It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged but there are times in your life when you just have to take a screen break. This has definitely been one of those times.
As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader, my husband qualified for a two-month sabbatical from work (he’s just gone back – boo!) and we decided to take ourselves and our now six-month-old baby on a month-long road trip around Europe.
So, now we’re back, what was the verdict?
Honestly, it was perhaps the best month of my life.
I really didn’t expect to say that. Though it was me, really, pushing the idea, at least in the beginning, we both had doubts about whether taking a baby on such a long journey was the right thing to do and our excitement was tinged with apprehension even when we set off.
Would he be happy and settled while we were travelling? Would he be safe?
Would we enjoy it? Would it be stressful? Would our relationship thrive or struggle?
Should we spend our time and money finishing the house and garden instead?
In the end, we decided that if we never tried taking the trip, we’d never know. And that we were lucky to have this opportunity that might never come again until retirement :( – so we should grab it with both hands.
What we found out when we went travelling with a baby
Taking a road trip around Europe with a baby wasn’t like any holiday I’d had before – there was little sunbathing and only a couple of dips in a swimming pool – but that’s not what we wanted or expected.
Because we were away for a month, aside from the usual travel-related problems, like finding your way around each new place, there were everyday life tasks to face too – like dealing with a baby poo explosion in a national park, and getting a new car tyre in a small Italian town when we didn’t speak the language.
Overcoming them as they cropped up became part of the challenge, part of the fun and, afterwards, part of the sense of achievement.
It sounds clichéd, but in this case it’s true: the memories we made will last our whole lives. And I believe the trip was life-changing, in small but significant ways.
I realised that the world I look at much of the time is so small – my phone screen, my house, my desk at work, the streets of my city. There’s a whole world out there full of people living all kinds of lives.
Though I’m happy with my life, it could be better and we want to do more. I don’t want to live it all in the same place, with us doing the same jobs.
I’ve been a bit scared of change up to now but the trip laid out, right in front of me, ways of life that I’d prefer to my own. It made me realise that if we’re not 100% happy with the life we’re living, we have the power to change it and we should have the courage to do that.
This trip made us clearer about our hopes and dreams, and made us come up with a plan that could actually see them come true.
There were other things that made us want to make changes to our lives back home. We had no TV for the first three weeks we were away. Our baby Sam loved having our undivided attention and, once he was in bed, my husband and I talked like we did in the early days.
I feel like we reconnected. Since we had a baby – wonderful as our son is – life can be somewhat perfunctory. We’ve stayed close, but have had a tendency to talk about what Sam did that day, what he might do next and what he needs from the supermarket. We pass the baby between each other, take it in turns to do chores, collapse on the sofa at the end of a day and are often guilty of staring for too long at our phones.
There are days it needs to be like that, but there are also days we could make more effort to spend time talking and doing things together.
(Disclosure: I confess that when we did get to accommodation with wi-fi we binge-watched films for a few nights – and it was lovely).
The best bit?
People have asked me to name my favourite place, and I’ve been unable to single out a winner. There were stand-out destinations, of course: Croatia’s national parks, cities full of character like Strasbourg, Salzburg and Florence and places I could imagine myself living like Annecy in the French Alps, with its food and flea markets.
But the moments I was happiest – when I felt that pinch-me-I’m-so-lucky-to-be-doing-this feeling – most often came at unexpected times.
Like in rural Italy, when we took a wrong turn and saw four generations of an emotional and effusive family watching a tiny girl get on a yellow bus for her first day of school.
Or in Austria, when just getting from A to B the scenery was breathtaking. We opened the car windows and sunroof and took in the huge mountains and Alpine air on all sides.
Despite our best efforts and intentions, some memories are already fading as normal life resumes. I plan to get them down on the blog so I can come back to it if I need help remembering how special it was, and what I was determined to take from it as I returned to England.
So more details about where we went and what we did to come in the next few posts!
Have you taken a trip that changed your life, even in a small way?