Posted by: Kate | May 25, 2008


As an eight-year-old, I was awkward and uncoordinated, skinny and introspective to a fault.  At least the latter two have changed a bit since then.  I always had at least half a dozen books going at the same time: one in the living room, one in the car, one in my school bag, several in my bedroom, all carefully chosen for different moods and portability and engrossment. 

I was willing enough to travel, to see new things.  But when, as was most often the case, the money wasn’t there, then I was just as content to visit new places vicariously, visualizing and imagining that which I couldn’t physically experience.  My parents did try hard to make getting-out-of-the-house a regular occurrence, even if the most we could afford was a day at Taughannock Falls or Watkins Glen.  But I didn’t get my passport until I was 21, and my mother didn’t get hers until she was 40.  Her parents were pushing 60 when they got theirs, and I don’t think my dad has one yet.  No reason to get one if you couldn’t use it.  We just weren’t international travelers; we couldn’t be. 

Willem grew up with considerably more financial resources, and while I can effortlessly populate a list of things his parents did wrong, I do think they did one thing right with their money and attention: they took the boys around the world.  Not a lot of different spots, because they seemed to prefer to return to the same places instead of finding new destinations, but they did get out and about: Western Europe and  St. Maarten, mostly. 

There’s a skill set that is required for international travel, and Willem had it before he was 16.  He knew how to carry a passport, and how to maneuver through airports.  He knew how to pack a carry-on bag for a long flight, and how to adust to jet lag.  I was able to follow his lead for my first overseas trip, a three-week backpacking jaunt through Western Europe when I was 21.  I’m a quick learner, so by our next trip to Holland I was able to take part in more of the planning, and my the time my mother and sisters and I went to Paris and Jamaica, I was comfortable taking the lead while they learned the same skills.

I’m very lucky, I know, and even though we don’t have any plans to travel out of the country in the immediate future, I am thrilled to know that I will need to renew my passport next year, and to renew Emily’s and get one for Jacob, because we’ll use them someday. 

In the meantime, while the kids are young enough that traveling to Maine is as much of an adventure as traveling to Ireland, we’re keeping the trips shorter and closer to home.  But we’re still taking them.  Still trying to build in travel as part of our lifestyle, just something we do together, as a family, to get out and see the world.  Because it’s there, and because we can.



  1. Travel is such an essential part of growing up, I’ve found. I am trying to do my best to present it to my children as just something to do — something that they will miss if they don’t.

  2. i grew up travelling with my parents and sister. it was something that we did and enjoyed. we weren’t internationally travellers by any stretch, besides the few trips to mexico, but we were still able to get around the country seeing new things. and i hope that doing the same thing for my son will give him the kinds of happy memories that i have of my family trips.
    i’m always somewhat surprised by those that never go. on the way back from one trip i’m plotting and planning the how’s and when’s of the next! 🙂

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