"Are you excited?" is the most common question when people hear about my travel plans.
Yes. But there is a caveat.
On Halloween night my husband and I will board a 16-hour direct flight to Hong Kong with two sugared-up toddlers. Our checklist between then and August 2012 looks something like this: Thailand, Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. I think my nerves are justifiably atwitter.
On the surface, I should be nothing but pumped. My husband is as willing as I am to be nomadic with our children. We both grew up around the world and never stopped wanting to discover more. My company has been gracious enough to grant me leave of absence, so I even have a great job when I return. Still, I am terribly anxious.
If I were to draw out my typical emotional journey for a typical vacation, it would be one high plateau followed by a steep hill down. The anticipation of leaving just builds as I count down the days, meticulously research things to do, and hound anyone who has advice to share. After a brief vacation, usually no more than a week, it's downhill to the regular world.
I'm anxious about two things really. The first is that traveling with kids brings along all sorts of planning and contingency planning that we've never had to worry about before. That's true of any trip, but an extended one needs to be even more measured. We have completed all our doctor's visits and vaccines, and we even managed to defer Ava's pre-school for a year.
The second is that there are things you just cannot plan. For example, we are supposed to be in Bangkok at the end of next week. Unfortunately the devastating floods are expected to get worse this weekend, and we are hesitant to take the family during a period of possible food and water shortages. I used to pride myself on being a fearless traveler, but my biggest worry is about the kids getting harmed or ill while away. My excitement about showing the kids Africa was likely the key factor in my not realizing that they both are afraid of animals.
The idea of taking some time off to travel always tempted me. I enjoy the intellectual challenges of my career, but a part of me wants to replace conversations about investments with travelers' chats, banter about nothing important and everything that matters. In addition to being able to spend this time with my family, I can look forward to meeting some of our more adventurous friends who've already made plans to see us along the way.
I am excited, so much so that I taste adrenalin, but there is still that 16-hour flight between us and adventure. Please don't give the kids candy.