May You Build A Ladder to the Stars

I’m feeling nostalgic and, perhaps if I’m being honest, even a little weepy as we begin the new year. Maybe it’s because we’re entering a new decade. Or because we just completed our 25th year in business. Or maybe it’s because our two daughters, who now live and work in career jobs in Portland and Seattle respectively – queue Bob Dylan singing Forever Young – just left after spending more than a week at home with us in Ashland. Sigh. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but look back on where we’ve been in the last 25 years, and wonder where the time went.

Our first trip after opening Travel Essentials took us to Croatia, to see my aunts, uncles and cousins in Dubrovnik, and then for 10 days to Italy. Emily and Sarah were 3 and 1 1/2. Yes indeed. We were that family getting onto the airplane with a 10-hour flight ahead of us, where people were most certainly chanting to themselves “not by me, not by me, please don’t let this family sit by me.” We traveled with a huge Eagle Creek rolling duffel bag, filled with diapers, bottles, many changes of clothes, toys, and who knows what else. Jet lag hit Emily hard on this trip. I remember her crying (screaming?) in my aunt’s home when she desperately needed to go to sleep, and me trying to explain to my aunt in broken Croatian how Emily was just tired, and I’m sure she would be in much better spirits the next day. In Italy, I remember thinking there was no way our girls could stay awake until most Italians ate dinner, as late as 9pm!!! Candy, which up until this trip was not a common treat in our house, was a big part of our daily routine. It kept sleepy girls awake in the late afternoon when we didn’t want them to fall asleep, it worked as bribery in quiet museums, and it just gave two frazzled parents a few minutes of peace.

Our next international trip was when the girls were 8 and 6 and we went to Thailand. Their ages made it much easier for traveling, but Thailand was nothing like Europe, and although everyone was very friendly, it was still very foreign to us, and especially to our girls. And it was hot. Boy was it hot. Swimming pools were extremely important, as were cokes and Pringles potato chips. Every day we’d set out for a destination, perhaps a temple, a hike or another sacred site, with the promise that in the afternoon there would be swimming and treats.

It was very fun in each of these countries to go to the store and search for treats that the girls would enjoy. Italy was where we first learned about Kinder Eggs, hollow chocolate eggs with a tiny toy inside. Those entertained the girls for long lengths of time.

We ate plenty of excellent local food in each of these three places. I remember great seafood in Croatia, delicious pasta in Italy, and Pad Kee Mao with chicken in Thailand. I’d be lying however, if I told you we didn’t also eat some American staples too, because there’s only so much fish and stir fry that most little kids are willing to put up with. I remember pizza in Bangkok, salami and bread in Croatia, and in Italy, hamburgers. When we were back home, a friend asked Emily what her favorite part about our trip to Italy was and her reply was the Happy Meal she got at a McDonald’s in Rome. I’m not ashamed. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Our girls now travel on their own, when we can’t all arrange our schedules and take a family trip together. Last summer, coincidentally, they went back to Croatia with their cousin Sam, to see all the family they hadn’t seen in 22 years. They also spent several days in Mallorca, zooming around the island in a convertible Fiat rental car. They’ve added wine and tapas into their travel diet repertoire, but I hope, for old time’s sake if for nothing else, coke and Pringles are still in the mix.

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