The Trip So Far: More Honest Reflections
Here we go, Round 2 of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of overland travel! Here is Round 1.
The Very Good After a bit of a delay, we were finally able to leave Panama. Hello South America!! We are happily ensconced in a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. Our truck is safely stowed in a cargo container aboard a ship that sailed from Colon (Panama) and we’ve been tracking it as it lumbers our way. The process of extracting one’s vehicle from Colombian customs can take anywhere from 1.5 – 5 days; we’re hoping to be on the shorter end of that timeline. Without going into many details at this time, we’ll just say that last few days were quite stressful, especially for poor Chris who got the lion’s share of the truck drama.
The Good Last week in Bocas del Toro was our very best week of the entire trip because Chris’ parents joined us for an extended stay. It was a lovely visit for the entire family.
The Bad We miss them. I can tell we’re all feeling a bit down since they left.
We’re also suffering from currency whiplash as we’ve traveled through countries in quick succession. The amount of math we’ve done on this trip is fantastically mind-boggling. In Mexico the conversion was 17MDX:$1USD, Guatemala 7:$1USD, Honduras 23;$1USD, Nicraragua 30:$1USD, Costa Rica 569:$1USD, Panama (easy!! They use US dollars!!) and now Colombia 3,000:$1USD. At the very least, Ben is getting great math lessons.
The Ugly Ugly is much too strong a word, really. Honestly, it’s the same thing we’ve battled the entire trip: no time or space to be anything but parents. I enjoy being a person of many hats: an individual, a partner, and a mom, but this trip hasn’t allowed for anything but the parent role*. Both Chris and I are feeling it. It’s not a complaint, just a an acknowledgement that we’re struggling for ‘me’ and ‘us’ time. Bob and Cherie took the kids on several occasions and it was lovely. We joke that we’re going to send the kids off to a month-long summer camp the minute we set foot in the States.
Otherwise we are thrilled to be in South America and beginning the next chapter of this wild and crazy adventure. Hopefully we’ll hit some slightly cooler weather as we head south; walking in Cartagena is like being enveloped in a hot, moist body sponge. 🙂
*I feel like I owe you a more complete explanation in regards to the travelling parent role. It isn’t just the lack of personal time, which, for a serious introvert, is tough enough. It’s the fact that travel constantly presents a new set of circumstances that you have to actively address. For example, our hotel room is on the 7th floor and has a very low balcony rail. The thought of either kid getting close to that rail is giving me nightmares. So we’re having to have The Talk about staying away from the edge and to watch that they’re following through on that understanding (Because, you know, Emma is 3 and listens about as well as a spastic kitten hopped up on catnip. As in NOT AT ALL).
Consequently, as a family in ever-changing situations, you’re always on guard and watchful of new circumstances. It’s monitoring the balcony rail, or learning that the shower water is scalding hot, or that in a particular city nobody stops for pedestrians in cross walks, or that the dog on the corner (every corner!) isn’t friendly. In Alaska it was keeping half an eye open for bears or moose that might stumble into camp. In Costa Rica it was pit vipers and biting ants.
There is no place that feels completely obstacle-free and safe. Except, of course, your home, which is several thousand miles away. It’s this aspect that makes travel with kids tough for parents, and I’d say more so for international travel. And doubly so if the children are young, obstinate little imps (cough, cough, like mine). I wonder if our outlook would change if we had a large camper (with personal space) or if we were doing very slow travel (with the option of creating that comfortable base where all circumstances are known and addressed). Who knows.
I don’t mean this as a complaint. Far from it! If we were having a miserable time we’d have turned around ages ago. Besides, we went on this adventure with the express purpose of spending more time with our kids. But the double whammy of no free time plus constant vigilance to changing circumstances (and how draining that is for parents of young children) has been challenging at times. As my best friend J says: “Parenting, it ain’t for sissies”.
Ain’t that the truth. 🙂