Sunday, January 30, 2011

Learning From Memory

Le Havre, France.  Not a town most people would know or remember.  Probably it's only claim to fame is being a logistically decent place for cruise ships to stop and send their passengers off for day tours of Omaha Beach and other noteworthy WWII sites.  Give me a few paragraphs, though, to convince you of it's redeeming property.

Travel back in time with me to April 2008.  My husband Ben and I, with our 1-yr-old son Beck, set off on a celebratory tour of the continent of Europe.  Ben had finally finished his bachelor's degree so we packed our bags, got on a plane, and flew away!  Not until we were halfway across the Atlantic Ocean did we realize we'd left behind an important piece of equipment.

This is Beck:
No, he isn't what we left behind. But, at age one, you can imagine that Beck was an incredibly mobile child-not yet walking, but more than willing to get himself somewhere in a high-speed crawl.  Even at his best, however, we could hardly expect him to make do on his own for 6 weeks of budget traveling.

Figured out what the missing equipment was yet?  We'd left our backpack carrier in the car at home.  All of a sudden the idea of carrying a squirming, wiggly baby in our arms for hours and hours and days and days seemed daunting.  It was the first time we'd considered that traveling with a child might not be fun.

Enter Le Havre.  We happened to be there at the beginning of our journey and an angel of a tourism official directed us to a second-hand store where we might be able to find redemption.  She seemed ashamed not to be able to send us to a fancy department store.  We gave prayers of gratitude that our first unexpected purchase with euros might not break the bank.

This is the store:
Neither Ben or I speak French and the shopkeeper of this adorable store knew very little English.  After a lot of pointing at Beck and then at our backs, we found ourselves following this nice lady out of her store and up three flights of stairs next door.  She unlocked a door and offered up her entire store room for us to find what we were looking for.  We were inundated with choices and she let us try on everyone.  Grateful and overwhelmed we finally settled on the pack we liked and hoped we had enough money in our pockets.  Truth is, to this day I don't know how much we paid for that backpack carrier.  What I do know is that it was worth it's weight in gold!

This is the pack: 
Honestly, it was perfect!  Beck slept in it, ate in it, laughed in it, played in it.  He rode on our backs through  eight countries.  It was incredibly comfortable and I carried him on my back for six of the seven miles on the Cinque Terre Trail in Italy.  That accomplishment is still a feather in my cap!  We have searched high and low and haven't found this exact backpack anywhere.  They don't exist.  But we have one.  It's our little miracle.

Why, you're asking, am I taking you on this trip down memory lane?  I mentioned in my New Year's post and also my Wandering Still post that my goal for a year from now is to be traveling and exploring exotic locations.  Ben and I have finally talked it out sensibly and we are really going to make it happen!  We have debts to pay before we can start the planning, but knowing that he knows how important is to me has given me the hope I needed to start openly dreaming.  

These are the lessons: 
     ~We've done it before.  Let people be confused and think we're being irrational.  Kids travel and we wouldn't think of leaving them home.
    ~Things will most certainly not go completely as planned.  We'll forget things and there may be setbacks and delays.  That makes journeying all the more exhilarating.
    ~I love my family.  I easily get bogged down in my day-to-day.  Life doesn't magically become perfect when I pack my bags and sail away.  My husband and two cute boys are going to be there along the way.  If I can learn to make the most of the time I have here with them, they'll make sure we live life to the fullest when they're out there (wherever there may be) with me. And that is all I'm hoping for.

And lastly:

    ~Don't leave the backpack carrier in the car at home!


Ms. Sarah said...

I love it. We are stationed in Germany for three years. We are excited to take our kids these places. Whats the one thing the movers lost our wagon. We will start the order for that soon. Happy travels

KY said...

Hi there! Stopping by via FTLOB. I always love finding travel blogs - I'm currently living in Germany and look forward to learning more about your journeys :)

b. lee said...

really enjoyed ur story down memory lane * what an exhilarating; brave journey :) my back began to ache just at the thought of a 6 wk trip with no carrier ~ stopping by from FTLOB ;)

No. 7 said...

I love stories like this. I can just imagine the gesturing attempts to explain baby and backpack. I laughed when you wrote that you still have no idea what you paid for the backpack. I can see myself doing the same thing.

What wonderful memories you will have!

Katie said...

I came over from Lovely Comment day at FTLOB and found myself wrapped into your posts. I love this story and all the lessons learned. Your little one is such a cutie! I'm now following and hope you'll stop bye to say hello sometime!


Stephanie said...

Neat story! I'd love to travel to Europe some day.


Michelle said...

Thanks for all the comments on this post today! After I wrote it I felt so invigorated. Travel writing brings out my passion. It felt good to do it again, and your connections have reaffirmed it in me!

Laura Lynn said...

I love it!

Thanks for the comment on my blog. I feel the same, we tell the kids that malls and waterparks are "Anywhere USA" so let's take in other sights...

We are the same way - we take our kids everywhere! I see people roll their eyes when we get on a plane, praying we don't sit by them I am sure. But after each trip, so many people come up to us and commend the kids for their good behavior. I tell people all the time that kids will get used to it so just do it.

You can find nice people in France! We met some nice people in Normandy. In Paris, they weren't too nice but that was part of the experience, haha!

Cara (aka Temberton) said...

Never did live in Germany, but I did live in Japan. :)

New follower from the "Love My Friends" hop.

Ross said...

I remember adopting my daughter and going to get her in China. The backpack was a vital piece of equipment for us! I look forward to visiting your site more often.

Michelle said...

Sarah wrote: "I distinctly remember the day you set off to find this pack and how relieved we all were when you appeared later that evening wearing it!"

Amanda Kendle said...

Saw your comment on my Vagabondish post on reverse culture shock and thought I'd stop by - I've got a 10-month-old and we've travelled with him once (at 4 months - Australia to Germany) but that was easy - he couldn't move! Your post has given me some hope that we will get a bigger trip in sooner than I thought!

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