Let me begin with some context and qualifications: I love traveling with my children. They are engaged with their surroundings, inquisitive, thoughtful and they have a great deal of strength and stamina. Rarely do they complain about long travel or sightseeing days and when they do, it’s for a good reason like they are starving or their legs are so tired they are about to fall off. We have done a couple of overnight international flights–by far the most difficult flights because you’re only on the plane for 5-6 hours so you really can’t sleep which means when you land in whichever country you are landing in, all that’s really happened is that you’ve been up all night. It’s hard on me so it’s got to be doubly hard on them but, still, they have powered through these and many other difficult travel experiences with gusto, verve and aplomb. They are polite and gracious to strangers. They have gone for long stretches of time without food or water–because that’s just what happens sometimes when you are traveling–and being vegetarian makes it even more difficult, sometimes, to eat when people are hungry. They are frequently in bed late and up early the next day, and they manage this lack of sleep with incredible fortitude. In short, I can’t expect anything else from my children in regards to our travels so far.
That said, sometimes is just a !@#$% pain in the %^&* traveling with children. It makes me want to (*#%^ scream.
Much of the frustration I feel is compounded by where we are. We’ve spent the last four days, for instance, in Tokyo, a city that is like New York City on steroids, if you can imagine that.
So, if Sujata and I were on our own, here, we’d be fine. We’d go to visit museums and shop during the day, come back to our air b and b then go have a drink (Japanese whiskey is amazing), a nice dinner and then hit a jazz club after that. We’d walk hand in hand down the bustling streets, smiling at all the life and movement, staring up at the amazing verticality of this city and gazing down the neon streets at night.
We, of course, do some of those things, but they are all peppered with moments that are punctuated with one or both of us shouting or whispering in a hard voice, “Hey, don’t walk in front of me!” Or, “Could you please not swing your arms back and forth and to the sides like you are doing jumping jacks?” Or, “Would you please lift your head up and look in front of you–you are running into people and they are giving us dirty looks!” Or, “No, I’m sorry but I can’t repeat, what I just asked your mother. It really doesn’t concern you.” Or, “Do you see Japanese children behaving the way you are behaving right now?”
Sujata summed it up best when she said, “They drive you nuts, but they are so great.”
I should say, though, that sometimes I’m not much better than the kids. I am, happily, able to walk a straight line on the streets of Tokyo and, up until now, I have refrained from flailing my arms around and bouncing them off passersby. I generally don’t fall from standing positions, drop all forms of coins and glasses, blow bubbles in my water, shout weird things in public, like I have Tourette’s, or knock over dishes and cups in restaurants.
But, I do get grumpy, say stupid things to Sujata, complain about things I shouldn’t complain about and wait too long to eat or drink, thereby increasing the possibility of me doing all of the weird things the kids do.
And, since Sujata has planned, and continues to plan, the bulk of this trip–she researched and purchased all the plane tickets, all of our hotels and air b and b stays, she is masterful at using Google maps and she generally finds us places to eat–my major mode of communication her is in the nature of questions, as in:
“Sujata, where are we going tomorrow?”
“Sujata, where are we eating dinner?”
“Sujata, where is a bathroom?”
“Sujata, how do you make an international call?
She, god bless her, takes it all in stride (mostly).
The point here, if there is one, is that traveling changes everything. You gain a lot of control of your life because you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything that you don’t want to do. I, for instance, haven’t sat in a stupid, unproductive ‘meeting’ in over six months and I feel all the better for that. At the same time, you lose control of a lot of things: I don’t always know where we’ll eat our next meal, sometimes it takes a couple of hours in the morning before I can find a cup of coffee, I haven’t gone for a swim in weeks because I don’t have access to pools, I haven’t touched a piano in weeks, it took us about three times longer to get home tonight than I imagined . . . All that said, for now, I’m enjoying the uncertainty and the wackiness of it all. We’ll see how long that lasts . . .