The Gift of Family Travel

Bon voyage cupcakes, from my 12-year-old niece.

Bon voyage cupcakes, from my 12-year-old niece.

Two cocktails into our final domestic Date Night of 2013, Powerwoman popped the question about our impending (we leave in two days) semester-long move to London.

“Are you nervous?” she asked.

At first, I didn’t know how to respond. I mean, I’ve spent the better part of the last eight months thinking about the epic family adventure we’re about to begin, but never—literally, not one time—have I stopped to consider the degree to which I am nervous about the idea of establishing a new life in a new place with two kids under the age of five.

Naturally, the query prompted me to chase my Manhattan with some shots of serious self-examination.

Yes, I am nervous about the logistics behind towncarring from Heathrow to our first stop on the adventure, the Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf (I’ve got an assignment there). And, yes, I’m nervous about getting from Canary Wharf to our new flat on the day we move in (which is Aug. 24, for those of you scoring at home).

Honestly, though, that’s it.

The remainder of my emotions would fall into categories such as EXCITED, THANKFUL, and HONORED. For me, our next adventure is nothing short of the best gift ever.

How is it a gift? For starters, we get to bond as a unit—a rarity in today’s era of school schedules and working parents and daycare. Second, we get to experience faraway countries and foreign cultures through the eyes of our daughters, for whom everything is new. Finally, we get to do it all on a temporary basis, knowing that, come Christmas time, we can return to our lives here in Wine Country and start planning the next trip.

I know there are people who think it’s senseless to travel with young kids because they likely won’t remember much of what they see and do. In my book, however, Powerwoman and I aren’t doing this so the kids remember it. We’re doing it because it simply is what we do.

(Though, of course, if they remember any of it, that’s a bonus which we gladly will accept.)

We Villanos aren’t sitters. Whatever we’re doing, we don’t stay still for long. One of the reasons Powerwoman and I work well together is because we share a sense of adventure and an indomitable need to explore. As parents we have tried to lead by example and pass along these credos to our girls.

I’ll be “nervous” if anyone in this family ever approaches life differently. Until then, I say, bring it on.

To what extent do you think kids remember family travel? To what extent does it matter?


  1. I have been traveling since I was born, and so have my kids, and I have many memories from a very young age. But I don’t think it matters in the long run. That is what pictures and stories (and blogs!) are for.

    I lived in London for 3 years and miss it. Have a great time!

    • Matt Villano says:

      Thanks, Andrea. It’s a frame of mind, right? A state of being. Totally galls me that some really well-known (and well-respected) travel editors won’t publish family travel stories because they fundamentally disagree with the notion that travel means anything to kids. Like, IMHO, it means everything. And it might not matter now. But years from now, our kids are the people who’ll be blazing new trails for the rest of their friends.

  2. I think you are right. We have been traveling with our kids since my son was 3 months old. For us its not about the memories they have (though that will come now that my son is 3.5 years old), its about making them flexible adaptable human beings who appreciate different people and cultures and are good fliers. We travel because that’s what we love to do.

    • Matt Villano says:

      WORD, Robin! And I’m not saying our kids MUST love to travel as much as we do. But the mere act of getting them comfortable with the idea ultimately will make them more open-minded to differences and new experiences down the road. Thanks for reading!

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