We have really ruined our kids for life. In fact, I am not sure they are going to be able to function as normal adults when they grow up and move out.
We spoiled them and taught them about something that most of you readers figured out a long time ago.
I think you know what I am talking about – we gave our two kids the travel bug.
Early Beginnings – A Trip Here, A Trip There
When my son was born in 2001 he took his first plane shortly thereafter. Having family in Winnipeg, Manitoba (we lived in Calgary) my wife and her Mom wanted to take our new son to essentially show him off. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and the like all got to see him.
At six-months old I am pretty sure he does not remember one bit of it. However, my wife and I like to think it was the start of his travelling career.
A few trips here and there with my son, and then along comes my daughter. Now we have 2 kids two and under.
That is when my then brother-in-law and soon to be sister-in-law fall in love and decide to get married.
The only problem was it was in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. We had done some travelling with Parker, but not that much and now we had to take a baby, a 2-year old, and our tired bodies on a 6-hour flight down to the Caribbean (boo hoo, I know!).
At that time we didn’t know anything. I travelled a lot as a consultant but never with two kids. We got to experience it all. From controlling our son as he wanted to rip up and down the aisle talking to everyone, to changing a total-blowout diaper in the tiniest of airplane washrooms. I am talking about a 4-alarm blow-out here. You parents will know exactly what I mean.
We learned a lot on that trip which would set us up for our adventures later on in life. It showed my wife and I that we could travel with our kids and it wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, it was pretty cool.
The Scariest Decision of Our Lives
After a few more trips to things like DisneyWorld and other Canadian cities, the kids were growing up and we were figuring out this parenting thing (or at least we thought so).
I was fortunate at the time to be working for a large, international oil and gas company. With a company like that, there are certain opportunities that present themselves from a career perspective
One such opportunity for us was the chance to move to Stavanger, Norway to live for a couple of years on an expatriate assignment. We jumped at this decision and my wife and I quickly jumped on a plane (subsequently bumped to Lufthansa First Class – more on that in a future post) to see the country and city we were going to move our 7 and 5-year-old to. We found a house, liked the school, but had no idea what was in store for us
Nonetheless, we made the decision and in July 2008 we packed all our stuff and moved to Stavanger
That is when we ruined my kids for life!
It All Starts with Business Class
A nice perk with going on an expat assignment with an international oil & gas producer is that they send you and your family over Business Class. As an HR professional, I know that we do that to help the family get off on the right start and to make the journey a little easier.
Flying with Air Canada, we were on a 777 from YYC to LHR to SVG, which was configured in what we refer to them as pods. Basically those fancy seats you see that recline completely and are independent seats with as much privacy as you can get without flying on an airline with rooms (that would be cool!)
It is rare to see a 5 and 7-year-old in those seats but here we were with my wife and I and the two kids marvelling at these seats. They did not even know these types of seats existed as we had always flown coach with them
The point is that my wife and I could see from that point the adventure we were embarking on. As we discussed the adventure ahead of us, we decided right then and there that we were going to take full advantage of this and try to give us and the kids as many of these little experiences as we could.
The First Trip to Edinburgh
We were all settled, figured out how to translate food products in the grocery store. You only buy salted ground beef once! Kids were happy in new international school.
We booked the first trip to Edinburgh through Aberdeen. An easy 1 hour flight into Scotland. It was the first time any of us had been to Scotland, and as “McNeil” it felt pretty cool.
We stayed over night in a cool little hotel and woke up early the next morning to catch the train.
Much to my wife’s delight, I messed up the reservation and booked us into a First Class car from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. This was especially exciting as the kids had never been on a train like this and we got to see a lot of that gorgeous Scotish countryside as we made our way through St. Andrews and other little communities.
We arrived in Edinburgh and did the good tourist stuff – the castle, Royal Mile. We ate at a Hard Rock Cafe, which most people cringe at. However, if you have eaten out in Norway you will know what I mean. A good burger there is the equivalent of $40 or so (each), and no free refills on the sodas.
The excitement and fun we had on that trip was amazing. It was clear that our kids loved it and wanted to continue traveling. But that was only the start….
45-Travel Legs From That Point Forward
From then on it was weekly that my wife and I heard from them about where we should go next. We put up a map and began the tradition of using push pins to show were we have been, and a separate colour for where we wanted to go. Over the next two years we hit the following places:
- Aberdeen, Scotland
- Edinburgh, Scotland
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Berlin, Germany
- Frankfurt, Germany
- Kassel, Germany
- Paris, France
- London, England
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Kristiansand, Norway
- Oslo, Norway
- Bilund, Denmark
- Dublin, Ireland
- Valletta, Malta
- Naples, Italy
- Rome, Italy
- Pisa, Italy
- Cannes, France
- Barcelona, Spain
- Venice, Italy
- Split, Croatia
- Santorini, Greece
- Mykonos, Greece
- Crete, Greece
- Aarhus, Denmark
- Hannover, Germany
- Innsbruck, Austria
- Disneyland Paris
- Prague, Czech Republic
- Gran Canaria, Spain
We got very good at going through security, making time pass on airplanes, and generally how to get along on vacation. I have an ebook in the works that will highlight these tips and tricks that we learned while traveling this much with young kids.
My wife and I are very proud of what we were able to show our kids and that they have such a passion for traveling.
The most rewarding part was to see the confidence this gave them in life. Our hope is that seeing so much at such an early age will benefit them greatly. I cannot think how it wouldn’t.
Why Do I Tell This Story?
It is the inspiration for this blog. After reading other travel blogs like y Travel Blog, Brendan’s Adventures, Nomadic Matt, and fellow Canadians Bacon is Magic, and Traveling Canucks I realized that I should really start to document our experiences and travels both in the past and in the future.
Travel is what the four of us enjoy best, and I hope that I am able to convey that through this blog which leads to you coming back again and again to comment and interact with us.
My plan is to try to convey this learning through this blog so that others can benefit from our experiences.