“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” – Jack Kerouac
This past weekend we took a flight to San Francisco with our now 21 month old daughter. My best friend was having her civil ceremony at San Francisco’s City hall (which is, by the way, just the most gorgeous building) and I was her witness. This particular moment in time means a lot to me because she has known a lot of grief and loss in her life, so to have the chance to celebrate her happiness now is particularly special and an experience I was not going to miss. After the ceremony, the 4 and half of us took a road trip to Napa Valley. Napa is heaven on earth, it is beautiful in an unassuming, charming, organic way. It was splendid and glorious and the weather was incredible. Napa is all about those open fields and vineyards which was easier on my baby girl. She had lots of room to run around with the sun shining down on her.
She had an incredible time but traveling with our toddler is much more challenging than when we traveled with her as a baby. She really can’t sit still for long periods of time (i.e. a 6 hour flight), is finding her voice but not enough words yet to effectively communicate all her wants, and is also coming to terms with some levels of independence and the ability to say “no no no no” over and over again. All of those elements combined can be challenging to say the least. In fact, it had the most challenges we’ve experienced with her to date on any travel. But it is so so worth it. Looking back on the photos we have from the weekend makes my heart sing. It’s the kind of love I know we will look back on years and years from now and be glad that the fear of those challenges did not keep us from building memories. I’m glad that we did not let a temporary discomfort keep us from building permanent life-long memories. Obviously what goes unseen are the tantrums, the countless pictures that often stand behind that one good one, and other general toddler moments that exist when traveling. We sometimes joke about how staying home is more of a “vacation” than going away but despite the fact that they may not always be relaxing vacations, they are our greatest adventures. We get to view the world through her eyes and that is pure magic. Every traveler, I think, dreams of that moment where they finally lay their eyes on that far away magical place, those street corners and nooks, cafes, and streets, and the smell of local food that brings life to the streets. Every traveler aches for that moment when they see for the first time a city they only held dear in their dreams and when we are blessed enough, we get to lay our eyes and hearts on those cities and streets, again and again, each time having a whole new experience. Traveling with a child highlights that experience even more because they see the magic even in places where you don’t. Everything is anew, everything is special, every corner and nook is worth exploring. And each time my girl ran down a street or stopped to dance with street performers, my heart would explode. She was in the moment and I was happy to have bought her to it.
Those moments run through my veins, they give life to my spirit, awakening and reawakening me time and time again. They spread like wildfire in me embarking and welcoming me to the next adventure that awaits.