Leaving Home to Go Home, Part 1 of 3

This post is the first of a 3-part essay from my wife, who submitted it to a popular Canadian magazine. (They declined, so I piped up “I’ll take it!”)
Whenever we flew to visit her family in Canada from our (former) home in Prague, the trip ordeal was…well, worthy of sharing! Without further ado, here’s my wife’s ‘guest post.’

To be honest, I was terrified. I was preparing to spend over 10 hours in a cramped, enclosed space with my two young children and a bunch of strangers. And I was doing this willingly. Why?

Because I wanted to go home.

Travelling with children is never easy, but for the stay-at-home parent, living abroad, there are some added challenges.

For many expat families, making the long journey home is a yearly or even twice yearly event. One parent is often able to travel with the children for a longer period of time, usually 4 to 6 weeks, while the other parent joins them for only the beginning or final 1 to 2 weeks. This means that one parent must make the flight alone with the children in at least one direction. Yikes! For me, this meant 15 hours of travel time from initial departure to final landing….three flights in total with the longest being 7 hours in the air.

Our solution:
1) Plan, plan and plan some more. Think about how you will make your connections. This meant I brought our double-stroller, even though I wouldn’t need it once I landed in Canada. It gave me the flexibility and comfort of knowing I could throw both kids in it and go if I needed to get quickly to a gate. I also put lots of time into packing our carry-ons. I opted to have one that held diapers and changes of clothes, that I could store overhead until I needed it. The other was full of snacks, toys, and other distractions that I kept close at hand.

2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – from flight attendants and fellow passengers. And certainly don’t turn down help that is offered to you. In my case, I was really dreading the third and final leg of our flight, which saw us backtracking from Montreal to Halifax. While talking to my folks about it, my father offered to meet me in Montreal. After some humming and hawing, I said, “Yes! Please!”. And boy, am I glad I did. My father, in turn, liked being the first one to see the three of us and getting us all to himself, as well as the opportunity to help his grown daughter.

3) Be thick-skinned. There will be people who are impatient and really don’t understand what you are going through. Ignore them. There are many more wonderful people out there willing to give you a hand.

4) Set your expectations low….very, very low. In other words, actually arriving at the destination safely is your measure of success, regardless of what you endured to get there.

Jeff back here. That’s the first part; hope you enjoyed it. Perhaps you even can relate. Write your comment below and let us know.
Look for Part 2 coming soon!

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An American who likes to move around. I now live on the eastern Canadian seaboard. My job? A stay-at-home dad for two cute but demanding bosses. My wife? Also cute; not so demanding. My wife and I both love travel. We met in South Korea, travelled across Australia, India, Europe and beyond. We lived in Czech Republic for four years. Many stories to tell and experience to share. If you let me, I will help you travel as we do. Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Leaving Home to Go Home, Part 1 of 3”

  1. My parents took me and my two sisters lots of places when we were younger. In fact, none of us has traveled much since we were teenagers. (I’m just about to change all that. But that’s for another time!) When I reflect on the logistics of herding all three of us to Russia and back, even though we were a bit older than your kids, I still marvel at the guts it took. At the time, I just trusted them implicitly to get me where I needed to go, and took it all in stride. Sure, taking a nap on our bags in the airport while waiting for a connecting flight was a drag, but we knew that our parents knew what they were doing. In retrospect, I bet they felt totally out of control most of the time. I can’t believe you took on the task by yourself–impressive!

    The part about setting low expectations is a universal truth, kids or no. I constantly need to remind myself that it’s an adventure, and that while I’ve done my homework, all that means is I’ll be equipped to put a backup plan in place once my gleaming, like-clockwork scheme falls apart.

    Just wondering: are you and your husband both planners and researchers, or is one of you more prone to it than the other? I am the information-gatherer in my marriage, and I’m curious to hear from others who have navigated a relocation with one partner who is totally committed to idea and act of moving, but less interested in all the details that constitute the run-up to moving.

    Ok, time to close the book on this comment already!

    1. Hi Jessi,

      Thanks so much for your comment. We also travelled a lot as kids and I have a whole new appreciation for what my parents went through.

      As for the planning/research question, I think it is common in any relationship to have one person who takes on that role more than the other. In our household, I would say that I am more the natural planner. My career in project management has made that role even more pronounced as I can hardly stop myself from planning and organizing everyone and everything around me!

      That said, our comfort with travel allows us to make trips with less planning that many people need to feel comfortable. And, over time, our different interests and roles within our family have resulted in Jeff taking on certain planning initiatives, while I fulfill others. For example, Jeff is definitely more of the longterm financial planner than I am and so he handled the bulk of our banking/finances during our time in Prague. Whereas when it came to moving house, I made more decisions regarding store/ship/sell. Perhaps you could find something that your husband is interested in and “assign” that research/planning project to him?

      Hope this helps!

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