Granuaile spent much of our first day in Iceland crying. Her delight at the snow falling (Mommy, let’s build a snowman!) while we were inside the airport turned quickly into misery just trying to find our rental car. The wind stung her eyes; she was cold and it was dark. Her kitty Gretzky kept getting blown out of her grasp.
Granuaile spent much of our second day in Iceland crying. She loved swimming in the warm, weird waters of the Blue Lagoon, but when the 100 MPH winds ripped her out of my arms and sent her rolling across a lava field like a tumbleweed, she objected.
Granuaile spent our third day in Iceland trying not to cry. She wore two layers of pants, rain/wind pants, two shirts, a fleece, her winter coat, and the “knight hat” that we’d bought our first day in Reykjavik. She was mostly warm enough, except when she had to drop her layers to pee on a pile of rocks at Þingvellir–then, she howled.
While she remembers some good moments about our trip, Iceland looms large as a cold and bitter place. In the Critterverse, she often sends particularly bad characters to Iceland, like a penal colony for small woodland creatures, which often makes the Cap’n and I ask each other–was it worth it?
I like a degree of difficulty in my travel. I realize some people feel differently, which is why such things as cruises or all-expenses paid resorts exist–no judgement. But for me, I want to stretch a bit, which is why I find myself repeatedly traveling whilst six-months pregnant, sleeping in a glorified igloo, or going to places where they eat puffin. Granuaile, it has been discovered, does not. She likes watching TV in English, eating pancakes, and staying warm, preferably in a place littered with Disney Princesses.
From my childhood, I don’t remember much travel misery, but discomfort wasn’t my dad’s style*. I was, and am, terrified of heights and would dread coming home to our big-city hotels that frequently featured soaring ceilings and balconies. As a teenager, I wept and wailed about leaving behind my friends and boyfriends who would surely forget me while I was gone. But these were minor discomforts, ones that my parents were right to ignore.
Pre-kids, I went to Ghana, West Africa to visit my stepsister who was living there for Peace Corps. My roommate Bryan accompanied me. Everyone warned me that life would be hard. There will be no flush toilets; you know it will be dirty; there will be weird food. It never occurred to anyone to warn him, the former Boy Scout, the Guy.
Bryan was miserable–hot and always hungry. It wasn’t fun for me, no, but even after 32 hours riding on a tro-tro, being skeeved out by large (holy-jumping-firecats!) bugs, and picking up an amoeba from some food-cart goat, I would go back in a heartbeat. This doesn’t make me morally superior to Bryan, nor–although I tease him otherwise–does it make me tougher, but we both want different things out of our travel. I don’t mind being uncomfortable if it gets me out in the world.
So now that we have two wee ones who like having dry, warm bodies, full bellies, and soft beds–can I still justify my degree-of-difficulty travel? Realistically, and probably selfishly, I will find a way to justify it–it’s good for them, it’s character-building, it’s only temporary. Obviously, there are some things that are too hard for us–mostly places or experiences that would be unsafe for families of our ages and abilities.
The kids are pirates too, though. They will always get a vote in where we go and, given that Granuaile wants to go to Egypt, it sounds like they might have a sense of adventure. But these are the grown-ups’ travel dollars in the end, not theirs, and we will call the shots. I know other households work differently–and again, do what works for your family–but if travel doesn’t push you into the unfamiliar in any way, maybe we should just stay home. Life leaves scars–should a family vacation?
*My mother, however, was a tough cookie. Recently, I read her final trip diary and was in tears reading her entry about fighting her way up Halifax’s Citadel Hill against gusting winter winds while weakened from chemotherapy. But that’s another post.