated waterfall. All this just to have a picnic and a quick dip in the river before turning around and doing it all in reverse to reach our hotel before nightfall.
Mark Twain wrote in The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” I have taken these words to heart and done my best to challenge my own prejudices. But what Mark Twain failed to mention was that children can be fatal to travel – at least temporarily.
By the time Reina was born in 2007, our travel experiences became more routine. We embarked on an average of two trips a year: one back home to visit family, and one outside of China to keep our curiosity in check. Although traveling with a child slowed us down a bit, we didn’t find the experience too daunting and Reina’s passport quickly filled up. Even though she didn’t always remember the trips, we had plenty of photos to prove where she’d been and her appetite for long plane rides grew. To this day, she finds a three-hour plane trip “too short.”
All of this changed with the birth of the twins in August 2012. Sure, we took the mandatory trip home to share the love with family, but the experience was exhausting. We almost relished returning to Beijing, where we had professional help to assist with the onslaught of diaper changes and feeds.
Even now when we venture out as a family, Savvy and I spend most of our time feeding, changing, and coping with two boys who get more and more cranky if they miss their nap time. Although we attended the beijingkids Halloween Party this October, we barely got to experience any of it and came away with the certainty that there would be no traveling this holiday season.
And yet, the boys will soon respond better to voice command and be fully potty-trained (God willing). If all goes according to plan, we will once again venture to the USA next July to show off the grandkids and feast our eyes on the lush greenery of western Oregon. Either that, or Savvy and I will ditch all the kids at home and head for Thailand.
illustration by Sun Zheng
This article originally appeared on p52 of the beijingkids December 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com