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Tag Archives: Expat Living

How To Travel Well With Children?


We lived four hours away from extended family until my oldest was five years old. Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided we would make a concerted effort to honor our parents, even as grown ups.  As such, we prayed about how we might best do that, even while establishing our own home. Usually, that meant visiting them every few months and many holiday.

So we drove those four hours a lot. Four hours straight across two states whose biggest mountain together is a sand dune.

We drove the turnpike from South Bend, Indiana to Northeast Ohio. An easy drive. (Except the time I drove through a monsoon-like rainstorm that covered the entire midwest. It took me and my one- and three-year-old well over six hours. That was not an easy drive.)

One year, on our way home for Thanksgiving, we got stuck in traffic at the state border that took an extra two hours to get through. So many cars had to stop and pay the toll at the border, cars were bumper-to-bumper stopped up for about 5 miles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year we will travel overseas for Christmas. We leave here on Thursday to go home for two weeks. To love on our parents and our friends and our families. To be loved on, too. Needless to say, we’re excited.

Except for one little thing. I don’t really like airplanes. It’s kind of a secret that I’ve only recently come to terms with.

I used to love everything about them. The checking in. Walking really fast to the gate to find a seat so we could sit and wait for them to call our row. I somehow really enjoyed the thrill of knowing I was leaving wherever here was and going to end up in some other place. I loved the sounds of the stewardess button dinging. And the pilots voice. I loved the movies and the peanuts and the Sprite with the ice in those little plastic cups.

Then I started traveling with kids.

My oldest was eight-months when we flew for the first time with her. It started with her falling off the seat while we got our bags situated, banging her head on the metal strip that held the seat in front of us. It ended with a good flight. But that was only after and an ambulance ride and a CAT scan which showed no ill effects. Needless to say, it was less than ideal.

We added a second child to our family by the time we flew together again as a family. This time, it was an eight hour God-knows-how-many-minutes flight to Paris, France for a four-month expat assignment. No ambulances or emergency rooms this time. Only a few episodes of air-sickness for our then three-year-old and a nursing baby who refused to eat. Good times.

I think that’s when I started disliking airplanes so much. Not really fear. I just really dislike the experience of it. The stress that comes with the journeying. So many variables I cannot control.


But the end completely justifies the means for me. Absoutely no doubt about it. And I would do it even more often if it meant seeing more new places. Or visiting more people I love.

I don’t want to dread the traveling, though. I want to enjoy it. After all, it will take us the better part of two days when it’s all said and done. One to get there. One to get back.

I want to unwrap it like the gift that it is. The I’ll-be-home-for-Christmas that requires the I-have-to-get-there-first. I want to soak it in for all it’s worth. A part of Christmas just like the songs and the gift-wrap and the Advent wreaths.

So here’s where I ask you, my dear friends, how can I do that? Any advice for our upcoming plane rides? How to help my kids enjoy it? How to enjoy it myself? If you would be so kind as to leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts, I would be ever so grateful.

And I promise to do my best to enjoy the gift of the journey. Then I’ll tell you all about it. After I get home.

(Un)afraid {Day 4 of Life Unafraid}

I am finding that many important places in Germany have gates outside.

They’re usually pretty cool, in my very American opinion. Except when they’re not. Like the one outside my kids’ school. I mean, I am thankful for the gate. Because, let’s face it, nobody wants just anybody walking onto a school campus without having announced their presence and gaining permission from the powers that be. But it scares me. Okay, the gate doesn’t scare me, but the button/buzzer thingy that I have to push if I want access to the school (and my children) on the other side of the gate, well that thing terrifies me.

Scares me so much, in fact, that I believe I have only been brave enough to use it all of one time. If the gate is closed when I arrive to pick up my children after school and I am the first parent there, I usually just wait for another parent to arrive and follow them in. After they push the buzzer and speak to the voice on the other side.

You see, here in this land of Deutsch (and by Deutsch, I mean the German language) we non-Deutsch speakers rely heavily on the use of nonverbal communication. (i.e. We use our hands to help describe things, our fingers to point at props, our facial expressions to help with the charades.) And, well, gate buzzer thingies have very strict codes regarding the nonverbals. So speaking into them calls on a certain kind of courage that I often don’t have. The courage to show my ignorance of the German language, the bravery to display my I-don’t-belong-here-and-I-really-have-no-idea-what-I’m-supposed-to-do-with-this-buzzer-thing-anyway.

I think a lot of fear is like that. It comes from not wanting to look stupid or sound like we don’t have a clue. In my brain, that not having a clue thing leads to the what-ifs that convince me I will end up a victim of some heinous crime (yes, I know. I have issues.) But maybe in your brain it leads to others fears. Like the fear of failing. Or worrying that in the end you’ll find your own insignificance. Or maybe looking stupid for you means losing credibility that you feel you can’t afford to lose. Whatever it is, the fear cannot win. Because the truth is that if I don’t push the buzzer and no other parents come, I won’t get to take my kids home. (And then they would have issues of an entirely different kind.)

So — what’s your buzzer thingy?

*This month, I’m joining a bunch of other bloggers in a challenge to write for 31 days on a topic about change. Having struggled with fear (sometimes paralyzing) for a lot of my life and missing much of the living that I know God wants for me, I am on a mission to live unafraid for 31 days straight, challenging you to join me. And I’m writing about it. You can catch up here if you’ve missed any of the days.