I’m writing this after just returning from a week in the perfect little town 30 minutes north of Cabo: San Jose, Mexico. It’s such a charming little Mexican town. I’ve been going there since I was five, I think, and I love it. The growth In the recent years in the area has brought in even more charm, incredible restaurants (which I may touch on in another post) and more.
This was Norah’s first stamp in her passport and I couldn’t be happier about it. Even though I’ve been there countless times, this was my favorite time by far. We went to celebrate my stunning mom’s 60th birthday, which made it super special. Taking Norah on her first (of many) international trip was empowering and truly made my heart so happy.
Watching her walk around the uneven streets of San Jose, colorful Mexican flags flying above her, the smells of authentic, local food, the sounds of Latin music and languages other than her own. Exposing her to places outside of her comfortable bubble in middle class American suburbs. It brought me so much joy. She did it with lots of excitement and ease.
No judgment here if this is your preferred method of travel, but we didn’t go to an all-inclusive resort (which don’t get me wrong- it’s a fun way to travel, just not my preference) surrounded by other Americans. Of course there were plenty of Americans near us, but we were driving our rental car down the same streets the locals do. One morning while on a hunt for a coffee shop, we happened to pass the local school during drop off and we were walking the streets with the uniformed students running to make it to school on time. We were walking on the non-touristy, un-polished streets. Grocery shopping with the locals. This is the way I prefer to travel and the way I plan to travel with Norah. This is where we get a little glimpse into the culture outside of our own.
Travel has been a love of mine for a very, very long time. I’ve been traveling to Mexico since I was little (to the same family condo) but it was my first trip to Europe at the age of 13 that really did it. Oddly, I remember being disappointed I was missing a 3 day festival of camping and concerts in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania that all my friends were all going to go on this trip. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier I got to go to Europe instead. This is when I first got bit by the travel bug. I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve had the privilege of traveling quiet a bit more since then, to some really cool places (I could write several posts on these trips)- not as much as some, but I suppose decently impressive and it’s not over yet.
We were at the park today where I overheard a few parents chatting while their kids spun around on the merry go round. The topic of Hawaii came up, as one of the moms was wearing a hat with KUAI in all caps. The conversation continued as they all connected over their love for their trips to the island before kids. They all agreed travel with kids is a challenge, and they’d rather have the grandparents watch the kids as to not have to bother with the hassle of traveling with their littles. To each their own, but I didn’t resonate and don’t agree (even though I also would love a solo trip with my husband). Traveling with Norah has taken something I loved and expanded that love exponentially. Sure, I read exactly zero pages in the book I brought on our trip to Mexico, but experiencing her first visit to a new country through her eyes was worth way more than the missed pages and beach naps.
There also seems to be a thinking out there that things we love, including and perhaps especially travel, end when the kids come so you better get it out of your system before kids. This is one reason we waited as long as we did to have her. Now I don't think that at all. It doesn't have to stop at all and I'd argue, it's even more reason to check places off the bucket list.
When our airplane tires touched down in Denver on our flight back from Cabo, it completed her 42 flight. She’s not yet 3.5. Knock on wood, but flying with her, while I wouldn’t exactly describe it as the downtime I would pre-Norah, is again, so full. She lights up when we ride the train from the terminal to the concourse. Even the shuttle bus ride from the airport parking lot to the airport is thrilling. At every take off and any in-flight turbulence she’s happily exclaiming and I quote, “WEE!! WEE!!”
She may not be in preschool, but she gets PLENTY of socialization in the way we do life and in our travels. She’s learning problem solving as we navigate unfamiliar airports, practicing patience as we wait 2 hours while renting a car in a foreign country. Ordering her beloved “bubble water” in Spanish, trying and loving squid and ceviche in local restaurants in Mexico. Living is learning and I’d argue traveling is an incomparable level of it.
Many don’t want the stress of traveling with kids, so they wait until later, but truthfully, (while there are always outliers,) I think the pace and attitude rests on the parents. If parents are expecting travel to be stressful, kids pick up on that. There can be a lot of unpredictability with travel. How a parent resists or allows impacts how the child will too. If we are calm, it allows our kids to be too. (Again- it’s not fool proof but I definitely think it helps significantly). Speaking of learning, does anything teach a child flexibility more than travel?
My husband and I have always been relaxed travelers. While some people are nervous and stressed on the road, we thrive in an airport. While many are ready to be home after a trip, we are always asking- when is our next adventure? What’s the countdown to our next flight?
On our return flight from Mexico, we had several delays. We were delayed out of Cabo, we had to circle around Denver International Airport (DIA) for weather and eventually had to reroute and land in Colorado Springs to refuel. We sat on the runway for an hour before taking off again back to DIA , causing us to land in Denver close to 3 hours after our expected arrival. Jake and I were calm (there’s nothing we can do), and even though our snacks got low, Norah handled it with ease, better than the grown man who was yelling at the flight attendant.
My point? Travel with kids is so worth it (IMO). I believe this so whole heartedly, we plan to world school Norah. Of course many will argue it’s expensive. And yes, it can be. But it also doesn’t have to be. We value and prioritize travel. I drive an older car (live long, my 2008 Toyota Rav 4 with 260,000 miles), neither of us have car payments, our house could use some money thrown at it. It’s not in bad shape, I DO care about our space, but wouldn’t mind if our baseboards were replaced, new deck built (we’ve had the design and permits for over 2 years now). But our experiences with Norah are worth far more than nice new baseboards.
I hope and trust these experiences will foster Norah’s innate curiosity, will fuel her love of adventure, will empower her with the confidence, perspective, and empathy I truly believe only travel (outside of the touristy traps) can provide.
This has already gotten a little long winded, but from our 42 flights with Norah, I have learned a few things that make travel more enjoyable. Stay tuned if this is something you're in to.
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