We survived! Last month my husband and I made our first overseas journey back to the U.S. with our new daughter, Eva.
It was a cold and rainy season to go to the Pacific Northwest, but it didn’t matter because we were cozy inside with lots of visits, introducing Eva to family and friends.
Maybe every trip we take is transformative in one way or another, but this one stands out to me. It had a clear Before and After.
On our trip, Eva turned six months. Perhaps I’ll look back later and realize that six months is simply a magical, charming age for babies (I suspect it is), and that’s why our trip was so special.
But I know that there was something else important happening for us as a family too.
My husband and I had a difficult start as parents. Maybe our experience isn't exceptional among new parents, but still, we were pressed to our limits. Eva was fine, but I grappled with ongoing health problems that affected us all.
We leaned into one another and, with some outside help, we finally made it through.
I regained my health. Meanwhile our daughter grew out of that particularly desperate newborn phase, we started getting more sleep, and began to feel more normal.
My husband and I had stuck together and found our way, and we could feel proud of that.
Yet stress was still high around our house, especially right before we left. Eva's first trip by plane would be 15 hours in the air, and something like 24 hours door-to-door. We’d be gone nearly three weeks. Both of us worried about how it would go -- and even if we should go.
Fortunately, my veteran traveler friends with kids were reassuring. The best piece of advice I got was: “Your baby will adapt quicker than you, don't worry!”
I liked hearing that: the reminder that although I might be much better at analyzing a situation and foreseeing problems, my tiny daughter might actually be better at adjusting to it.
Plus, it turned out to be true. We didn’t need to worry about Eva.
After a miraculously problem-free flight, she grinned gamely at everyone as we disembarked the plane, as if she knew we were on our way to adventure. Then, when my sister arrived to pick us up with an oversize (that is, American-sized) car seat for Eva, she settled happily into her new throne and drifted to sleep.
My husband and I relaxed. We relaxed into the warm company of our friends and family, and all their children. Eva was held and entertained by them all, as we got to visit and catch up with everyone’s news.
We expected our trip to have a low-key baby pace, but we were energized by our visits. We ended up staying with seven different sets of friends and family in 20 days.
Seeing Eva adapt to our pace was gratifying. We relished our new experiences together.
It was a good reminder for me that overcoming hardship together is not the only way -- or even the most important way -- that we strengthen our relationships. Having fun together healed us, connected us, and boosted our confidence.
It meant so much because we want to be a family who travels together.
I notice again and again, in my own life and in coaching, that we experience the biggest payoffs in our confidence and satisfaction when we do something that truly lives up to our ideals of who we want to be in this life.
Last night my husband told me that he’d received a Couchsurfing request from a couple who wants to stay a few days with us. They happen to have a baby too.
It’s always special for me and my husband to host Couchsurfers, because it’s a way to "travel" while staying home, and because it’s how we met. Hosting people always takes us back to that happy, lucky time.
Yet for the last year or so, while we've been busy with work and getting ready to be new parents, we set it aside. It’s been easy to say, “No, we don’t have time. We’re too busy that weekend.” (Or, even more compellingly, “It’s too much trouble to clean the house.”)
When my husband told me about these guests, those thoughts crossed my mind.
He knew what I was thinking. Hesitantly, he added, “Plus, it would be on your birthday weekend.”
I knew from our trip how much Eva loved being around other children. I knew how much my husband and I would enjoy visiting with other travelers.
"Tell them yes," I said. I couldn’t think of a better birthday weekend.
Have you ever had a trip with a clear Before and After? How has travel healed or changed you? I'd love to hear your experience, if you'd like to leave a note here.