Yet the peach and cream stucco Tuscan villas, meandering vineyards, and rustic country roads lined with stick fences winding among flocks of sheep and simple creeks hushed screams, cries, and chatter from our restless crew over the back seat. Perhaps it was not because the standard or expectations for our journey to Rome was lowered, but because Italy is so very easy to love. From the tiny red cars that we passed along the way,...
to the shiny red cars that passed us :) ...and everything in between. Rome was colossal entertainment.
For the kids, the trip is always more fun if they can visit and explore as many playgrounds as possible. So we had to make a stop near Livorono and let them play.
Here, they ate lunch at a rest stop earlier on, in France. Then picked dandelions and gave them to me as if I would whip a vase out of the trunk and adore their bouquet for the rest of the trip.
Once in Italy, they loved watching the chefs create their pizzas and handle them in the brick ovens.
Our neighbors in Belgium, who have 3 grown children, have told us that they love the smell of playdough. They further admit, that truthfully, it's not the smell that they love so much, but the memories with their children that it evokes for them. I have no idea what will be our playdough- what will bring happy memories pouring back, but no doubt, it will have something to do with Europe and our travel there.
People, family, friends, and strangers alike, so often remark to us
"it's such a shame the kids are so young and they won't remember any of your travels".
We're certain our expat friends can relate. And just as other expat families, we travel with great effort, financial, physical, and mental sacrifice.To us though, it's not important that they remember the Trevi Fountain or the Eiffel Tower. What is most important is that they gain experience in culture and among people; that they realize the world is bigger than their own backyard. Gradually, the kids have come to learn first hand, that people may talk differently, dress differently, or eat other foods but their own backyard isn't really that different from others around the world. The kids have been granted endless opportunities that cannot be read in a book or seen on TV, and a global perspective, learning that heart and soul has no borders. These opportunities simply must be experienced.
We could stay at home. It certainly would be easier and we'd save a lot more money. No doubt it would be more comfortable. But what we want for our kids isn't necessarily comfort. In fact, we'd like them to learn to find their way out of discomfort on their own, or at least cope with it as necessary.
We'd prefer their travels teach them to be respectful and resourceful.
We travel not to ensure they remember the places we visited, landmarks or locations, for that would be as fruitful as a dog chasing its tail. We hope they will become people who ask "why not?" instead of "why?"as a result of their opportunities and travel. We hope they will carry their worldwide experiences with them. Perhaps, what we hope they remember most isn't a landmark at all, but instead, the family and fun that surrounded those landmarks.
When several strangers approached us in Rome on this trip and said "bella famiglia" or "complimenti", we smiled, offered a "grazie" in return. Deep down though, we knew it. They are a great family and we're grateful for our opportunities and experiences, no matter how old they are.
Rome was our first big family camping trip. We don't particularly love schlepping kids into hotels, yet we do love camping. It has taken awhile to save up the money for a tent and gear, but we knew that once we got started, it's be well worth the savings and hassle of hotels.
Europe has tons of camping and we were lucky to find a great campground in Rome, right on the Tiber River.The campground provided shuttle service to the metro station, which was a huge plus.
Daisy chains...Once we arrived, the kids popped out of the car to play as we unloaded our things and set up the tent. Addie and Stella worked on daisy chains...
running with sticks, making funny noises, and chasing each other around the tent site.
We knew then, this trip would be a colossal adventure.