We have big plans for this upcoming weekend to get all the thousands of pictures moved into one place so we can begin the process of sorting, editing, and remembering. Until then, we’re writing posts of general purpose. No specific-to-a-location posts.
Buds and I have talked a lot about what we liked about this trip; what our good choices were.
1) Packing light is definitely a good decision for our family. We ended up feeling 3 outfits (plus the clothes we wore) was too much. All of us had at least one or two items of clothing that we didn’t wear. We saw so many people lugging their huge suitcases, straining to pull them up onto the train, attempting to run with their albatross of a suitcase banging along behind them. Because of the time of year of our trip, we could have even gone without jackets, although I was often grateful to have mine. The rest of the family has some sort of internal dragon-flame, so they were all fine.
2) Each of us needs a kindle-type device. All the electronics we took with us were used extensively. We only brought home 2 new books, compared to a carry-on suitcase of new books from Ireland. The tablets worked great.
3) Packing outfits into gallon-sized ziplock baggies was genius. It made finding items on the planes and trains so simple. During the trip we used the ziplocks for storing other items, including food. So simple, organized, and multi-purpose.
4) Private Tours are a good choice for us. We learned so much from our various tour guides. And the ones that worked hard to include and interest the children made such a huge difference. The drawback is that The Buster and Monkey, especially, like time to meander and read and think their thoughts, which isn’t an option when you have a timed tour to focus on. We tried to balance it with non-tour days between tour days, which generally worked well.
5) Eating in rather than in restaurants. We had some delightful, memorable meals at restaurants, but the food system in Italy is so strong, so local, and so fresh, we preferred the cooking we did at home over 75% of our restaurant meals.
6) Plan for quiet errand days at the beginning of the trip. Having two days in Milan to purchase any forgotten items, and having time to find a vodafone store to get our Italian sim cards, was critical to our long-term comfort on this trip. Because of the length of our entire trip, we had the luxury of not feeling rushed, which was a huge blessing. When my sim failed on the second day, it was so easy to go back to the store where we had purchased it to have them replace the card.
7) Use the trains and buses, but keep in mind the planes. Our train trip from Sicily to Rome was about 11 hours. There are several cheap airline options in Europe, and as we rolled into hours 5 and 6 on the train, Buds and I both wished we had checked on plane tickets for that leg of the journey. The train is relaxing and exciting and pleasant, but that was a long ride.
8) Gelato nearly everyday. This needs no explanation.
9) Take time to mosey.
The Buster is a natural Italian. His meals are always relaxed, slow, gustatory events. When we are walking down the sidewalk, he’s always telling a story as we walk, taking his time, thinking his thoughts.
He and I had walked out to the grocery store together, and I was still in the mode I’m in at home, “Must rush to get everything done and zoom from here to there.” Then I realized I was walking down an Italian street with my son, and what the heck did I think I was rushing toward?!
The best time of my day was right in that moment, walking along, listening to him spin his tales of adventure. It was a heart-filling reminder I hope to emulate now that we are home.
10) Finally, know your budgetary limits, your rest needs, and how much quiet time is required.
We saved up for this trip for years, hence, we used the money we had saved to create the trip that we felt would bring the most memories and value for our family. My brother asked me if we stayed within our budget, and the answer is, “yes,” because we didn’t really have a budget. We had a bucket of money we knew we could use. It took a vast amount of stress out of that aspect of the trip.
If we needed to rest, we rested. We spaced out our outings so that family members who sleep late could get sleep, and family members who get up early could go to bed early, and everyone stayed flexible. The gift of time was a large factor in the pleasure we all took in the trip.
And, a large one for our crew; quiet time. I got my people-fixes as we were riding around on trains and buses and in museums and with our tour guides. That time talking to people restores and revives me, generally.
Most of my crew, it’s not that way. Being out in crowds, having to talk and focus and converse and remember names, that can be exhausting.
We were able to honor all the personality types on this adventure. Monkey needed/wanted time alone at home to work. We made sure she got it.
Buster and Yessa needed to get out of the house and play and splash and wrestle, we made sure they got that time.
Buds needed to work regularly. I needed to work some. We were able to balance it all with good humor and good grace.
And when people were done, we honored that when we could. At The Valley Of The Temples tour, Buster and Yessa only lasted about an hour. The three of us went to the car while Buds and Monkey finished the tour. Monkey and Buds had a fantastic time. The Littles and I had a fantastic time, too, even if it was in the car, telling stories and making up games.
Sometimes we pushed the children and ourselves, and that’s a fine lesson, too. But we didn’t make that a habit.
Several people have asked if we really had a good time. We really, really did…an amazing time. I can’t wait to write more blog posts about the specific events to immortalize them for years to come.