My husband and I traveled and lived all over the world before having kids. It’s in our souls, and has kept our marriage interesting, challenging and wanting more. So, we want to pass that wanderlust and appreciation for different places and cultures along to our boys. In fact, it’s natural that we’d want to journey around the globe with our kids. Our first days as a family were spent overseas. Our older son is from a very remote part of Southern Vietnam and our younger son is from a mid-sized city in Southeast China.
So aside from some in-country travel with them before heading back to the U.S. after their adoptions, the only other travel we had done until recently has been in the U.S. (which, don’t get me wrong, has been great and there are thousands of phenomenal trips in the U.S., but we also love going abroad). But we hadn’t ventured overseas just yet because we wanted to wait until they were a little older (6- and 8-years old on our first big international adventure).
Turns out, they’re great ages to explore the world.
On a Sunday in February 2016, an incredible air fare to Japan popped up in my newsfeed (even cheaper than flying to Utah to visit my husband’s family).
“Let’s go to Tokyo for Spring Break,” I suggested. My husband asked how many mimosas I’d had with brunch.
After a brief back-and-forth about cancelling our trip to Orlando and heading to the Far East instead, the next thing I knew I was on a popular travel website inputting my credit card number.
As soon as I booked the tickets, I started sweating literally and figuratively over the decision. Were they old to remember it? To fully appreciate it? To deal with the stress of overseas travel? Were my husband and I equipped to deal with the stress of overseas travel with two kids under eight and still make sure everyone had fun? It was one thing for the two of us to travel to a foreign country, how would we navigate with two littles in tow (and one who still liked to be carried when he was tired)?
My nervousness fought with the thrill of going back overseas and having my kids experience a wonderful culture and country. My heart beat out my head.
The kids navigated the complex subways like they had been doing it since birth, popping out their subway passes and sending them through the machines with masterful ease; they visited temples –learning to thank Buddha by lighting incense and giving offerings and purifying their hearts with water from the Chozuya fountains; tried on samurai armor and watched a sword demonstration; loved the thousands of vending machines that served everything from Aloe Juice to sodas to underwear and pizza; and tried authentic ramen, devoured Japanese pastries and turned their noses up at sushi (and discovered that McDonald’s and Coca-Cola does taste different in other countries). We oohed and ahhed over the gorgeous cherry blossoms and saw people get shoved into their trains bursting at the seams. And, and we did get to Disney, after all–Tokyo Disney.
We really had a great time (despite a few snags like a horrific hotel the second night and Alex hitting his head on concrete at Disney). My husband and I satiated our overseas travel bug (actually, I think we fed it and now it wants more) and our boys saw and experienced a wonderful land and culture that not many American kids their age have. And, I hope that the bug bit them just a bit as well.
When we first arrived, I kept pointing out how different everything was from the U.S. – the signage in Kanji characters and not English, not hearing English, driving on the opposite side of the road, etc. to which they seemed less than impressed. I recall being disheartened that they weren’t marveling at those differentiators as I still did (even as someone who had studied for a summer in Japan and vacationed there a few years ago).
However, my now 9-year old will occasionally say something like, “Mom, remember in Japan?…” or “when we were in Tokyo…that was epic.” and I instantly remember why we took the leap to journey to the Land of the Rising Sun. And since then, we have gone to Canada, Iceland and England, among many destinations in the U.S. Those memories will last a lifetime and have fueled our desire to see more of this incredible world.