Sep 22, 2012

We Took 3 Kids Backpacking Through Europe for a Month

And nobody died.

Since neither of us went on the typical European backpacking trip in college, we thought it would be a blast to go 15 years later with our three kids, so we could enjoy more tantrums and less promiscuity and recreational drug use. And by backpacking, I mean that we all wore backpacks, and we were in Europe. However, we did hand-wash our clothes in our hotel rooms, so that college backpacker stench? Nailed it.

Here's the low down:
26 days
3 countries: Germany, Norway, and Portugal
5 backpacks
4 changes of clothes per person
13 different places of lodging, including:
1 friends' mom's house
1 motel
1 Gasthof
4 hotels
2 apartments
2 rooms in a private home
1 villa
and 2 pensaos
We traveled by:
3 airplanes
13 trains
2 rental cars
11 buses
5 metros
5 trams
2 funiculars
1 trolley
1 horse-drawn carriage
1 gondola
9 boats
4 rented bikes and a bike seat
1 taxi
1 toboggan course
and 1 ambulance
We ate at:
grocery stores
train stations
beach shacks
train cars
1 Burger King
1 McDonald's
1 7-11
1 mall food court
and 1 gas station
We went to:
4 castles
1 amusement park
3 towers
1 aquarium
5 museums
1 sculpture park
3 UNESCO world heritage sites
4 beaches
1 glacier
1 fjord
1 fort
and 1 tiny church

We took:
1 gazillion pictures (exact count)

Here is one of them:
Bergen, Norway

In fact, because Mark takes twice as many pictures as I do, and because we eventually refused to turn around and smile every 3 feet, this became the quintessential picture of the trip-- Mark's view of the rest of us walking away from him. We have so many pictures like this, I had to make a collage.
No, we're not stopping. Just take the freaking picture.

This was a trip of epic family togetherness. There was not much time that we were ever separated. For almost 4 weeks. It was in Germany about 5 days in when it dawned on us that it was going to be a LONG trip. I believe I captured that moment here:
Wait, how many more days? 

We eventually adjusted, somewhere in Norway. Either that or we went crazy. I don't know, you decide.
4 thumbs up for travel-induced hysteria!

Not that everything was smooth sailing after that. This picture was taken in Portugal, where I'm simultaneously dragging Nate behind me, yelling at Mia, and giving Sam the evil-eye with the back of my head. It's called multi-tasking.
Such sweet memories
As I was researching the trip, I noticed the term "slow traveling" come up quite a bit on travel websites and forums. I don't know anything about slow traveling, but I do now know quite a bit about the speed of traveling with children, which is exactly the opposite of whatever speed you want to be going. Everything will take three times as long as you think it's going to, especially when you have three starving, tired kids and you're at a restaurant waiting for your food to arrive. There will be a lot of stopping--so many impromptu stops at fountains, playgrounds, and any potential climbing structure. But you'll be speed walking through museums, and frantically sprinting through train stations to catch that last departure. "Just give me 5 minutes in this Visitor's Center, and I'll buy you ice cream," will be your bribe of choice. You will either be dragging a kid behind you, or running to grab the one who is walking in the tram tracks. Did you want to read that historic marker? Too bad, but you'll have plenty of time to read the graffiti in the bathrooms while you wait for another kid to go potty. I'd love to think of a term to describe this speed of travel. Bi-polar speed? Fartlek traveling? Whatever the case, it's an endearing, maddening pace of travel. 

So with all the varied pacing, and the family togetherness, and the adjusting, and trying to keep everyone alive and happy, or at the very least unhappy but not murdered, there is a certain amount of acceptance that you will be a spectacle most, if not all of the time. At one point, I was trying to get a very bored Sam to dance in the middle of a crowded plaza, and he refused. "Mom, people with think I'm an idiot!" So I started in on Nate, but he wasn't game either. "But Mom, people will know we're idiots!" Oh, don't worry kids, we're not fooling anyone. 
OK, everyone, just act normal.
We were gone long enough and were endlessly together enough that by the end, we had healed some old wounds, and created some new ones, had some good days and bad ones, had some fun,  had some non-fun, and mostly did a lot of laundry in hotel sinks. All against the backdrop of some incredible places. And in the next post I'll tell you all about it, with all those gazillions of pictures. In the meantime, here's one of my favorites:
We going in there?
P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney?


Courtney @ Ordinary Happily Ever After said...

You are BRAVE!

Saskia said...

Sounds awesome.

Gabriela Hull said...

You are amazing! I can't wait to read about your travels.

claireb said...

you kill me.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
backpacking advise said...

Love this post! Great pictures!

backpacking advise

MusingsinKL said...

hi. Do share your itinerary. We were thinking of going to Europe over 2 weeks with our two boys who have now got complaining to an art. Its our first time in Europe so not quite sure where to start and finish.Our boys are 11 and 9.

Rain said...

Yes do share details. We are going to Spain and Portugal with our girls aged 9 and 6 for about 20 days. I can try to minimize museums but would love to hear what really got your kids excited. What was wild and fantastic and had your kids think Europe was the best ever? (And we're going to go looking for that!!)