My son’s first airplane ride was to Myrtle Beach. He was six years old. I remember hustling through the Atlanta airport watching him every few minutes to make sure he wasn’t too anxious. His reaction to all the commotion was just the opposite of what I expected for a first grader’s first visit to the world’s busiest airport. When we finally made it to our seats on the plane, the excitement in his eyes reassured me he was just fine. During taxi, an array of emotions surfaced. I felt blessed to be able to provide my son the experience of traveling as so many children, especially from single parent households, aren’t afforded the opportunity to do so. I was elated when I saw my son smiling and gripping my hand tightly as the plane took off. I was overjoyed to just be with my son - it was a great bonding moment for us. I also felt a bit of resentment.
It dawned on me that I had gone seven years without traveling for fun. It was not because I lost interest in traveling. I had always loved to travel. Being a dependent of an airline employee who took full advantage of the benefit of hopping on a plane and going anywhere was so nice. I, too, continued to take advantage even as a student in college. But shortly after graduating from college, I met a man who I later married and he did not like to travel. So, what did I do? I stopped traveling. Aside from one trip to New York City to visit friends and family, and a few road trips, I stayed close by to my, then, husband throughout the marriage. I wasn’t too bothered being stationary when I was pregnant nor through my son’s toddler years because it seemed stressful to be lugging him, a car seat, and a stroller around the airport. However, I did miss it. I wondered when I would ever see the inside of another 767 airplane. Towards the end of my marriage, I realized how I had given up so many things I enjoyed to make my ex happy (or so I thought would make him happy). Yet, the resentment I felt wasn’t so much towards him. I was upset for losing myself in the marriage.
In August 2015, I decided to take a solo trip to the Grand Canyons. It was one of the most serene trips I ever had. While I was fine going alone, I thought how nice it would be to have a travel companion. On the plane to Myrtle Beach, I thought to myself, “I may just have my travel companion after all.” Our next trip was planned before we arrived back in Atlanta. So far, we have been to New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, London, Bahamas, San Diego, Orlando and Myrtle Beach several times. It has since been a goal of mine to take my son on at least three trips per year with two of those via plane. After talking to him about our maternal lineage traced to the Mende people of Sierra Leone, he is inspired to take our next international trip to Africa. I reminded him that the flights to Africa are not like flights to California or even London, but much longer. He said, “That won’t bother me.” So, I said, “Let’s make it happen!”
It brings me so much joy to plan trips with my son. There are so many lessons to learn throughout this process. My son has to understand how we must save money and budget for our trips, how to choose places to stay not just based on the cost but more importantly the quality, and how to find things to do. It is so much easier nowadays to plan with thorough consumer reviews available online. I taught him how to read the ratings and reviews to help weed out some places and things. And, he knows how to use Groupon. When we travel, he understands how to be more observant and communicate with others. He has been exposed to other cultures and can appreciate our differences – something that has always been important to me as a parent. Next lesson will be challenging him to learn another language; at least enough of it to be able to get around.
As tough as it is for single parents, I encourage them to travel with their kids. It doesn’t have to be on a plane. Road trips can be fun and relaxing, too. For Spring Break earlier this year, our family rode the Mega Bus to Orlando. It was very inexpensive. Although I may or may not choose that route again, it was still pretty interesting and created some good memories for us. If you’re like me and don’t like to put miles on your car, renting a car to take a road trip is a good option. I have found some great deals through various apps. For my trip to the Grand Canyons, I rented a nice car for $13 a day. And with Airbnb, lodging is also fairly reasonable. The planning part can be a little stressful, but don’t let that get in the way. Set a date, make the time and go. It will be worth it!
“WE TRAVEL NOT TO ESCAPE LIFE BUT FOR LIFE NOT TO ESCAPE US.” UNKNOWN