Hola from Spain!
We are here on an extended holiday during my maternity leave, following the birth of our second child.
During my first maternity leave, we packed up our nine-month-old and spent six weeks in Spain. We called it our “mat-moon” – a maternity leave honeymoon. We had a wonderful time, and mostly-successfully navigated living away from home with a baby. At least in my opinion. You’d have to ask the baby for the real answer, but he won’t remember. More importantly, it was during that trip that I started this blog. So screw the baby, I declare that trip to have been a success.
Riding the coattails of our
blind luck well-planned trip last year, we decided to test fate and do it again. And when we told people we were heading back to Spain for six weeks, some seemed genuinely shook.
With that in mind, and since I’m settled into our air conditioned apartment, nursing a slight G&T hangover while my little monsters nap, I’m pleased to bring you the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) re: our second mat-moon. And by FAQ, I mean that I’ve been asked these Q’s a few times. So they’re not so much F as just Q’s. But I’ll throw in some cute photos (of food) to hopefully entertain you.
FAQ: Why are you doing this?
My husband and I love to travel and have prioritized travelling since we each had our own bank accounts. My first trip sans-parents was with a friend to Italy when I was 16. Upon reflection, this seems absolutely insane, but it happened and no one died. And I learned a ton about young self, about travelling, and about the world. For example, I learned that cat-calling is disgusting in all languages, and that paying for a night in a youth hostel is like buying a ticket to a snoring concert.
Fast forward many years, and we still prioritize travel above other things. For example, we moved into our house a year ago, and still have not furnished it because we’ve been socking away pennies for this trip.
On a philosophical level, we like to think that we benefit from travelling by:
- Expanding our understanding of the world through first-hand exposure to different places and cultures
- Forcing ourselves to build upon our problem-solving skills
- Teaching ourselves to be adaptable and resilient to change
- Filling our memory banks with out of the ordinary experiences
But, like, our kids are small, so none of that applies to them. For now, it’s more about us spending time together. And drinking beer on the beach. Duh.
FAQ: How do you have this much vacation time?
We scrimp and save it.
I’m on maternity leave, which is one year in length. It’s something I try not to take for granted, but of course I do.
My husband is using his regular vacation time, plus a few weeks of self-funded time-off. Some money is trimmed off each of his paycheques throughout the year, and if he chooses not to use this self-funded time-off, he gets paid out that amount at the end of the year. This year, he’s using the time.
So yeah, it’s not magic, just prioritization. And gold-plated maternity leave on my part. See, I’m not taking it for granted. [written while complaining to husband that the ice in my drink is melting too quickly]
FAQ: You are brave for travelling with young children.
That’s not a question, Aunt Carol.
But I get this often.
Brave? No. Stupid? Maybe. Selfish? Fo sho.
Travelling with small children is easy and no different from travelling without them – about 2% of the time.
And travelling with small children is no different from being at home with them – about 10% of the time. Which is to say that travelling with small children can bring on a unique set of challenges.
Kids are known to behave like jackasses on airplanes/trains/buses, etc. They are generally not interested in museums or sites that aren’t playgrounds. They need to nap, and they aren’t fantastic at restaurants (at least mine aren’t, especially when there are no high chairs).
My main strategy for solving these problems is to take the easiest way out. We do what works for the little guys, pepper in our own preferences where we can, and just
drink often enjoy the time together.
We aren’t so much “travelling” as we are simply existing in a place different from our home. We travelled to get here – we took an airplane *shudder*. But now we are chilling hard in one place.
We aren’t seeing the sites or crawling from tapas bar to tapas bar. We tasted the Spanish night life last year, but it’s harder with a nursing baby who cluster feeds at night.
Instead, we are having what I call six weeks of Saturdays.
We wake up, we make coffee, we go to the market, or go for a walk. Everyone has a nap. We go to playgrounds, we go to the beach, we cook dinner. It’s fun because we are in a different place and because we are spending a lot of extra time together.
But no one is becoming enlightened on matters of Spanish history or culture. Except maybe the baby, who seems genuinely confused by all the exposed breasts on the beach.
FAQ: Do you bring a car seat? Do you bring a stroller? Where do the kids sleep?
No, yes, and we have gadgets for everything else. All the gadgets!
I hold an honorary PhD in Baby Gadgetry, with a specialty in Baby Travel Gadgets.
I’ll whip up a post on travel gadgets during a future hangover. Spoiler alert: they aren’t all winners.
FAQ: Why are you returning to the same place?
I think that travel is very personal, and it is for this reason that I am always interested to hear about other people’s travel plans. As in, I’m nosey AF.
With the little goobers in tow, we weren’t looking to discover new places in far(ther) away lands. Spain keeps drawing us back into her arms because she fits the bill for our mat moons.
We wanted (and Spain offers):
Good food (that we can afford to buy and figure out how to cook) and wine
Spain hits it out of the park for all of these criteria and is more affordable than similar destinations, like France and Italy. [Honourable mention goes to Portugal, which also checks these boxes, and which also holds a piece of my heart as a fav place to visit]
FAQ: Can I come?
Yes, but only if you are unlucky enough to be directly related to us. Because I forgot the most important thing, our dirty little secret… we BYOGP.
Bring our own grandparents.
Well, not our grandparents, our parents. This year, our trip is six weeks long. During the first three weeks, my in-laws are with us. Then my parents arrive to chaperone us during the second half of the trip. And THANK GOD.
I try not to take for granted the many small and big factors working in our favour to make this happen. Such as:
- Our parents are healthy and spry
- We all like each other – or, at least I like everyone. What’s that phrase, “if you can’t spot the dud, you’re the dud.” Uh oh, I’m prolly the dud.
- Our parents want to, and are able to, travel (with us)
- Our kids
preferlike our parents
- Our parents are incredibly and almost irrationally helpful
For example: My MIL brings snacks every afternoon to the beach for
me the toddler, and can whip up a healthy lunch for him in about 45 seconds after we all tumble in the doorway and the toddler begins his hangry meltdown.
As well, the liquor cabinet seems to miraculously refill itself. I thought my husband was doing this, but then learned that as we put the toddler to bed, my FIL slips out to the store to buy that night’s supply of gin and wine. Like a booze fairy godfather. #blessed
So, that’s what’s up with us on this side of the Atlantic. And while it’s not all Instagram-worthy, it’s been more fun and more relaxing than we had dared to hope during those days we spent sitting in our barely-furnished house, eating leftovers and dreaming of emptying sunscreen bottles and filling beer glasses.
We’ve encountered some of the usual challenges of travelling with young children, and of just having young children (four month old sleep regression, kill me now).
And we’ve hit some challenges from travelling in general. The other day, my Spanish SIM card was on the fritz for the third time in as many days. I huffed over to the phone store and gave them a piece of my mind via elaborate pantomime. They told me to eff off, and I returned home flustered at the injustice of it.
My husband handed me a beer, the baby, and my bathing suit and we walked to join the grandparents and toddler at the beach.
He said, “You’ll get screwed over by phone companies anywhere. Wouldn’t you rather have it happen here?”
~~~This post is dedicated to the memory of my sunhat (pictured during it’s prime in the top photo, and post-mortem in this photo). It met an untimely death when I left it in a bag with our wet bathing suits all night. Gone, but not forgotten. RIP, my friend. ~~~