Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This is a Test

This entry is a bit of a test. As I type this, I'm sitting in my backyard, at a table, in the sun, working on my Surface tablet. Rough, I know. But what makes it a bit of a test is that I'm hoping that using the Surface while on our trip will help spur Sarah and I into some more "on the road" style posting this go round. Because, while we both have done a solid job of posting about our trips to places like Hawaii, Mexico or even Texas and Illinois, all of those entries where written after we got home. And, while I still love those entries, they definitely don't have the same immediacy our original Round the World trip entries do.

Part of the reason we haven't been as good at posting while travelling has to do with the fact that Internet Cafes aren't as common in the U.S. or other parts of the developed world as they are in, say, Vietnam or India. But the other part of the reason has to do with the fact that -with two small children in tow- we are generally just less likely pop into an internet café, even if we came across one. But, that's not to say that we haven't had time to do entries while on our various vacations. In fact, generally speaking, in the evenings, after the kids have crashed, Sarah and I usually stuck in our rental... which would be the perfect time to do some blogging. If, we had a laptop or something similar with us.

Which is where the Surface comes in. With it's tiny touchpad keyboard, it effectively becomes a super-tiny laptop. And, while it might be imperfect in terms of size (and the general oddness of a touchpad keyboard), it's better than a lot of the computers we used while traveling back in the day.

But, enough with sounding like I'm advertising for Microsoft (Full Disclosure, Sarah has an iPad, which I actually like a lot too), let's talk about the plan for our trip this month!

The Plan
One week from today, Sarah, the kids and I are boarding a plane to Iceland, where we have an apartment reserved in Reykjavik for a week. Going to Iceland actually seems like sort of fulfilling a long term goal for both Sarah and I. Back when we originally brainstormed places we wanted to go on our RTW trip, Iceland was on both our shortlists. But, because it had a reputation for being expensive, and because there didn't seem to be an easy way to squeeze it into the itinerary, it didn't make the final cut. So, we are both excited to finally get a chance to check it out.

After a week in Iceland, we are back on the plane again, and off to Paris, where we have another apartment waiting for us and where we'll stay for the next week. Sarah and I have both been to Paris before, separately, though my visit was for only about 24 hours, and it's been roughly 10 years since either of us were there. Also, it'll be the first time visiting together, and -of course- with the kids. For Stella, I think this is the main event, or at least what she is talking the most about.

What I suspect will be the most exciting part of the trip for Otto comes next: Riding the TGV to Avignon. Train ride! From Avignon, we rent a car, and drive to our rental apartment in Arles, Provence, for our final week. Initially, we thought we were renting a townhouse in a tiny village near Orange, but -cryptically- that fell through and we've sort of scrambled this last week to find a replacement place. In the end, we are excited to stay in Arles, which was where we first started looking when we decided on Provence for our final leg.

After a week exploring Provence, it's back on the train again, a night in an airport hotel outside Paris, then the long flight home.

On Planning...(AKA: What We've Learned From Traveling with Small Children)

As you can tell from the last couple paragraphs, there's been a lot of planning done ahead of time. Sometimes, I feel like I've spent as much time pre-planning this trip as I did planning for our RTW trip... and this trip is only 3 weeks, instead of 7 months! But, part of that is because of some of the things Sarah and I learned from our trips to Mexico and Hawaii with the kids.

1) Arrange Transportation and Lodging Ahead of Time - Getting train tickets or finding a place to stay in a new location can be a challenge even if you are young and up for an adventure. Trying to do it with two kids who are inevitably tired and hungry is nigh impossible. While it kills some of the spontaneity to plan stuff like this in advance, it actually goes a long way to making the trip more enjoyable, just because it minimizes those moments where we are standing our trying to make decisions or secure reservations on the go.

2) Stay Longer in One Place - On our RTW trip, it was a rare occasion indeed that Sarah and I were in one town or city for more than 4 nights. On this trip, we'll be staying in each location at least 5 nights. Because, frankly, the "moving" days are the ones that are hardest on the kids. Usually, once we've arrived somewhere, they do well; but keeping them entertained, fed and happy while on a plane, train or automobile is a full time job. Plus, at the end of the day, while Sarah and I enjoy the thrill of being in a new place every day; we've sort of done that, and are more interested in exploring a location for a few days, at least.

3) Once You've Arrived, Keep Expectations Low - Basically, once we arrive in each destination, we have nearly zero plans... until we have to depart several days later. Sure, Sarah and I have both been thumbing through guidebooks and the like, and imagining places we'd like to visit, but frankly if we set our expectations high, everyone will end up frustrated. We'll be frustrated because the kids are "slowing us down" and the kids will be frustrated because their parents will be dragging them from one boring site to another. So, instead, we are keeping things modest. For example, in Paris, if a typical day involves a morning trip to a café, buying some food for a picnic on a market street, maybe a quick visit to some location of note, and then a shared bottle of wine after the kids crash in the evening... well, that sounds like a success to me.

I will say this entire trip does seem sort of like a grand experiment to me. A test, if you will. I mean, why even take a 4-year-old and a (not quite) 2-year-old half way around the planet? It's not like they are going to remember it. Maybe it's because travel is important to Sarah and I. Maybe it's because -in some way- we hope this plants a seed in both Stella and Otto that makes them excited about travel to and, that even if they don't remember it explicitly, they will at least -in some way- know that travel is possible. They won't have that strange, unspecified fear that many people have about strange food, foreign languages, stomach bugs, invented crime and unusual toilets that seem to create an often insurmountable obstacle to travel. Instead, maybe, by taking them traveling when they are young, it will just be somehow baked into their DNA. And, maybe, just a little bit, the reason we are doing it is because of the challenge and absurdity of it all.

Challenge or no, if I get a picture of Stella in front of the Eifel Tower, it will be worth all the work.

And now, to end this entry, I'm going to try posting a couple of pictures from the last month. Partially, to see if I can get my camera and Surface to play nice. And, partially because I imagine there are a couple grandparents reading this and thinking "yes, but where are the Stella and Otto pictures?!"

Exploring the Seattle Sculpture Garden

Spring has arrived!! ...oh, wait. Still, cute picture of the kids looking ridiculous.

A sleepy day at the Hill-Stach Shack.

Opening Easter Eggs after the Easter Egg Hunt at Grandpa Rick and Grandma Susan's house.

Finally, I want to say a quick "thanks" to my brother, Travis, for being able to house-sit for us while we are gone. As I'm sure I mentioned before, last year we had our house robbed while away on a camping trip. So, its reassuring to know someone will be watching out for house in our absence. So, robbers, don't even try it. Travis knows, like, ninjutsu. And stuff.

(Well, I think my little test entry went smoothly.)

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