Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures.
I am taking my daughters to Barcelona for two months. The architecture and immense greatness of the medieval city will leave them awestruck. We will spend leisurely hours in cafés observing European life as it thrives around us. They will thank me for giving them the gift of foreign travel. My daughters are four-year-old twins.
We are staying in a small apartment with my best friend, her husband and their three-year-old son. But our children don't get along. My friend and I stumble around in a state of bewilderment, struggling to accept the possibility that motherhood does not lend itself kindly to our decades-old friendship. It is a humbling reality that neither of us welcomes graciously.
The girls and I spend the first two weeks adjusting. In a desperate act to eliminate battle No. 1: Going For A Walk, I rent a double stroller. My best friend has spent a year navigating the narrow streets, and wants to show off her new city. On our first outing she rolls her ankle and spends the next week icing an inflamed Achilles heel.
Exit my only adult company and strongest link to sanity.
I navigate the stroller past restaurants and shops where I would have, in my childless years, spent gluttonous quantities of time, devouring plates of foreign delights, rummaging through antiquated rooms of splendour, all the while thinking how much I love my life right now.
These days I get excited when I have to use the washroom: it means I can be alone for two minutes.
I remind myself of how much I love my life right now.
Strangely, I don't feel satisfied with our touristic efforts. We have flown across the world, with ample time to explore, shouldn't we feel like we've done something? Shouldn't we feel like we've had a good time?
I have the wherewithal to realize the missing piece is a Spanish train adventure. I am passionate about train travel, and am certain the girls will love it, too.
I choose Sevilla, partly because I've wanted to go there, partly because there is an 11-hour slow train option, which I book with conviction; this is the Spain we want to see!
After an hour the girls begin to ask when we'll be there. This is when I realize our day on the train is longer than the transatlantic flight back to Canada.
Our week in Sevilla is wonderful, because it has to be. There is but one meltdown.
Five weeks into our trip, I decide it has been a mistake. My children are ungrateful, which is a reflection of my failure as a parent. I Google "travelling with four year olds and having a terrible time" and find myself bombarded by mommy blogs offering tips for smooth airplane rides and tips about germs.
As the end of our two months in Spain nears, I am troubled by the fact that I am more familiar with the zoo, the aquarium and a travelling caravan circus show, than I am with the local cafés.
Home on Vancouver Island, I hear other families' stories of how they spend their vacations: at all-inclusive resorts. This reaffirms my sense of alienation for not having chosen the easy path, on more than one major life decision.
As we settle into a less-hectic routine at home, I begin researching for our next adventure: a tour of Switzerland's boarding schools.
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