American living in Gent, Belgium who gets to travel the world for work. Food lover, daily adventurer, complete wanderluster.

Traveling Adventures: Mixing in the Family

Traveling Adventures: Mixing in the Family

I consider myself a professional traveler. I spend at least 170 days a year in hotels, airplanes and on the move between work and some personal travel. After several years, you find a rhythm that allows you to excel in the movement. You learn to pack your suitcase a certain way so you notice if something were missing and aim to keep it as light as possible. This comes with all sorts of tips and tricks, especially as a female who enjoys looking fairly decent while typically not having access to laundry facilities.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt, Gent, Belgium

When I travel with other people, they usually are coworkers or friends who also travel constantly. We all know how to do it fairly seamlessly. But then there are the trips where you travel with complete rookies, and that isn't always so easy. Earlier this month, I had the joy of traveling with my 70-year-old mother and 13-year-old nephew. It was a span of generations, energy levels and interests. I served as the de facto tour guide and planner, which was a role I think I both excelled and failed at in equal portions.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt, Gent, Belgium

It's a juggle and an adjustment; one I might not always handle with grace. When you live on the road, you learn that the little details count. You double check for your cell phone or keys. You problem solve all day long and lean on others to assist with problems and logistical details. These details didn't come as second nature for my travel companions. It felt like they were scattering backpacks, cell phones, books, apartment keys and jackets across Europe. It was both amusing and worrisome.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt,  France, Cherbourg, Tour de France

But all the troubles didn't fall on their shoulders. Unfairly, I expected them to slot in and help with details like reading a map to detour around a bike race, assist with navigating around the Champs-Élysées traffic circle from hell, searching for a gas station hidden in the belly of Paris' underground or being on the lookout for a parking spot in a crowded city. In the moment, I wasn't always able to understand why they couldn't have better travel skills. My annoyance and frustration weren't always well hidden, which maybe wasn't my finest showing. 

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt,  France, Cherbourg, Tour de France, crab, seafood feast, food

My work life comes with a daily schedule. We get told what time to get up, when to eat breakfast, what time to pack our bags out, what time to depart, etc. etc. We receive this information the evening before and every day basically has the same flow. When I'm home by myself, I'm crave not having a set day. Yet, this trip was a strange mix of travel but on personal time. It needed both flow and structure. Being the pseudo-local, that fell on me.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt,  France, Cherbourg, Tour de France, Normandy, D-Day, invasion,  John Steele, Sainte-Mère-Église

While I didn't always want to plan, it did mean that I got to see Europe through a whole new set of eyes. While I won't be a mother, I do have the opportunity to be an amazing aunt. And that experience was quite rewarding. My mom has been to Europe several times, but it was the first time my nephew had been on an airplane, left the country (and maybe tasted some bubbles). It was thrilling to show him different cultures and to walk back through history with him.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt,  France, Cherbourg, Tour de France, Normandy, D-Day,

It was also fantastic just getting to spend time with my nephew. It sometimes amazes me that I've known this human his whole life. And now he is old enough to be exploring Europe and letting me sneak sips of wine during a fancy meal. It gets me excited about who he will become and the adventures we get to have as he grows.

family, travel, travel adventures, Europe, euro vacation, nephew, aunt,  France, Cherbourg, Tour de France, Paris, bridge, seine

Hopefully this was just the first of many travel adventures he and I will get to have again. I love showing him that the world is so accessible. Now I just need to wait until my niece is old enough to bring over, but I know she'll be the one running circles around me. She's already a little spitfire.

Clueless Expat Hiccups

Clueless Expat Hiccups

Playlist: Stage 4 Tour de Pologne

Playlist: Stage 4 Tour de Pologne