Monday, April 24, 2017

Traveling Overseas with Junior Journeymen

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.

Aside from some in-country travel with our boys 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 overseas). 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 overseas adventure).

Turns out, they’re great ages to explore the world.

Yes, we just returned from an awesome trip to Britain and Iceland, but before we escaped to Europe, we had an Asian advenutre.

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. Those memories will be with all of us for a lifetime and will fuel our desire to see more of this incredible world.

UPDATED: Overjoyed that this post is also over at We Said Go Travel's awesome web site.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Do as I say, not as I do

I'm writing this one-handed, not the easiest task. So,please forgive any typos or misspellings. 

You see, I broke my wrist..on vacation...hiking around a volcanic Iceland.  

I had just completed a bucket list item of riding an Icelandic horse, the purest breed on earth with DNA dating back 1,100 years ago.  A horse lover and rider, I have always wanted to experience their gait that no other horse can produce.  We road along the foothills of mountains dotted with lava fields and i had a smile on my face the whole time, among the most amazing things, Ive done.

My sweet and patient husband kept my two young boys busy in the farm's waiting house.

ou main goal for the day was to drive the Golden Circle, a 180 km loop that hits some of southwest Iceland's most famous and beautiful sites. 

We were visiting a majestic site, Kerid, a crater formed from an extict volcano with a rainbow of colors  - a clear cerulean lake at the bottom, unusual red volcanic rock around the sides with varying shades of green moss from chartruese to forrest.  

It had been misty, so it was slick, but the trail around the crater didn't seem too bad.  Still, i was quick to continuaaly remind everyone to "be careful" and "slow down."

i had just taken a lovely photo of my three boys and we were continuing our walk around the circumference when I took a bad step on some very slippery mud and landed squarely on my left wrist.  i heard a sickening snap and knew it wasnt good.

Still, I put on my big girl panties, sucked it up and journeyed on our hike, besides, it was the only way back to the car.

We found a restaurant to get some ice, but by the next stop, Geysir, with incredible hot 
spring spouts, and where the term "geyser" originated, I knew i needed a doctor.

We used Google maps to find a health clinic, and there was one about 15 minutes away.  But they didn't have a x-ray machine, so we headed back to Reykjavik.  

Hospital #2 didn't have an x-ray machine either (and I later learned that it was a heart hospital), but they directed us to one that did.

Luckily, Icelanders speak impeccable English, so I had no problem getting treament or understanding what was going in.  I was examined, x-rayed and casted within about 2 hours and the hospital was just like getting treated in the U.S., except for the price tag -- a very reasonable US$590.

Here are a few things that I did learn:
1.  Always have access to your passport.I recommend securing your original passport in your hotel safe, but carry a copy or have a photo of it on your phone at all times.  Healthcare providers will have to have the information to give treatment.

2. Travel insurance is worth the cost.  i bought some very inexpensive coverage (i think around $20 per person) when I purchased our airline tickets, mostly to protect us in case luggage was lost or flights cancelled, but having my kids with me, also made me more cautious. if you have a chronic condition or have health challenges, you might consider purchasing a more comprehensive plan, but most are under $100 per person that include medical evacuations and coverage up to $15,000.

i have also filed the claim under my private insurer and am curious to see what they pay, if any, but the travel should cover the full amount,

3. Go ahead and seek treatment.  I fell on Thursday and we were scheduled to leave on Friday.  A couple of times, I considered toughing it out until we got home.  That would've been a really bad decision.  yes, it was a giant inconvenience, but hopefully it saved me from surgery or further injury by getting seen in-country.

It does make for a good story. i have been clumsy and accident-prone since childhood, so I could have just as easily broken my wrist my walking down the stairs in my house, but i now have a story souvenir.

i felt quite foolish falling, but i did feel better when the nurse handed me a brochure in English about breaking your wrist.  I guess I'm not the only English-speaking idiot to venture to incredible Iceland.