Two to Travel (And Tango)

Travel Tips and Inspiration From Millennials, For Millennials

Year In Review: Top Five Lessons Learned in 2015

It’s the end of the year. Holiday music has given away to the top whatever of 2015 lists, and we’re all caught up in the mood. In this house, things are no different. What a year it’s been. New places visited, long-awaited returns to some old stomping grounds, a bunch of miles flown, oh, and the whole bringing new life into the world which occurred about half way through it all. We’ve seen some cool new sights, learned a lot of new tricks, and have a memory or two we much rather not have had. 😉 

2015 was a big year of travel. And this was a huge surprise for us since in 2014 we learned the little homie would be coming into the world sometime in July 2015. And so I remember sitting down to write this review last year, and thinking to myself “Travel is really going to slow down.” Boy was I wrong. You can tell in the pure stats:

Miles Flown in 2015

Patrick:

2014 miles flown: 120,669

2015 miles flown: 128,528

Considering the fact I didn’t fly at all for about 3 months of the year around the birth of the little homie- those numbers are insane. It took 63 different flights to reach that number, an absurdity in and of itself, but it was nonetheless a great year in travel!

Laura:

2014 miles flown: 74,455

2015 miles flown: 51,347

Laura clocked fewer miles but considering all of her flying was done either pregnant or with child in lap, on 23 different airplanes this year- that’s pretty damn incredible.

The Little Homie

The little man flew a fair amount of miles himself while waiting to come into the world in 2014/2015. When I wrote a letter to my son last year, I noted something I found pretty remarkable: Before he was even born, he visited 9 countries. And while he hasn’t done any international travel yet, he does have trips already planned to Mexico and Portugal. But all that isn’t to say the little man didn’t clock some miles himself, with domestic trips.

2015 miles: 10,857 miles flown in the first 5 months of his life.

Blog Stats

Our little blog that could continues to grow, and we thank you for that! We had 44,000 visits this year from 157 countries! Not bad considering we’ve admittedly been a bit MIA since the birth of the little homie. Our most popular stories:

1. Things to do Near LAX on a Layover

2. How Much to Tip on Free Walking Tours

3. REI Co-Op Jacket Review

4. Mine to Love: Our First Child Was Born This Week

Places Visited in 2015

Again, between the two of us, we were on the road a lot, and to a number of great places! What countries did we get to see in 2015?

El Salvador

A Mural in El Salvador. Photo Credit: Joaquin Loustau

Mexico (4 times)

Tijuana, overlooking the Pacific, with some of my favorite students I have been fortunate to work with these past few years.

France

South Africa

Ecuador

The mentee becomes the mentor. A student I mentored at LMU volunteered for a year at my former home- The Working Boys Center. When I visited, I got to see him at work, and met the little sister of a girl I once taught. Full circle.

Peru

Argentina (2 times)

The Jesuit Block in Cordoba, Argentina. The architecture is beautiful all around!

Netherlands

“Hey Laura- can we just move to Amsterdam already?” I still hold out hope that one day she’ll just give in and say yes.

Rwanda

Tanzania

Visiting rural Tanzania was a journey I'll always cherish.

Visiting rural Tanzania was a journey I’ll always cherish.

Nicaragua

Visiting historical Managua

Visiting historical Managua

And we were busy on the domestic front as well, visiting great places like:

San Diego

Albuquerque

What do you mean where you grew up they didn’t regularly have cows flying in the sky?

New York

Boston

Birmingham (Alabama)

If you had told me I'd find a huge and lovely Japanese Garden in Birmingham, Alabama, I would have said you were lying. And yet...

If you had told me I’d find a huge and lovely Japanese Garden in Birmingham, Alabama, I would have said you were lying. And yet…

Chicago

Best use of Starwood points ever? Getting two tickets in a suite at Wrigley Field for Cubs vs. Dodgers

St. Louis

Milwaukee

Spokane

New Orleans

Miami

Orlando

And probably a few more places we’re forgetting!

Lessons Learned

Long ago we adopted a simple philosophy: We travel to live and learn. For us at least, the two go hand in hand. We feel most alive when we’re learning. It might be learning about the history of a complex place (hey Kigali and San Salvador), or learning the real and moving stories of people who impact us in so many ways (what’s up Tijuana and Quito). But we learned a lot this year.

Lesson One: Travel With Kids Should Be a Thing

Travel doesn’t have to stop when you welcome new life into this world. Time and again, we were confronted with some variation of “boy I bet you’ll miss traveling” and our answer was always the same, even as “seasoned parents” grinned that “oh you’re so naive just wait till he’s here look” any new parent has encountered. It’s not that we thought we’d travel in the same style and with the same ease we had prior, it’s just that we recognize the abundant importance travel plays in our personal lives, our lives as a couple, and our educational endeavors. And so we traveled with child in tow. We took red eyes where we worried about if we could keep him asleep. We dealt with a four-hour delay on the tarmac, followed by four hours of flying. And let me tell you this: Once you survive 8 hours in a 737 with a baby, your confidence (and stress levels) soar. And so to any new or soon to be parents, our message is simple: Keep traveling. Now, it’s for your sanity. Soon, it will be for the world you expose your child to.

Lesson Two: Sometimes you just don’t give a…

At times, I am brutally stubborn, a trait I share with Laura. But beneath the stubbornness, I’ve learned one thing about myself: I thrive amidst joy. And while that might sound all sunshine and roses, in a world that can throw stress at you in every which direction, sometimes carving out a space of joy can be difficult. And so as a parent, I’ve learned something surprising about myself: Despite all my tough talk, I really do like to make everyone I encounter happy, and thus often go to great lengths to accommodate people.

And so flying with a kid (or eating out with a kid for that matter) has at times been tough. I’ll speak a truth and I expect the choir of parents who have traveled to nod in silent agreement: When your kid starts crying on a plane, and I mean really crying, there’s nothing you want more in the world than to have the power to make it stop. And sometimes you’ve got that power, other times you don’t. When we board planes now, I’ve noticed two looks: 1. We got you. It’s the look from people who somehow or another have some sort of understanding of our situation, and they want us to know, with this simple smile or cooing at our son that they’re in our corner. 2. We got you… in our sights. This look I’ve found usually comes from old men, men in their 20’s, and well, yeah- they’re the main ones. It’s the “how dare you bring a child onto this plane” look before said child has even done anything to earn that scorn.

The little homie is a good flyer so far, and for that we count our blessings. But on our recent flight that was four hours with that lovely four-hour tarmac delay, even the best of babies have to voice their displeasure.

I would venture to say many an adult would have cried with the crazy delays we faced in Chicago recently.

I would venture to say many an adult would have cried with the crazy delays we faced in Chicago recently.

And I noticed something when the little homie started fussing- I really didn’t give a (you know what word) about what the dude in his 20’s sitting in front of us thought.

Lesson Three: You Still Gotta Manage Your Child

In light of what’s above, I have come to learn a few things though. Decent people, by and large are willing to give you their patience, provided you give the situation all the sweat you can afford. If a parent is attempting to calm an aggravated child, and doing everything in their power, I find most people sympathetic. When the child is fussy or kicking a seat or doing anything, and the parent couldn’t care less- that’s when the social contract falls apart and people get pissed. And they have every right to be. We decided to fly with a child- that’s our choice (and our right), but it also means we’re responsible to do everything in our power to keep our kid in check and keep the flight as pleasant as possible for him, for us, and ultimately, for everyone else.

Lesson Four: The Light Is So Much Stronger Than the Darkness

I doubt I’ll find much disagreement when I say by and large, 2015, on the macro level, felt like another shitty year. Violence and terrorist attacks from Lebanon to France to the USA. Some jackass named Trump bringing out the worst of a large portion of America with a campaign steeped in hate and fear. And I can’t even begin to start on what it must be like to flee a war-torn region trying to make your ceiling the floor upon which your kids you love so dearly may stand upon. And so by and large, it’s tempting to write off 2015, and in the process, write off the goodness of humanity.

But our personal interactions beg us to do otherwise. With the Little Homie, I’ve been overwhelmingly touched at the community that has already played a part in forming him. The nurse who stayed hours after her shift ended, because she wanted to provide him a secure entryway into the world. The countless airline passengers who in the midst of their own stress because of airplane delays, play peek-a-boo for God knows how long with him. The gifts he has been showered with and the love that has been sent his way from every corner of the world Laura and I have been blessed to call home.

Two gifts from students I have worked with when they came to visit the Little Homie for the first time: A hand painted drawing of an elephant, and a coffee cake famous to many an LMU alum: Sister Peg’s Famous Coffee Cake.

This isn’t to excuse the horrible macro level messes we have out there, but rather to serve as a reminder that for us at least, when you get to the core of humankind- the light is always stronger than the darkness.

Lesson Five: Life is fragile, and that’s a good thing

Life is fragile and I’ve got a confession to make: When the little homie was born, for months afterward I was consumed by this irrational fear: I don’t want to die. Dramatic, I know, but hear me out. I saw this little life cradled in my arms, and it was like every decision I would make felt that much more magnified. In the months since the little homie was born, I’ve managed to log more miles running (not just flying) than I have at any point since I last ran a marathon, now 10 years ago. I shouldn’t have the time nor the energy, but I’m consumed with this desire to get myself as right as possible, to stack the proverbial deck of cards evermore in my favor. Life as we know doesn’t operate amidst our systems and rules, but I’ll be damned if I don’t do all I can to increase the odds ever more in my favor to be the good dad I’ve been longing to be, and for a long enough time to really embarrass the kid and teach him a thing or two. 

We’ve seen lots of loss, and sat with lots of pain this year with so many friends and even aquitances. The burdens each of us carry in this world, as Greg Boyle might say, I stand in so much awe that we carry it at all rather than in judgement of how we carry it. And so life is fragile. No matter what we want to believe, we are vulnerable. But a little less than 10 years ago, as I struggled to make my way living in South America, learning Spanish, and building life from scratch- I learned how good a thing it is to be vulnerable. Our vulnerability is the simple recognition that we can not do it alone, and more important still- we are not alone. Some of the best relationships I have formed in my life came amidst incredible brokenness and vulnerability. When we see ourselves amidst the flaws and faults of another, we become less judgemental. We embrace the sanctity of life in a whole new way.

Travel this year reminded me of vulnerability. And it reminded me that in the end, that’s perhaps the most redeeming feature of our entire human family.

That was our year. We hope you all found meaning in your own 2015, and more than anything, we wish you an even better 2016!

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2 Comments

  1. Love the article, Pat! Such wonderful reflections and learnings; thank you for sharing 🙂

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