I didn’t tell any of you but a few weeks ago I finally went on a trip I’d been dreaming of for a while: Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and Glacier National Park in Montana.
I went with my friend Nicole, who I’ve known for 15 years and who is more like a sister than a friend. Brendan and Finn did not come. They were originally supposed to, for part of it, but Brendan didn’t feel like he had enough time off work. As my company has a very generous PTO policy, I was able to take a full week, Saturday to Saturday, to explore both areas.
When Brendan officially said he couldn’t go on the trip, I started wrestling with whether I could go. He never said I couldn’t. But we both knew that being solo for a week with an active, sometimes crazy, toddler while having to work a demanding job a 45-minute commute each way would be tough. And of course I would miss both of them–for the most part, we spend all of our free time, especially on weekends, as a family, because we don’t get much of it during the week. We also predominantly travel as a family. But in many ways the trip made perfect sense–here’s why.
I’m still an individual with interests and dreams
For much of the first year of Finn’s life, I grappled with some identity issues. Having a baby completely turned my world upside-down in ways I didn’t expect, the most surprising of which was realizing I could have stayed home with my son and been content. Returning to work, to a new job specifically, was incredibly hard. It was so hard that I still haven’t brought myself to write about it. But it tested my strength, sanity and sense of self and sometimes my marriage.
When Finn turned one in April, I finally felt like myself again. I had lost the baby weight, acclimated to my job, made new friends, prioritized having some time away from Finn. My desire to try new things and rekindle past passions (over the summer, for instance, I took a dance class for the first time in years; I’ve read four books this year, which doesn’t sound like a lot but it is for me). Travel is one of my true loves in life, and while I want to continue to do it mostly with my family, I want to be open to solo trips or opportunities with others. Canada and Montana provided the chance for me to do this–and I have no regrets.
I still need girl time
Brendan said to me when we still lived in Australia, “You will never be as close with your friends at home, even if you move back. It all changes with age.” I remember being pretty mad at him over that statement. I took my friendships very seriously and refused to ever believe they’d be anything less than solid.
But what he said is true. I came home and lost some friends. I definitely don’t see or talk to my close friends nearly as often as I used to. It’s just a fact of life as we get older. However, I do believe that everyone needs to have friends, and that girls need their girlfriends. Nicole and I make it a point to get together at least once a month, usually at my house for dinner or Chinese takeout. We took a three-week road trip cross-country right after college. She’s someone I love and with whom I can be myself and travel without getting super annoyed. We both like to be social and go out but also love curling up at night with a good book. We just click, and our week together proved to be a lot of laughs, introspective chats, admiration of our quieter, less urban surroundings and enthusiasm over being on the open road.
I can make the most of the time apart
To the point above, this is the hardest revelation. Admitting you can enjoy time apart from your husband and kids is controversial, more so for a woman than for a man. I could barely leave the house to go over Nicole’s the night before the trip (we had a 6 a.m. flight to Kalispell, so it made sense to crash at her place, a mere 15 minutes from LaGuardia), I was so hesitant to leave Finn and his drool-soaked kisses for seven days. When I had to take a work trip back in March, I was beside myself leaving him. I even drove home stone-cold sober from a bachelorette party in Philly last fall because I couldn’t bear to be away from Finn.
Brendan has traveled without us since Finn was born, boys’ weekends and week-long work trips. I don’t plan on going on any additional week-long trips in the near future unless they’re for work, but I can say that my trip was restorative. It felt like it was a short sabbatical after becoming a mother and all of the sleep deprivation and parental stress I’ve felt over the last 17 months. On this trip, I slept, I went by my own schedule, I could eat a meal without worrying about my son catapulting a carrot over my head, I hiked, I breathed in fresh mountain air. I will never forget this unique place in time, when I was able to take care of myself completely for a few days for the first time in over a year.
Have you ever traveled without your significant other or family? How did it make you feel before, during and after the trip?