This is my first blog post since returning from a 2-week holiday away from my family. My twin sister and I turn 40 next month and we went to Barcelona together to celebrate – just us, no kids.
My sister and I saved a little money each week into a bank account opened specifically for the trip. When we first opened it, my boys were much younger. I was immersed in breastfeeding & nappy-changing and couldn’t really imagine being able to extract myself from my responsibilities or doing anything as interesting as travelling to a new country. When the time came to start packing my suitcase and I realised the trip was finally & actually happening, it felt very surreal.
Before leaving, I hid love notes in my boys’ lunchboxes for them to find on the first morning I was away. I instructed my husband to tell them that mummy loves them every night when he tucked them into bed. At his request, I also left a long document of schedules, simple recipes and other critical Jake-and-Thomas-information on the kitchen bench to help him through his solo parenting fortnight.
To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the trip in the lead-up. I was excited to be seeing for myself all the amazing architecture that I had only before glimpsed in other people’s travel photos. I was looking forward to sleeping & eating in a more flexible way, not determined by my children’s routines & needs but my own. It was going to be great to hang out with my sister and give her uninterrupted attention, something I’ve done a lot less of since having children. But I also felt selfish, leaving my husband to manage on his own for 2 weeks and using a decent chunk of our money to go to the other side of the world. I was a little rattled by the terrorist attack that had occurred in August, just 500m from the apartment we had booked to stay in. The anticipated unrest over the elections for Catalonian independence (scheduled to take place while we were to be in Barcelona) made me nervous also.
My anxiety melted away, though, once I was settled into my seat on the plane. I had made my decision to go and I was committed to enjoying it. I got my sister to take my photo to mark my turning point and the start of our adventure.
Enjoying Barcelona wasn’t difficult! The apartment we were staying in was within walking distance of many of the sights we wanted to visit. The winding narrow streets and old buildings had me enchanted and continually reaching for my camera. It was a treat to browse the shops with no time-limit or restless children in-tow. Cafe windows were overflowing with sweet treats and the incredible La Boqueria food market was only a 5-minute stroll up the road from our apartment, handy for stopping into to pick up dinner after a busy day out. Sitting on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Barceloneta Beach, just a short Metro ride away, made a great retreat when I needed a break from the bustle of the tourist district. I made the most of my opportunity to be in Barcelona and the sacrifices my family were making for me. It occurred to me that I have (willingly) made plenty of sacrifices for them over the years, it was okay to ask them to do the same for me sometimes.
The city’s rich collection of architectural beauties, which had been the main reason for choosing Barcelona as the destination to mark our birthday, didn’t disappoint. I couldn’t have imagined how beautiful the buildings would be or how they would move me. Architect Antonio Gaudi was a deeply spiritual man and learning about his designs helped me to understand in a new way how a person’s art (in whichever form it takes) is a form of prayer. Standing in the light and magnificence of the Sagrada Familia, I realised the importance of my own writing as well as the need to recognise and encourage my boys’ modes of expression. I also thought that I would love to visit it again one day with a teenaged Jake, who seems to have a sense for the sacred and I think would be inspired by its beauty and symbolism.
The trip opened me up. Without responsibilities and stimulated by new experiences, I felt present, expanded and relaxed. I am fortunate that, for me, the daily life of motherhood is not one I feel the need to escape from, although I understand that many mothers do feel that way. But my trip showed me that new experiences keep me feeling vital and provide me with some contrast to the fairly repetitive nature of life with younger children. I decided I would play tourist in my own city with my boys once I returned to Wellington, to keep us all inspired and invigorated.
Since returning from my trip, many people, mostly mothers, have asked me whether I missed my boys. Some couldn’t bear the idea of being away from their own children for so long and others were envious of the fortnight of “freedom” I had. Yes, I did miss my boys. But it wasn’t a miserable longing for them or worrying about them. Each day, I felt how much I was looking forward to seeing them again and how grateful I was to have them to return to once the trip was over. We kept in touch daily using Whatsapp, waking up each morning to videos and photos we had sent each other overnight (being in opposite timezones). At the airport, Jake and Thomas gave me an enthusiastic welcome, both of them refusing to let go of me and attached to me like limpets for the rest of the day. We were making up for lost time.
Much love to you and your little souls,
If you found this post interesting, subscribe to get new essays & soulful parenting tips sent straight to your inbox.
My Top 3 Barcelona Experiences:
* Touring the Sagrada Familia
* Sitting in the sand of the beach at Barceloneta
* Eating a waffle topped with Crema Catalana (like crème brulee) for breakfast on our first morning in Barcelona.
My Top 3 Dubai Experiences (we had a 3-day stopover on the way home):
* Camel riding in the desert
* Visiting the Grand Jumeirah Mosque
* Chillin’ by the pool at our hotel.