Why Family Travel is Like Being in a School Play

It’s now six days until we leave on our Epic Italian Adventure and I’m getting really excited. Travelling with my family is probably my favourite thing in the world, but planning travel and reading about travel and blogging about travel comes close behind. And when a trip is done, I’m sad that it’s over, but as strange as this may sound, I miss the planning part, too.

You see, when you really like to plan trips, each trip is a bit like the plays you put on in high school. I was never the star of the show, but I was involved in a couple of productions in the stage crew and chorus. I suppose if you weren’t into that sort of thing you could maybe compare it to a sports team getting ready for a big tournament or something.

It starts with the initial planning stage. You hear the first audition announcement and you learn everything you can about the production. This is a bit like choosing where to go and making the initial bookings. You figure out what the parts are and get a rough schedule, but it’s still not a big part of your life at that point. You may spend some time listening to the soundtrack or watching the Hollywood version and the first rehearsals start, but it’s still in the background for the most part.

Then things start getting more intense. You start to bond with the other actors and crew. You start spending more time together and the music fills your head even when you’re not at practice. More and more, the other parts of your life start getting planned around the big show. This is a bit like the last few weeks before the big trip. You have to start clearing your calendar and making arrangements for while you’re gone. Talk of the trip starts creeping into most family conversations.

Then comes crunch time. The last week or so of rehearsals takes over your entire life. You spend more time with the cast and crew than with your family. Suddenly every little thing becomes a crisis. The new set pieces are too wide for the stage? The lead actor thinks he may have tonsilitis? It feels like you are in a busy kitchen with ten pots bubbling over at once and you’re scrambling to get all the details into place. It’s stressful but exhilarating at the same time.

That’s the stage we’re in right now. It’s terribly exciting to know that we’re so close to the big day, but it also feels like there is far too much to do before we go to get it all done. I’m making lists and collecting things we need to pack and info we need to bring and I’m just hoping that no one gets sick and nothing gets lost.

And then suddenly it’s time for the big show! All the planning and practicing is over and it’s time to get onto that stage! You work your heart out and thrill in the amazing feeling of everyone working together towards a common goal. You hear the applause at the end of the last show and hug and cry backstage and basically eat, breathe and sleep the show while it’s running. This, of course, is the trip itself. It’s exhausting and overwhelming, but you’re also aware that you’re finally seeing the fruits of all your planning and preparing. To see your kids marveling at a sight that you’ve been seeing in your guidebook for the past few months, or playing in the perfect town square that you’ve been picturing in your dreams is worth all effort you’ve put into the trip.

And then,just like a high school production, it’s over. You feel a great sense of accomplishment, but also sadness that it’s over. You know you will miss the show itself, but you will also actually miss the planning part. The show, or the destination, that occupied your thoughts and time for so much time, is over now. And you know you’ll never have quite the same experience with exactly that same group of people ever again.

Now you may say, wait a minute, the cast of a play may change, but the cast of your family stays pretty much the same, but that’s not entirely true. This will be my only summer to travel with a four and a five year old. They will never play these exact same roles again. By the next trip, they will be at different stages and I will love that too, but I will miss this time as well.

But do you know the only way to deal with the sadness that comes with wrapping up a great show? Planning another one, of course! So I always make sure I have another trip in the works so that I can ease my post trip blues by getting right on with planning the next one.

But for now, it’s almost showtime for us. And as much as I’ve enjoyed the pre-production stage, I can hardly wait for the curtain to go up on the big show!

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