Not traveling with your kids? That’s okay, too.

I don’t know where my passport is…or when I’ll ever use it again.
I haven’t traveled overseas in 6 years. Okay, I did go to Canada five years ago, which is technically “international” travel, but it is not over an ocean, so I’m not going to count that. I didn’t need a passport. Which gets me to my point: where is my passport? I don’t know. See, for the past five years I’ve been having babies. Three beautiful, bold, brave boys. I’ve been up nights nursing and days diapering. I’ve been pushing strollers, steering tricycles, and trying to untangle the straps of yet another baby carrier (I think we have five!). I’ve worked and written and stayed up late. I’ve taken naps and colored and watched Curious George. And I haven’t had much time for globe-trotting. It took a while for me to be okay with that. To let go of the fact that I wouldn’t be sipping cappucino in the Frankfurt airport for a while, or tasting samosas in Bangalore’s Coffee Day. The last time I did that was post-marriage and pre-pregnancy (which was actually only about a one-year window of time).  My husband and I went to India to visit the nonprofit that I used to work with there, and on the way home we dropped our flight in Paris, rented a car, and drove to his childhood home in Germany.
What freedom we had, what utter lack of responsibilities! Those types of last-minute, unplanned, diversions are rarely possible for us now in our three-child, pay-all-the-bills, change-all-the-diapers, cook-all-the-food, stop-all-the-crying, sleep-all-the sleep, enjoy-all-the-moments days that we are currently living.
That trip seems like a lifetime ago. And in some ways, it was. We were different people then, with different responsibilities and different goals. Sometimes, I feel like those days of travel will never come again. In fact, I’ve kind of even forgotten what international travel is like. I know many people who travel back and forth overseas with their small children all of the time, but I am not one of them. We don’t need to travel for our jobs or to see our families, and so right now, for us, traveling with three kids under age five is not something we are longing to do. Give us a few years and hopefully we’ll rediscover the desire. But right now, I don’t know where my passport is, and that’s just fine.
Maybe I’m stuck here in this timezone for ever, but I don’t think so. I’m going with the idea that my step out of international travel is more like a long layover in the early years of parenting–and not a bad one. I guess I’m one of those weird people who actually likes layovers. I enjoy airports. I browse bookstores, read, sip coffee, try new candy, load-up at the duty free shop, and of course, people watch. If I have a few hours, I’ll find my way to a train station, bus, or taxi, and head into the city for an early morning walk or a midday brunch. On that same trip to India, my husband and I spent a Christmas Day layover roaming the streets of Rome, and a week later we spent our anniversary eating gelato and walking the boardwalk not far from Fumicino–on a layover.
Layovers can be adventures in themselves. Just like parenting small children is an adventure. Exhausting, but enjoyable. Tiresome, but truth and beauty-filled. Frustrating but fantastic. On layovers you can miss flights and sleep on benches. You can stand in lines and circle through security again and again. Just when you feel like time is standing still, you realize your clock is wrong and you have to run to catch your plane and rush to the next destination. But even if it is a challenge, a layover is still part of the journey, part of the experience, and part of the process of moving forward. I like layovers, in parenting and in travel. Small segments of time when you can do nothing else but be fully present, not only waiting for the next leg of your trip, but enjoying the moment you are in.
 So, I’ve decided I’m not going to worry about where my passport is right now. I’ll find it eventually, and when I do, I’ll be ready–and so will my kids.
Have you misplaced your passport, or have you found a way to travel with your kids? Do you miss the “freedom” of not having kids, or are you enjoying this season of life for what it is?

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Mary Grace Otis
Mary Grace is a wife, a mom of three boys, a former expat and development worker, and a freelance writer for nonprofits and businesses. She's lived in Germany and India, and traveled lots of places besides that, but she currently makes her home in the U.S., where one of her goals is to stay connected with a global view of life. She's the host of The Global Mom Show Podcast and the founder of The Global Mom website.

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