Reflections On Our First Vacation Without Kids

Clearly, we love traveling with our girls, and are big proponents of traveling with kids in general. We usually take our girls everywhere and, typically, if we can’t afford to take them, then we simply don’t go. We don’t have family nearby, so the daunting task of coordinating logistics to take a trip without them has always been a deterrent. Plus, I want to show them the world! And see their little faces light up when they experience it! There’s a bit of #momguilt that tugs at me when I consider not taking them along. So, in the 3.5 years we’ve been parents, we’ve been taking our daughters along for the ride. Except for recently. In July, we took our first ever trip without kids since becoming parents. And let me tell you, it was glorious. Amazing. So. much. easier. While I still love my girls tagging along, and we haven’t sworn off family travel completely, I will admit that this trip was pure luxury.

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This whole scheme was hatched back in May. We received an invitiation to a dear friend’s wedding in northern Germany. Whenever we travel back, we usually try to meet up with him and he’s been a great friend since Aaron met him when we were expats. Of course we were going to go to his wedding. But the travel logistics it entailed and taking the girls to a wedding were not really high up on our list of “Things I Want To Do On My Summer Vacation” list.

So, we decided to leave the girls with family for that week. The whole affair felt like a carefully orchestrated house of cards. If one piece failed to work out exactly as planned, the whole thing threatened to come crashing down. We flew to Michigan, spent the night and then passed off the girls to family, flew to Amsterdam, and then on to Zurich, and then on to Dusseldorf (yes, I realize the insanity in this), then drove 2 hours. And that was just getting there! We had different challenges on the return journey thanks to a little hurricane named Barry that spun up in the Gulf during our last few days of vacation.

Was it a lot of travel? Yes.
Did I have a little panic attack about leaving our little girls with family for a week while we were thousands of miles away and worry about whether or not they would be miserable without one of us there? Yes.
(Did they do ok while we were gone? Of course they did.)
Was it worth it? Absolutely!

We had a fantastic time at the wedding, we got to see some people we hadn’t seen since Karnival 2015 (before I got pregnant with Evelyn!). We danced. We ate. We drank. We practiced our German - and learned some new slang ;). After the wedding, we headed to a small town in the southern-most part of the Netherlands, Valkenburg. We stayed at the cutest AirBnB which was completely unsuitable for kids, spent some time at a thermal bath there (also not suitable for children), toured some marl caves, dined late, slept in, and enjoyed the beautiful weather we were blessed with. Just the week before, Europe had a heat wave - an African plume they called it - that caused temperatures to soar upwards of 100F, higher in cities. AC is not common over there, so we were glad when we saw the heat subside and we got glorious mid-70s with low humidity. It was quite a departure from the sauna that is the summer along the Gulf coast.

We spent a couple of days in the Netherlands, then had to head back to Zurich to catch our return flight to the US. We had a day and a half there during which time we ate at a restaurant completely in the dark (blog post on that soon!), went on a walking tour, visited with a family member who currently lives about 3 hours from Zurich, and enjoyed our last few days and hours with only ourselves to worry about.

The trip may seem hectic, and there were parts of it that were (mainly the 30 hours of travel from the time to we left Detroit until the time we got to our hotel in Germany), but there was also lots of relaxing, lots of sleeping in, lots of time to just be. Aaron has been traveling a lot for work this year, leaving me to solo parent. We try to plan date nights, but they’re short, and we’re usually tired from playing catch up during the day. We needed this time together (without kids) to reconnect. We needed to catch up on sleep. We needed this trip. I’m so glad that we have family we trust and are willing to watch our girls so that we could do this. Without them, it wouldn’t have happened.

We will still continue to travel with our girls. I think it’s important. They learn to be flexible and adaptable and are exposed to new cultures, new foods, new sights, new people and new experiences. I’ll still get to show them the world and be there with them for it, but I’ve also realized I don’t have to show them the whole world. I want to leave some of it for them to discover and explore on their own. So I foresee the possibility for more kid-free trips in the future (as long as family is willing to babysit!). It’s a way for us to reconnect and spend time together doing something we love, and it makes for a healthier, happier, stronger relationship. And since it’s our relationship that helped usher these little humans into the world, it’s important that we take the time to care for it, especially during this season of life when it can become so easy, almost the default, to neglect it.