This is going to sound SO spoiled, whichever way I frame it (because we actually get to travel) but boy, I hate making travel arrangements. Figuring out dates of travel, times, connections, car hire, stop offs, places to stay and who will have us – but it’s an expat way of life and we have to suck it up and get used to it. To others, it appears glamorous to be constantly jumping on planes. It is, but there sure is a little ground work involved in all of this continent hopping.
Planning the annual invasion/D Day landings
We love visiting family and friends and look forward to it (and I’m proud to say that they love visiting us here too), but it’s the planning stage that throws me. Stress levels can reach ‘critical’ in record time (Obviously not helped by the fact that I love to do everything last minute). “What do you mean you haven’t booked the hire car yet? It’s going to cost the flipping earth now!”
When we travel, we plonk ourselves down in the homes of family and friends. So when planning holiday, not only are we figuring out where we want to be when but also if the person receiving us on the other end actually wants a 5 prong invasion on those exact dates (are they gasping? Spurting out their coffee as our email pops into their inbox? Probably). Surely there must be some kind of medal for families who are willing to take in itinerant expats in great numbers, at short notice? (a quick thank you to all the long suffering receivers of our growing tribe for the past 18 years!!)
Travelling with small kids
When the kids were younger life was more sweetly simple. I would try to restrict length of visits with family to 2-3 weeks max as we couldn’t move around much. Having 3 small children in tow made me feel like Gulliver pinned down by the Lilliputians. Friends were only glimpsed every 3 years or so as I concentrated instead on family. Now they are teenagers, there are different problems. They eat a lot, need full size beds and have their own agendas. On one hand we are ‘freer’ in the sense that everyone is up for an adventure – but on the other, we are tied by the fact that we can hardly fit into one car.
Holidays within holidays
And for the past couple of years we’ve been lucky enough to have holidays within holidays which, though always fun, adds a little extra frisson to the mix. Last year we were juggling airbnb in Lisbon, foreign exchange and Portuguese car hire. Did you know that the Portuguese don’t recognise a Kenyan driving licence? Neither did we until we found ourselves there, hapless, in some industrial area car hire place. Outcome? I find myself driving on the wrong side of the road out of Lisbon, cursing at my husband who was now looking forward to a week on the Sangrias.
Kids studying overseas
2 daughters based at school in the UK add yet more administrative stress. They need to get to the airport on the right day when school closes and somehow and get back to school from Kenya at the exact same time as everyone else. Sometimes this means flying on absolute peak days (like 4th Jan) and securing them a seat means thinking a long way in advance and still sometimes paying the earth. A recent catastrophe has been the 16 year old announcing that she would actually like some kind of social life in the UK too. So tickets are booked around term dates to protestations that come later when she realises she is missing yet another paaarrrrttttyyy!
And the half term challenge, if you choose to accept it, is…..
This half term has been my biggest logistical challenge yet. A ski trip!! All that was required was to get the 2 teenagers in England to my brother-in-law’s house via train (changing in London), from there they would get in a car to be driven to the Alps with their 3 cousins (just 7 in the car for over 8 hours plus Eurotunnel – no problem – not sure how to repay my brother-in-law and his wife for this favour). Then myself, husband and youngest daughter fly to Geneva – where we pick up a hire car, do a supermarket shop in France, find the self-catering chalet (crossing from France to Switzerland), let ourselves in (having found the key under the mat), make beds etc.
Add to that the fact that of course, we have no ski gear, so have been begging and borrowing from relatives and, believe it or not, I miraculously found a most fetching ski outfit for myself and my husband in mitumba (kenya’s second-hand clothing markets). I’ve also spent this week pulling moth eaten wool sweaters out of deep storage and panicking about layers – sneezing as I go as well as explaining to teenagers via Facetime that no their Nike Airmax won’t work in a ski resort. Messaging has gone something like this: ‘pack tights; buy gloves from the school shop; pack anything that’s wool (what do you mean you don’t understand what wool is?!) And don’t forget your passports!’
I personally have forgotten how to cope with the cold (this photo taken from where we will be staying literally scares me half to death!). The remainder of the family have barely ever experienced properly cold weather. There’s no doubt that my husband and I will look very eccentric on the slopes – me wearing my ‘vintage’ 2006 official Cananda Olympics ski gloves and colour run disaster second hand jacket – but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Comfort zone stretched and off we go…!
Oh and the Kenya contingent of our family have all had a sick bug this week, and we’ve had visitors, so shopping and packing has been a challenge. Roll on half term!
Featured image credit: Unsplash.com