We were playing in the playground at a local park when a new addition to the expat scene started the interrogation.
He grilled me about local schools. He asked for my favorite local restaurants. He went so far as to inquire about my favorite Tube stop, my favorite bus line and my preferred neighborhood bodega. Then he dropped the ultimate bomb.
“What do you do with the kids when it rains?” the guy asked in a panicked tone that conveyed total bewilderment.
“Well,” I replied quickly, “We get wet.”
This answer was significant for two reasons. First, of course, it indicated that we have lived in London long enough to do as Londoners do—that is, though the rain initially deterred us from going out and about, it no longer fazes us at all. Second, it revealed to me something bigger, bolder and more bad-ass about the way our family approaches travel in general: We don’t let anything slow us down.
No, I’m not admitting to a Griswoldian strategy of running my kids into the ground (though, before I became a father, my friends used to accuse me of “Clarking” them on guys’ trips). I’m simply stating that we usually don’t let harmless but unforeseen elements get in the way of experiencing a new place.
No matter how much our girls might want to stay inside.
We’ve forced the kids outside (and outside of their comfort zones) a number of times this past week. One day we got stuck in a squall on our walk back from the Tube (in case you, like the inquisitor, are wondering, our favorite stop is Warwick Avenue). Another day, at a park up in St. John’s Wood, we waited out a downpour while trying to catch raindrops in an empty coffee cup.
Then, of course, was the afternoon I dressed up the girls in their “Welly boots” and led them around the corner for the sole purpose of splashing in a giant puddle.
At first the girls almost didn’t get it; both of them looked at me with expressions that said, “You mean this is what we’re doing out here?” Slowly, however, they suspended disbelief. They started jumping. Then they started giggling. At one point, L accidentally kicked off a boot and landed in the puddle with her bare sock. I wasn’t sure how she’d handle the development; to my surprise, she loved every second of it.
By the end of our little puddle-jumping session, both L and R were soaked and happy; neither of them wanted to return to the flat. Over dinner, the girls kept bugging me about when we could go puddle-jumping again. Again and again, my answer was the same: Probably tomorrow. (And it was.)
The bottom line: Whether you’re traveling with or without your kids, you’re not really traveling unless you’re “getting wet.” Get out. Don’t let unforeseen circumstances throw you off your game. And remember that even with the greatest guidebook, the only way to experience a new destination is to explore.
How do you improvise when unforeseen circumstances force you to change plans on a family trip?