Italy and Slovenia: Here we come!
I have always wanted to spend an extended period of time in Europe but never considered that it might actually happen. There have always been too many “things to do” and “too much work to be done.” However, over the last few years, my husband, Brian, and I have made a lot of changes in our lives and have realized that there is more to life than just working all of the time – let me repeat that. There is more to life than working all of the time! I said that again for me, not you!
Luckily, because of many of the changes we have made, Brian works for a company that gives him an eight-week sabbatical every five years, and I now work for myself. That’s another great decision I made that I never thought I would!
It took us several months to plan our trip. We spent many evenings and weekend nap times researching where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. Slowly, we booked our flights, hotels, Airbnb apartments or houses and even some train tickets. We got our son, Andy, his first passport a few months ahead of time and let his Montessori school know we would be gone for an extended amount of time. We set up boarding at our favorite place for our Weimaraner, Austin (lovingly called Aussie by Andy).
Then, at the beginning of the year, Brian and I decided to sign up for a continuing education class: 16 weeks of Italiano. Honestly, I still have no idea if I am speaking Italiano or Spanish most of the time! I didn’t even realize I knew so much Spanish until I would answer questions in class in Spanish! Thank goodness our teacher was both understanding and fantastic. Despite my continued difficulty with speaking, she encouraged me to continue. Brian picked it up much more easily than I did! At least one of us will be able to communicate. I found it difficult to study while working, running a business and having a family. Many of the people in our class were retired, and boy were they ringers! Even so, I am glad we did it and hope it helps us along the way.
Although Brian and I have traveled extensively in Europe, we have never been away on vacation for so long, and this will be the first time we will be traveling with a child – not just any child, but an amazing, hysterical, energetic and absolutely wild three-year-old!
The task of packing for six weeks in Europe for a family of three is overwhelming at best. A friend of mine had a spreadsheet he and his wife used whenever they traveled, so I copied it and modified it for my family. I can’t tell you what a big difference it made. I was able to lay out everything we needed in our guest room more than a week ahead of time and then double and triple check it against the list. He had many things on the list, like adaptors and vitamins, that I probably would have forgotten.
Besides the typical packing items one would expect, like passports, underwear, clothes and toiletries, we had to make sure we had plenty for Andy to do along the way. Andy’s teacher made him a book of activities for him to work on while we are away, and my sister-in-law sent us a whole bunch of educational puzzles, games and activities for him to do on the plane, at night and on trains. I can’t wait to see how he does with them all. In addition to educational games, my adopted moms Naomi and Holly sent him special earphones for children that resemble the Bose headphones adults use, reusable sticker books, a reusable coloring book and his favorite PAW Patrol action figures! Then a week before we left we downloaded a couple of episodes of PAW Patrol and a few movies in case of emergency. We also packed his travel blanket (it is a small down comforter that fits in a stuff sack, making it easy to pack/carry) that we have brought on planes since he was a baby and two stuffed animals “Other Buddy” (great name right!?) and “Panda Baby.”
A few days before we left, we heard that Hurricane Irma was on its way to Florida. We were scheduled to fly out on Sunday evening, and the hurricane was supposed to hit GA as a tropical storm on Sunday or Monday! This, of course, added to our list of things we needed to get done before leaving. We took all of our furniture and glassware off of the back porch and all of our outdoor furniture out of our yard and put everything in our shed. Then, we closed all of the interior doors to decrease the pressure inside the house. We asked our neighbors to look after our house, take in our mail and let us know if anything happened. Then, we crossed our fingers and ran out the door to the airport! Talk about the perfect time to leave!
Now, we are on our way to Italy and Slovenia for six whole weeks! I can hardly contain my excitement as I write. We made it out of Atlanta without delay and are in the air! I hope that our house is still intact when we get back!
We got an evening flight so that Andy would sleep. We let him watch a few shows on his iPad and then put him in his PJs. We got out his travel blanket and animals, and he slept nearly the entire way - he woke up 1.5 hours prior to arriving to Rome. Success!
Getting ready for this trip has been a struggle for me. I have been so excited to go, but it was a lot of work to get to this point. I have been working on being present in everything I do and not putting too many things on my “to do list” for a long time. However, there were many points in the last few months, especially the last month, that I lost sight of these goals. I would work until late at night and be exhausted the next day, I would add patients to my schedule to make sure they got in and I honestly did far too much. The week before we left I finally realized I had made myself so overwhelmed that I wasn’t enjoying the planning anymore. I stopped adding patients to my schedule, I went to bed early, I meditated and I went for walks…I took care of myself.
Why is it that we tend to do this to ourselves every time we are about to go away? It seems counterintuitive to get all wound up and exhausted just so we can relax.
If I could take anything back about the process so far, it would be to stop and breathe more. I would make sure I still gave myself time to meditate and to go to bed early. I would not only enjoy the vacation but also the process of getting ready for this trip.