It is still my plan to live abroad, in a Spanish speaking country, with my kids for a year or two. I almost wrote “goal,” but the words we use are important. This is a plan, not a goal. It isn’t on my bucket list, it’s something I expect will happen.
It is also my plan to travel with my kids to Spanish speaking countries for a few summers before we live abroad. Last summer I thought that 2018 would be a good first time to take them to a Spanish speaking country. Then the bed bug situation happened and I accepted the fact that my traveling money was going to be spent treating our tenant’s unit, if not our whole house. I let go of the idea of traveling abroad with them this coming summer, and I must admit I felt a significant amount of relief.
Then I did some thoughtful reflecting on 2017 and realized traveling to Ecuador was absolutely the highlight of the year, not just the experience, but also the fact that I made it happen. That trip is the accomplishment I am most proud of from 2017.
I let all that germinate for the first week of the break. Right before the new year I decided, tentatively, that the summer trip was back on. I didn’t feel super excited about it, but I recognized that it was important for me to at least try to make it happen.
The first step was getting the kids’ passports ordered, and I’m so glad I thought to do that over the break because it would have been a total PITA to get all four of us to a passport office during business hours.
The next step was to decide on a place to visit. I knew I couldn’t do all the work necessary to make this trip happen if I wasn’t at least a little excited about going. I first narrowed the destination down to Central America, because it’s closer, and cheaper to fly to, than South America. Then I took Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica out of the running because I’m still weary of traveling in the parts of Mexico I’d like to visit, I’ve been to Guatemala twice, and I want to save Costa Rica for when they can do the zip lines and white water rafting (and I’ve been there twice as well). Finally, I borrowed a bunch of Central America travel guides from the library and read about all the countries that were left.
Of them, I landed on Nicaragua and Panamá as possible destinations, and ultimately decided on Nicaragua because (a) it’s cheaper than Panamá, which uses the dollar, (b) it’s really hard to travel there without speaking Spanish (so we’ll need to use our Spanish!), and (c) it sounds fucking awesome. Nicaragua was not much of a travel destination–with that pesky Contra War in the 80’s–but now that it’s experiencing a period of relative political stability, the tourism industry is picking up. Nicaragua has volcanoes, coasts on the Pacific and Caribbean, and some amazing lakes. Since my biggest goal on this trip (besides speaking Spanish) is to get in the water on the cheap, Nicaragua seems like a great option.
My plan right now is to be there for three weeks–my husband with us for one–toward the end of July/beginning of August (when the rainy season is a little less rainy). I have a general area in mind, with some specific places I hope to visit, but otherwise I have no idea where I’m staying or what I’m doing.
The one thing I am certain of, is that this trip is not going to be the three (or four) of us prancing around pristine beaches, soaking up the sun. I know it’s going to be a roller coaster of highs and lows, and that I’m going to have to take a TON of crap from my kids. I’m not planning this trip to relax, or get away from it all. I’m doing it to have an experience with my kids that will force us all to grow and gain perspective, and that ultimately I will learn from. If I go into it hoping to gain experience traveling internationally with my kids, I will appreciate the trip no matter what happens. Ultimately I’d love to feel more confident traveling with them after this, but even that feels like a high bar to set. Mostly I just want to do it, to show myself that I can. That, I have some control over.
So, I’m going to Nicaragua this summer. I’ll let you know how the planning goes.
Have you ever traveled internationally with kids? Any words of wisdom?