I used to be a world traveler….

I used to pride myself on being a well-prepared, street-savvy world traveler. Years of international medical volunteer work, as well as many just plain nuts trips, made me pretty well able to handle just about any situation… Like, say, working and traveling in Ecuador in 1995, I considered the trip a total success and a royal blast, despite being tear-gassed in Holy week demonstrations; abandoned by the side of the road after a bus breakdown somewhere between Guayaquil and Quito; mugged by two little old ladies with razors; dazed, bruised and filthy after a fall from the foothills of Chimborazo witnessed only by a herd of sheep; covered in hundred of bites after staying at a questionable hostel (bites that I now know very well to be bed bug bites); voluntarily locked in a women’s prison for a day to meet with inmates… all the while working semi-illegally in HIV education with a gay-rights organization that was repeatedly the target of police crackdowns….and more. I think back to that trip, and many others like it, and I shake my head.. I was sooo crazy, but so calm, cool and collected. Or at eats that’s what I remember. Hey, I survived, right? 

But the last few trips I’ve taken, I’m totally discombobulated. I feel like I’m a total newbie traveler. What’s changed my game? Two small children in diapers, obviously. But why can’t I deal like I used to?

Here we are towards the end of our trip. I’m in a hotel room in Guatemala City with two snoring kids, waiting for my mom to relieve me of duty so I can also hang out at the big family celebration going on downstairs. It’s been a very good trip, always good to see family, and they are really taking care of us… The party downstairs is, in large part, why I traveled here with my mom, a 3 1/2 year old boy and a 23-month old girl. And seriously, I could just as well skip it and go to bed. Sleep beckons… 

What happened to me? I used to be getting ready to go out at 10 pm. Now I’m psyched, ecstatic really, to get into comfy pajamas and be under the covers as soon as the kids are down. 8:30 pm? BONUS. 

Of course alot of this is understandable due to working a challenging job- clinical work is just never going to be easy, there are no “coasting” days… and taking care of two little kids is always going to be hard, physically, emotionally and intellectually hard, despite the fact that we’ve got a great team…

No, it’s more than that… I’m just off my game. My preparation was poor, my disaster planning had holes…

In my head, I was going to be packed ahead of time, I was going to make sure I had everything I needed and then some way before the day before the trip. Well, didn’t happen, and there I was, begging Hubby and Nana to help me get packed, the day before a 6 am international flight. Late at night I was crossing things off my to-do list, not because I did them, but because it was so hopeless to think I would ever get to them… Write out cards and wrap the gifts I was bringing down? Not. Find all the print photos I’d been saving up to give to family? No way. Dye my roots? Ha. In the end, Hubby had to help me to even get the overstuffed suitcases closed. We were just pulling things out to get them to zip.. Did I really need this and that piece of clothing? Yank it. So, the bags got closed, but I’m really lucky we had laundry at my cousin’s, because I wouldn’t have had enough to wear for 3 days, never mind 8.

When we landed, we were so thankful that all of our flights went on time and pretty smoothly… despite both kids needing several in-flight poopie diaper changes (ever tried to change a nervous, wiggly toddler on the airplane bathroom changing table? Then we should have a drink sometime!)  We waited and waited for the luggage, all 4 large overstuffed suitcases… and then it finally dawned on us that, they weren’t coming. There was the usual hassle with filing the claim, and then we had to get through customs etc. and meet out family outside, without any luggage… Me, who always made sure to have an emergency bundle with underwear, basic toiletries, and alternate layering clothing, was totally without anything at all… for me. The kids, I had packed extra extra diapers and clothes for them in the carryons..But me, I ended up wearing the same clothes to bed and then much of the next day, and that includes underwear… Ugh, it was awful. I felt so sour and grungy, it made me a bad person. That just wouldn’t have happened to the me that bussed across El Salvador on an earthquake relief mission in 2000; the me that ventured solo through Israel and Jordan in 2001; the me that dropped everything and flew to Sri Lanka after the 2005 tsunami, on 24 hours’ notice… Not only was I better prepared, I don’t remember caring if I was in the same clothes for 36 hours. Actually, I think that was a regular part of residency.  

Now, I am infintely grateful for the extremely comfortable, bordering on luxury, accommodations at my cousin’s 

But, here is mom; it’s almost 11 pm, and I am going to head down to the party, dammit.

I better remember the room key.  

3 thoughts on “I used to be a world traveler….”

  • I hope the party was fun! I know exactly how you feel, about the planning and feeling “off your game.” Drove me nuts when my kids were little. I wasn’t a brave traveller particularly, but I was well-organized. Once I had kids, I either had to dedicate a whole week to packing, or know that something would explode along the way. It’s getting better now that they’re bigger (no diapers,and they even pull their own carry-ons through the airport!). I think the issue is that a big chunk of your brain is always full of contingency planning, once you have kids to care for, and it’s there every day, not just when you’re making a big trip. So it displaces the part that used to take care of yourself, but you’re not even aware of it, because it’s always there. Plus, kids are terrible travelers. They hate unfamiliar places when they get tired and needy, and they are developmentally unable to respect schedules. That all gets better with age, too.

  • So sorry to hear. I had to comment about a help for those sore bottoms. Hyland’s Calendula ointment always worked wonders for my kids and any neighbors with whom I shared it!

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