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A Traveling Mama's Adventures in Europe

“Are you crazy?!” my mother yelled over the phone. “You want to bring an infant and toddler to Europe for five weeks by yourself?”

My reply? “Well sure mom. Why not?”

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Apparently taking your 5-month-old and your 3-year-old on a trip around Europe to visit friends is not normal. Who knew? I thought it was practical. I mean, I missed my friends and had the opportunity to stay for FREE in Europe.

Parenthood follows you no matter where you go; it’s just up to you to choose the backdrop.

I needed to reassure myself that just because I now had two little boys didn’t mean I had to sit at home or at the local playground until they went off to college. There was more to life than breastfeeding and playdates, wasn’t there? My boobs traveled with me and my oldest made friends everywhere he went. I wasn’t saying the trip would be easy, but it certainly wasn’t impossible.

My journey would take me on a tour of friends from grade school through grad school and even one couple my husband and I met on our honeymoon. I also wouldn’t be alone the entire time. My husband would meet us in Italy halfway through; you know, right at the point in the trip where I would crack from the stress and exhaustion. It was well thought out.

I started out in Switzerland with my best friend from grad school. The jet lag was hell on earth and proved to be one of the worst nights of my life, but with a cup of strong black tea and a few local cookies, I was able to bounce back, maybe not in record time, but certainly after a week of catching up with my friend, meeting her daughter and exploring her town.

I had made the 20+ hour journey from Seattle to Switzerland on two planes and two trains alone with my boys without a cell phone. I knew I could get to Italy on two trains just fine from there to visit my grade school friend and his family. We even snuck in a three-day road trip to Slovenia and Croatia, because yeah, they are my kind of crazy parents. Four kids under age 5 and 3 adults in a van for 3 days and 2 nights? That’s how we roll.

Thankfully my husband showed up just before we hopped back in the car to go to Tuscany to explore old hill towns, cathedrals and some of the world’s best gelato. My arms and sanity was greatful for the 24-hour help he guaranteed. My friends bent over backwards to give me a hand, but with their own kids there was only so much they could do.

Now that I had help, travel seemed easy (well, easier) again. I had two extra hands plus friends to help out. We bid farewell northern Italy to fly down to Sicily. Talk about a nightmare. Storms caused our plane to land in a different city, which we didn’t know because we didn’t speak Italian. Thankfully a flight attendant clued us in as we departed.

Fast forward a few days and we were on a nonstop flight to London to round out our trip by visiting friends my husband and I had met in Venice four years earlier. We explored by day, and ate and chatted by night when they were home from work and the boys slept. It was a dream way to see London and end our first major trip with both boys.

I had to know that my life wasn’t about to be put on hold like I had seen so many friends do as soon as their babies were born.

Looking back, why was I so intent on doing this trip? Yes, I wanted to see my friends and I didn’t want to stay at home alone in motherhood. Most of all I needed to prove something to myself. I needed to prove that I could still do this. I could still be a mom who packed up her son (now sons) and researched new places, discovering new things to do with my little guys, whether that be the playground in the hills of Tuscany, cows with big bells around their necks in Switzerland, or simply a ride on the London Underground.

I had to know that my life wasn’t about to stop or be put on hold like I had seen so many friends do as soon as their babies were born. I had started to explore this ferocity in myself when it comes to travel after my first was born, but it became doubly strong after my second. Maybe because everyone told me it would be harder. I’ve always been one to want to prove I am A-OK.

It was harder. Taking care of an infant and toddler isn’t exactly a piece of cake back home either. Parenthood stinks (both figuratively and literally) sometimes. But that's OK.

Instead of wallowing and whining to my other mom friends, I did something about it. I took the crazy route and packed up my boys and hit the road. After all, parenthood follows you no matter where you go; it’s just up to you to choose the backdrop.

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Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m doing it again in Spring 2015, but this time Paris and Scotland get thrown into the mix. Apparently the crazy hasn’t gotten out of my system yet. At least my mother won’t be as surprised this time.

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