Traveling = Happiness

I’ve had this post started in my drafts since last June, and there it has languished until now. Rebecca of Girl’s Gone Child had just posted about their first out-of-state family trip with all four kids, and beyond the great pictures, this line really struck me:

I still have to download all the photos from The Cape and unravel all of those stories as well. In the meantime, I’m plotting our next sojourn. Because travel is everything. It’s my happy place. Even with its challenges and moments of stress and insanity, travel is where eyes are opened and monotony is broken and sippy cups are lost and routine is destroyed and oh what a wonderful thing. It’s where new places are discovered and people are known and moments are collected and kept. And two and a half years between trips is far too long.

This resounds with me. Travel…it makes me happy. I used to travel a lot, and every other year from 2000 to 2010, I managed to take an international trip to somewhere amazing and fun. Australia, Europe, Jamaica, Norway – all beautiful, inspiring places. I even lived in France for awhile in 2002 & 2004! I swore I wouldn’t let having kids change that, but then 2012 came and went without a trip, and yeah… kids changed that.

Don’t get me wrong – I still try to be impulsive and buy that last minute plane ticket and get the heck out of dodge. It’s just that now I’m juggling job responsibilities and parenting responsibilities and the never ending bills, and somehow the 28 flights over 7 trips that I’ve taken with my daughter in the past two years (full disclaimer – paid for almost entirely by my parent’s air miles to visit my family back in MN) don’t feel like enough.

To be perfectly honest, travel is another component of what I’m struggling with regarding working after this little man is born. Realistically, I just don’t see how we can cut that money from our monthly budget to make the SAHM gig work & pay our bills, and beyond that, I’m afraid that with the loss of our second income will also go our freedom to take trips from time to time. I know that logistically it gets harder to travel with more kids, but like Rebecca’s post above shows, it’s not impossible, and I have every intention to travel as much as I can, even with two kids. I think it’s hugely beneficial for children to expand their horizons and see that we don’t all live the same way and that’s okay. However, financially… I’m just not sure how to make it happen, especially if I give up the meager income I currently bring home in a month.

Does that sound whiny? Sorry, yes, I get that these are first world problems. Traveling is also at the core of me, and it’s a huge source of happiness and contentment in my life. I gave up grad school and a hopeful career in international business to marry my husband, live in a town of 1,000 people, work a “making-ends-meet” kind of job and raise my kids. Yes, I’m happy. Yes, I chose that path. But still…


When Stella was 9 months old she had her first overnight at Nana’s house. I was pretty much forced into it by my MIL and husband, and I was NOT happy about it (about the physical time apart or the prospect of pumping in the middle of the night) . That being said, Charlie and I ended up having an awesome night out together, and though I had my sad moments during those 18 hours apart (and hated having to pump!), I ended up being happy with the experience and that we had done it. We slowly started letting her do overnights at Nana and Papa’s house once a month or so after that, and now it’s up to once a week. Every Wednesday night Nana picks Stella up from daycare after work and brings her up to their house about 15 minutes away. They have a grand ole’ time together, Charlie and I get a night off from parenting, and Nana keeps her all day on Thursday for us while we’re at work. Yes, I realize this is a huge blessing!

This time around, little man will be about 9 months old when Charlie and I plan to leave him for a 3-4 DAY weekend trip next September. EEK! I’m a little nervous thinking about it (especially because of the nursing/pumping logistics), but really, I know we need this. Charlie and I haven’t had a trip together – just the 2 of us – since our Honeymoon to Jamaica 5+ years ago. That means it will have been SIX YEARS between fun vacations for us – that is way, ridiculously too long. One of my very first blog friends is getting married, and we plan on flying out to STL for the Friday wedding, going to a Cardinals baseball game on Saturday, possibly getting tattoos on Sunday, and flying home. Fun, right? 🙂 I’m trying to forget about the fact that it will be a long time away from my baby (and toddler), because I know that getting some great time together to recharge and have fun together sans kiddos is so important.


Here are my traveling hopes for the future. 

I want to travel with JUST my husband more. I need to remind myself that it doesn’t have to be a grand international trip – it can be a quick trip to visit friends or a staycation somewhere close, but we need to start carving out more time for us as a couple to spend time together.

I want to continue to travel with my kids. Yes, we’ve done quite a bit of traveling with Stella (5 trips to MN, 1 to St. Louis, and 1 to Chicago), but I don’t want to let that lapse once there’s two kids to corral.

I want to take more non-extended family related trips. I LOVE visiting my family in MN, but sometimes it feels like all of our vacation days are used up to go to the same place over and over again, and I want to take my kids to NEW places. I want to do things like take 4 day weekend rafting trips or visit a national park in the area. I want to find activities to do together as a family that don’t necessarily involve a ton of plane travel.

I want to be happy with where I live and the path I chose for my life, and intimately involved with that is getting to a place of contentment with my life and remembering that I’m not stuck here – I chose to be here. I can still go places and do things, and most importantly – be thankful for where I get to come home to at the end of the trip.


In LA at my first blog meet-up, September 2010. This is where I met Ann IRL for the 1st time! (my blog friend whose wedding I’m going to in September 2014)


  1. I’m lucky enough that I get to travel a lot for work — and when you live in Europe, travel usually means another country! I made a pact with myself that having Gwen wouldn’t substantially change that, and I’ve been proud to say that that has been the case. We hit 13 countries in her first 13 months, and though we’ve fallen off track a bit, we’ve still done 18 in 24 months (and many of those countries we’ve been to 2, 3, 4 times or more). The down side is that there is some travel I do I can’t do with her — going to Nepal next week is going to be many parts amazing and a few parts horrifyingly sad since I won’t be there for her 2nd birthday on Monday. But I look forward to much to when she is older and getting to bring her along on some more of these trips as special mother-daughter things. I hope she enjoys it as much as I enjoy looking forward to it!

  2. I grew up vacationing annually with my family. I have been all over the east coast. I also want that for Ava. Now our vacations consist of going home to PA where both of our parents live. It stinks because that ‘vacation’ is spent trying to make sure each family gets ample time with Ava. We also have started odd years Ben’s whole family gets a beach house for the week in OBX and my family does something on even years. This allows the family to get one whole week all by themselves with Ava. It is great. I recommend trying to find a place that multi family or even friends can go and split the lodging cost. This summer it was less than $1,500 for us to get the beach house with Ben’s family and that includes meals, gas, lodging, and souvenirs.

    As far as Ben/I trips – yeah that hasn’t happened since 2005! We went to Mexico it was an experience with missed flights, missed boat ferries, lack of sleep, and spending a day at the airport bar! But we got engaged so it wasn’t all that bad! Now, I would love to take him to Colorado for a fly fishing trip or Wisconsin too. I could go on even more… maybe I need to do a travel post… hmmm…

  3. Travel is amazing and Ray and I did a good amount of it when it was just us. We have done some decent trips since Avery has come, but I am with you. I need to make it a priority! I have reviewed our budget and come to terms with the fact that if I want to travel more we will probably be in the house we don’t love. I am struggling with realizing I don’t get everything (why not???), but finding contentment in my life is something I am working on too. Let me know if you find the secret to it!!!!

    Also, did I miss something? Are you going to quit your job instead of returning after leave?

    1. Good point about sacrificing something like house size/design in order to travel. That’s definitely lower on the priority list in my book too!

      Re: work vs. SAHM, I don’t know what the hell to do. Since I wrote that post about my daycare provider home schooling her 8 & 11 year old, I ALSO found out via Facebook that she is switching to large home daycare with at least 11 kids there each day & an additional helper she has hired. The dynamic is just changing there so quickly, and I hate that she has ABSOLUTELY FAILED at communication with all of this. Just really frustrated and not sure what to do….

      1. Wow, that is a lot of changes. That seems like she is setting herself (and others) up for failure. 11 kids, with a decent number of kids under 2 sounds like it wouldn’t fit our state guidelines? I think it is based on the youngest kid in the class and if there are under 1s in there the max is 4 per adult. Unless there are separate classrooms for each age group?

        1. Our state is only 2 kids under the age of 2 per provider, so she could have 4 kids under age 2 and the other 9 will be older (her two, which are 8 & 11, plus 7 toddler-aged).

      2. I read this too and was wondering if I missed something about you not going back to work. I read your first post about the daycare situation and I did not envy you one bit. Major rock and a hard place there!

        Either way, I’m keeping you in my thoughts that you get some clarity on what will be best for your and your family.

  4. I am so excited you guys are going to come out for the wedding!!! I really cannot wait to see you. Seriously. 🙂

    One day we should plan a trip together. Kids or no kids, let’s go somewhere!

    1. My vote is no kids, and yes, we should DEFINITELY plan a trip somewhere. I have a hunch the four of us would have a blast together. 🙂

  5. You sound like my husband. ;). I say that lovingly, of course!

    I had a serious travel big when I graduated college and moved to Chicago. I was there for 4 years and took 6 international trips – and loved it! All my spare money went to traveling back then. B never travelled as a kid (we took 2 annual trips each year growing up) and didn’t travel too much while single. Now, his EVERY happiness revolves around it, so even if it’s just a weekend to KC, I’ve made it a priority to travel every month. And he still complains that we don’t travel enough. Sigh. My point is that there is nothing selfish A) about knowing what makes you happy and B) doing what you can to make your dreams and desires a reality.

  6. Wow, once a week?! Honestly that sounds great. Great for you guys, but more than that, SO great for Stella! I used to love staying over and my grandmas’ houses and I wish my kids could do that too. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they don’t/won’t have hands on grandparents like I hoped they would.

    Now, back to the point of your post…I used to love to travel too. I would scour websites to find a cheap plane ticket to somewhere. anywhere. Then I had a panic attack on a flight during spring break in college and I have no desire to get on a plane ever again. I’ve got to change that though because I don’t want my fear of flying to affect my kids, plus I want to be able to take them places like the beach, or Disneyworld – both of which are pretty impossible living in KS and not flying.

    Hmm, STL in September…might have to “travel” with my family of four to meet your family of four. 🙂

  7. I too love traveling and when I was growing up, being an only child, my parents did a summer trip every year somewhere in the US. Nothing overseas, but it was great seeing all the different national parks, etc. My hubby’s mom hates leaving town so when he was a kid they only took 1 vacay to Kansas/Nebraska to visit a dying relative, that was it, other than that, she refused to leave the state, so even though he grew up 4-5 hours away from Yellowstone, he never visited it until after we got married. Since he’s worked contract in Antarctica a few time, so has seen parts of the world that way and now we try to take at least 1 trip every year. Last year we did Yellowstone with a 10 month old and camped, it was difficult but so worth it. This year we only did an in-state day trip to a ghost town because we are saving up money to move, so didn’t want to spend it on a trip. Our goal in the future is to do at least 1 longer trip each year somewhere in the US, and maybe when the kid/kids get older do an overseas trip when they can appreciate it more.

    With the SAHM mom issue, it is hard to pull off financially if you like to travel and it does depend on income and bills. I am one and we get by on very little each month. We never eat out, don’t buy much new at all in the way of clothes, and we manage to put away around $500 a month in savings. But for us, if I put my daughter in daycare to work and with the extra fuel cost to commute to work, I’d only be bringing home an extra $100-150 a month, and for us it just wasn’t worth it. I did work full-time for about a month this summer when my husband was off school and we set that money aside for our moving fund, since we are moving 1/2 way across the country to MN next year. My hubby is quitting teaching after this year and doing his side business full time so like you we will have variable income. One of us may eventually end up with a part-time job to supplement the income, but we won’t have any issue getting by. But to help with food costs we do not eat out at all, I cook stuff from scratch (which freezer meals are great and the crockpot too), and we go have a good sized garden that I preserve food from. I opt to can stuff, but you can easily freeze stuff too. We do however plan a trip each year somewhere in the US, but we opt to drive and camp so it is cheaper. We also try to take longer day trips at least once a month to get away from it all.

    I do feel the same way as you on wanting to take trips elsewhere and not always using vacation to visit family. My parents live just 3 hours away but they want us to visit all the time, and spending an extra $50 on a tank of gas to visit them all the time is not something we can easily afford and if my mom finds out we took a day trip elsewhere she gets upset that we didn’t come visit them instead. Plus with my hubby trying to set up his future career he needs to spend weekends and free time on that, and not taking trips to the other side of the state. I agree with another poster that maybe you should try destination trips with your family, where everyone pitches in some money. Some of my cousins do that, the whole family pitches in a set amount of money and they go to Florida or somewhere for a week and rent a house.

    The traveling bug is wonderful though. I love taking trips anywhere, I just love seeing new things!

  8. Some of my greatest memories of my childhood are travel-related– trips to MN to visit my mom’s family when I was a kid every summer, skiing weekends near our house, camping with my family, Disney World. Then when I was older, traveling in Europe or on the West Coast for two weeks. And I also have memories of my parents’ solo trips– the pictures they’d show us when they got back and the gifts they would bring.

    We’re committed to both traveling with our kids and solo every year (mostly). But we’ve set up some parameters. I don’t plan to travel internationally with our kids until Smudgie is at least 10. With so much of this country for all of us to explore, it seems silly to spend so much on expensive trips abroad that they won’t remember. Especially when I’d like to take those trips with LG and really enjoy myself! I also try not to be away from a newborn for the first year because of breastfeeding, so we won’t be getting a solo trip until next fall or winter at the earliest. I am so thankful that we took an impromptu trip to the Caribbean last February, because the memories of that time together are so sustaining.

    Because of house repairs/day care costs/my likely work and funding situation next year we’ve decided that a real family trip isn’t in the budget for this summer, which is a disappointment. Instead, we’ll visit friends in a nearby East Coast city that we can drive to and will stay in their house. I feel like that’s a decent compromise.

  9. It’s great you have something you love so much and are willing to work to make it happen for yourself, your marriage AND your family. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for letting things slip a little when they’re so teeny, tiny. You will instill a travel bug and well-rounded, well-travelled nature in them just as much by waiting until they’re 5 and 7 (or whatever age) and are easier to manage/trust when out and about. I’m definitely not saying to NOT go now if you have the means and desire, just to know you’re not doing them any disservice to wait until the logistics are a wee bit easier. Plus, you’ll more likely have more money once they’re in school and your job doesn’t depend so much on their daytime care.

    1. That’s a really good point, that they won’t remember the early years anyway. I feel bad that my kiddo has only gone on pretty tame trips so far to visit folks in far away places, but at the same time, now that she’s 5 is the only chance she’ll remember it. My sibling doesn’t remember the single family vacation we took when zie was 6 and occasionally grouches about it, but I had a great time! So maybe you figure that you have some lean, limited travel years coming up and more travel can happen when the kids are bigger. I hope you figure out how to keep travel in your life (and whatever is going to happen with childcare, it sounds so icky and I’m sorry you’re stuck for it). I think it’s really beneficial for everyone, broke or not, to see other places and know that home isn’t the only way life can exist.

  10. This topic has been on my mind a lot lately as we’re off to the UK in just over a month and that 10 hour flight has left me with this huge feeling of dread every time I think about it. But I KNOW we need to do this, travel is great for kids regardless of the whole jet lag sleeping in new places havoc that is bound to ensue. We traveled a ton before kids and we’ve vowed to continue to do it, but It really is such a challenge to do all the things we used to do before kids! Good luck with traveling without little man!!! Jett’s 15 months and I have yet to do an overnight away!

  11. I love this post! You’ve always impressed me with your ability to set goals and priorities and be so clear-headed about everything.

  12. I am like you.. I love to travel and always have. I guess that is probably how I ended up living where I am now! We do still travel internationally every year but it is never a true vacation and is always to visit family… which we LOVE.. but I do dream of just taking a real vacation trip again someday, but with my family in Canada and A’s in England and the rest of my family in Scotland.. and then our ‘foster’ family we used to live with in New York… we pretty much have to visit one of those places each trip or we will go way too long without seeing all of them. Luckily they are all pretty great places to visit 🙂 Still, we are talking about a trip to somewhere else in the caribbean in the next year or two… after Blogston 2014 of course!!! 😉

    But yeah, I really do think you need to make travel a priority again and by that I mean… come visit me!!!!

    1. I’ve seriously talked to Charlie about this! It’s on our list. 🙂

  13. Traveling is very important to me too. More important than having a car. 🙂 But, yeah, with kids it’s not so much even than travel is difficult (though it is), it’s that visiting family becomes more important than ever. I looked back over the past year recently and realized that every single one of my vacation days had gone towards visiting our families in California and New York. I’m actually not okay with that. Even a local trip (or, for heaven’s sake, staying home and taking advantage of some of what NYC has to offer) is important. S and I recently started planning a trip for just the two of us for five years from now–when we’ll feel comfortable sending the girls to my mom’s house for a week alone and when we’ll no longer be paying through the nose for childcare. It’s a long ways away, but the anticipation is fun too! You seem to already be enjoying your future trip to St. Louis. 🙂

    1. Yeah, that’s a great idea to start planning a bigger, longer trip away now. I need to do that too!

      So true that visiting family has become more important…yet I don’t want it to be the ONLY thing we do…

  14. […] – In November I took the time to write out my hopes and plans for traveling in the future because traveling really does equal happiness for me, and I also spent a little time complaining […]

  15. […] definitely flown more than most people have attempted with a baby/toddler, because to me, Traveling = Happiness. If I miss anything below, feel free to ask questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to […]

  16. […] 18 months after that in November of 2013, I wrote about my travel hopes for the future. It has always been clear to me that travel = happiness in my book. Here is an except from that […]

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