Leaving on a Jet Plane: Taking My First Real Vacation in 10 Years

In less than 48 hours, I’ll be boarding a plan to Maui, Hawaii with my husband. Judging from the stacks of unpacked luggage, mile-long to-do list, groceries to buy for the kids, notes to write for teachers and the half-completed itinerary we’ve created, one would think the trip was months away.

If this were 10 years ago, I would have already created a thick, three-ring trip binder by now. Every page would be slipped inside a sheet protector (to hold our mementos, restaurant menus, ticket slips, and more of course) and it would detail our plans for the day down to the hour. My colleagues at work would laugh as I put these binders together during my lunch break, but they proved to be some of the most useful and meaningful parts of our newlywed years. I still have all of them tucked into a corner in the basement, along with our CDs, photo albums, and books that we used to read out loud to each other before turning in.

You see, before we had children, my husband and I fancied ourselves avid road-trippers. We took a trek up the New England coastline one October, then down the Pacific Coast highway the next. We made two trips to the Pacific Northwest and drove an unforgettable circle across Utah, Nevada and New Mexico twice. We learned the ins and outs of long-distance car travel, including the fact that rental car companies charge you twice as much when you don’t deliver the car to the same place you pick it up from. We discovered that some of the best green chile cheeseburgers in the West can be found at an indiscreet gas station near Clyde’s Corner. We stayed up far too late in mom and pop motel rooms, ate on a shoestring budget and saw much of our country before we turned 28.

Now, we’re 31 and haven’t made a rental car reservation in years. Our children are four and two and since they’ve been born, the farthest we’ve trekked has been Myrtle Beach, a trip that we crazily agreed to do when our youngest was only six months old. Twenty-four hours, two double ear infections and one sick husband later, I was driving our entire brood back home in the wee hours of the morning, canceling our Airbnb reservation on the phone and praying we could all get home to our own beds as soon as possible.

Turns out, something changes in you when you become a parent. Suddenly, life turns on its axis and your days aren’t your own anymore. You’d think this would be stifling, but I’ve found it to be exhilarating and refreshing in more ways than I could possibly count. I am beyond grateful for my children and if this is a season of life when we just need to stay home more often than not, I am fine with it. Yet, when our 10-year anniversary came up and we began reminiscing on our honeymoon in a French chalet, we couldn’t help but let ourselves dream. We had been young, free-spirited and without obligations when we married. Who said we couldn’t wisk ourselves off to France for a week of romance and good-hearted fun? We had disposable income and no one to spend it on but ourselves.

Things look just a little different now. With two babies to tend to and a new mortgage to balance, we have to be a little more conservative with our finances. Still, we knew if we didn’t take a trip now, another 10 years could very well go by without one.

At first, we settled on Key West. It would be warmer there in the wintertime than almost anywhere else, we had never been and we loved the idea of biking around the coastal town. Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t shake the idea of Hawaii. My sister and her husband honeymooned in Maui and have raved about it in the three years since. We made a last-minute decision to change our destination and we haven’t looked back since.

I’m excited, nervous and thankful for this time we get to spend together. Yet, I can’t help but feel just a tinge of guilt, as well. I’ve never been apart from my children for more than two days and they feel like a natural extension of myself. To be a 16-hour flight away from them for one week is tearing my mama heart in two. I’m finding peace and joy in the fact that they’ll be in the capable, beautiful hands of my parents and my in-laws. This is just one of the many reasons why I’m thankful we moved back home and settled down to be close to family!

So tonight, I’ll pack the rest of our bags. I’ll finish the unending loads of laundry and spend a little longer tucking the kids into bed. I’ll re-check the grocery list, make sure the fish are fed, pour shampoo into travel bottles and wash my hair for the last time, before it’s rinsed clean by island waves. Then, I’ll board that plane with confidence and assurance, ready to relax and reflect on the beautiful turns that life has taken us on thus far.