What I’ve Lost and Gained by Not Traveling

not traveling teddy bears in the window

When a family with wanderlust is grounded by the pandemic, a mom looks deeper to find what she’s gained by not traveling.

In January, I was celebrating my birthday in London and Paris with my family, a first transatlantic trip for my kids.  We visited the Louvre, ate at numerous cafes, toured Westminster Abbey, walked through the Borough Market, and rode the Tube from destination to destination.  Sure it was exhausting, but exposing my children to the world is so important to me.  People look differently, speak differently, eat differently, and pray differently, landscapes and climates are different and it is all OK.  It’s great in fact! It is what makes the world worth exploring.  Those differences, I think, are exciting and are what teach us to respect and appreciate life. 

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Just a few short weeks after our return, the world changed.  It shut down.  Now the only parts of the world we see are within the boundaries of our house and yard with the exception of a weekly virtual field trip that we take as part of our new “school”.  

not traveling two girls sitting in the backyard

Soon, my kids will be graduating from the School of Mommy (for now), and I couldn’t be more proud and more relieved.  This is a school where we all are trying our best…art is sometimes conducted outside on the sidewalk, PE is done on a scooter, and we offer a culinary arts program as well as a class in horticulture.  I wish we could have their last day at their actual school, hug their teacher, and celebrate with friends.  I wish we could take the vacation that we had planned, enjoy some time away and some meals outside of the house.  I miss traveling and I want to see the world outside of my backyard!  I want to see snow-covered mountain tops.  I want to stick my toes in the sand and feel the salty breeze off the ocean hitting my face.  I want to go explore a city, walk through a museum, and sit down at a restaurant. 

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I can’t wait for the day that I hear my alarm go off at 3 am so that I can get ready to go to the airport.  I look forward to standing in line to go through security.  I will happily wait while TSA inspects the numerous snacks that I brought for my kids.  I will happily take out all the electronics and place them in separate bins and I will have patience while the people in front of me do the same.  I look forward to having McDonald’s and sitting at the gate, uncomfortably eating breakfast while excitedly anticipating the adventure ahead. I won’t mind waiting for my husband to pick out the perfect rental car and I long to check in to the hotel before heading to the lobby for a cocktail.

two girls walking down a sidewalk not traveling

I look forward to sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a meal that I don’t have to prepare, that is cooked in a kitchen that I don’t have to clean, all on dishes that I don’t have to wash.  I want to choose my meal, not based on what I found at the grocery store but what sounds good to my taste buds.  While I used to be frustrated with the coloring sheets and crayons spread out on the table to entertain my kids, I will gladly have as many coloring sheets as they want so that I can sit, sip a cocktail, peruse the wine menu, and relax a little longer while we order dessert. When that meal is all through and I am sufficiently satisfied, I will be so grateful for it all to be taken away without me having to lift a single finger.  

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Yes, I am concerned about the health and safety of our family and friends.  I’m also concerned about our economy and our country’s ability to recover.  I teeter between never wanting contact with another human being outside my house again and wanting to hug the people in the grocery store.  I have days where I am frustrated, disappointed, scared, and exhausted mixed with moments where I feel secure, happy, and inspired.  It’s all OK, I think, to feel however you feel.  We are not stuck at home, we are safe at home.  We are making the best of things with what we already have. 

two girls playing with buckets and dirt not traveling

We are eating well thanks to my husband’s passion for trying new recipes that I find way too complicated. We are drinking well thanks to previous over-purchases of wine, beer, and liquor that we wanted just to try. Our kids are continuing to learn and we found out that a bucket of dirt and water can be a simple tool for hours of entertainment. I do miss my family and friends. I miss my kids’ friends! I miss sitting down talking face to face with people that I love, but I will do anything to keep my kids safe, happy, and healthy.

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If this pandemic is teaching us anything it is that we can adapt…we can live with less but still do more.  Despite being thrown into teaching, we are privileged to be a part of a school community that has cared so deeply and has done everything they can to make sure our kids are continuing to learn and grow.  We will remember the time spent at home, making memories of a different kind. I am grateful for school pen pals and my children learning to write an actual letter. I am thankful for the USPS who continues to provide us with this connection. I am grateful for Zoom playdates and a 6-year-old’s ability to connect by watching each other make a paper airplane or converse through the use of stuffed animal voices.

hot tub with two kids robes not traveling

I am so thankful to family, friends, and neighbors who are checking in on us.  I’m thankful for our backyard oasis and the countless dinners we ate on our patio in the past 2 months, more so than we have had in years combined.  Our adventures outside the house have included bear hunts in the neighborhood and riding bikes in the street since there is little to no traffic. We have had spa days in the master bathroom and watch Cirque du Soleil from our couch. 

Yes, I want to travel again, to take my kids and go see the world, and we will. But for now, I will focus on being their world.

mandy sullivanMandy Sullivan attended Northern Illinois University for Kinesiology with an emphasis in Athletic Training.  After working for years in a physical therapy office and traveling every chance she got, Mandy decided to leave the medical field and pursue her interest in food and travel.  While the pace of travel and eating out may have changed now that she and her husband have 4 year-old twin girls, they still have fun seeing new places and trying new things. Check out her website and blog at www.vacationfoodtours.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.