http://eeyore.astro.illinois.edu/mypics/ancientrome.html

Alright, the BIG REVEAL behind the silence on the blog of late.  I have one of those b-i-g birthdays coming up this May.  My husband and I had been talking about what kind of trip to take to celebrate when one night over dinner I said, “Why don’t we live in Italy for the summer?”

How I came up with that idea and why we both thought it was not only a good one but a doable one is such a long story it would probably dry out your eyeballs to read it all.  So here’s the abridged version:

  1. We both used to live in Europe at different stages in our lives, and lately I’ve been missing it desperately.
  2. We agree that taking young children on a two-week vacation anywhere in Europe would be miserable, but perhaps not so much if you are going there to live as locals and immerse yourself in the culture (which is the way we like to travel anyway).
  3. Two years ago, we met a lovely Italian couple on a Colorado dude ranch.  They had two children the same age and gender as ours.  We met on the first night and all of us (kids included) became fast friends.  That experience made me think differently about traveling abroad with kids.  I thought, “If they can do it, why can’t we?”
  4. There is another still top-secret reason why it makes sense for us to go this summer, which I’ll reveal soon enough.

What does this have to do with the silence on the blog?  Well, in order to make this trip affordable, we had to buy the airline tickets using miles/points, and find a reasonably priced apartment in the Riviera that was within walking distance to everything we’d need (so as not to rent a car).  It takes a great deal of sorcery to squeeze all the stray airline miles and credit card points into a big ball in order to use them to purchase six round-trip tickets from the U.S. to Italy.  We needed six so Phil can go back and forth a couple of extra times for work.  I am an extraordinarily good travel planner, but I had to use all my best travel jiu jitsu moves to make this happen.  Very time-consuming.  But now that it’s all planned and booked, I am back, inspired and ready to get back into the conversation!

As you might have guessed, my writing time has also suffered, but I know this experience is going to bring a tsunami of inspiration.  Seeing a foreign country through a child’s eyes – I’m sure I’ll be filling notebooks with PB ideas.

I’ve also always had an interest in travel writing, so I am going to pursue that angle as well.  More on that later too.  In the meantime, this is what our itinerary looks like.

  • Phil and I land in Rome, just the two of us, and spend 3 days there before going to a small village in the Riviera called Camogli.
  • We check into our apartment in Camogli and spend a few days relaxing and exploring.
  • Phil flies back to the States and I get a week in Camogli on my own!
  • Phil comes back with the kids and we spend two more weeks in Camogli. Our Italian friends will join us for beach time.
  • We then go with our Italian friends to spend a week at their home in Milan.
  • Leaving Milan, we spend 2 nights in Venice.
  • Next we spend 4 nights in Naples so we can visit Pompeii and Vesuvius for our volcano-obsessed son. Then we do a boat tour around Capri for mom and dad.
  • We end with three days in Rome with the kids, at the same hotel where we started – like book covers.  Seems an apt analogy.

Our apartment in Camogli is little more than a shoebox.  One bedroom with a sofa-bed for the kids.  But it’s right on the beach and has this view:

Remember my New Year’s Resolution to lost 15 pounds?  The real reason is so I have room to gain it back this summer, because I can promise you I will not be metering my consumption of pasta, pizza, gelato and red wine!  Luckily the apartment is on the 4th floor and has 85 steep steps.  That should help.

I am equal parts ecstatic and terrifed about this trip.

Have you ever done anything that seemed crazy to everyone around you?  Was it worth it?

Categories: Family, Summer, Travel, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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14 Comments

  1. When my daughter was 5 and my son was 3 (and not yet potty-trained!) we loaded the family (large dog included) and all of our camping gear into the minivan and drove across the country. We spent a month camping, hitting the occasional hotel, visiting family and friends, and sightseeing. EVERYONE thought we were crazy, but it was the best trip of our lives, and we have so many great family stories to share because of it. I’ve been thinking lately that it might be high time to do it again. 🙂

    We also traveled a lot (even abroad) when the kids were younger. It was always well worth the trouble (despite motion sickness issues). 😉 It’s actually harder to contemplate such a thing now that they’re older and have school and activities, but I envy you. I’m sure you’ll have many memorable experiences! Enjoy!!

    • Laurie,

      A cross-country camping trip with two little ones AND a dog seems far more adventurous to me than living abroad!

      I agree about the activities and school and so on. I imagine that as the kids get older it would be more difficult to ask them to leave their friends and their lives for a whole summer.

      Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. This is BRILLIANT. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I’ve lived in Europe and love it – brought the kids to Italy when they were elementary ages, and we went on a huge extended family vacay to the Amalfi Coast in summer ’09.

    We went to Pompeii and Vesuvius too, and I highly recommend you read the novel POMPEII right before you go – I kept looking at everything through the eyes of the protag and it deepened my experience immeasurably!

    And this tip is the hardest, yet most valuable: start taking Italian NOW. In a class – not just those tapes. If you already speak a romance language you’ll pick it up fast. Everyone does NOT speak English, and you’ll really be able to connect with people, and get around, and it will generally make you feel much more comfortable. Plus, while you’re learning you’ll get more and more excited about your fab trip!

    Have a ball!

    • Katie,

      I’m envious about Amalfi. I tried to squeeze that in too, but it was just too much.

      I had never heard of the novel POMPEII, but now I can’t wait to read it. Maybe I’ll save it to read at the beginning of our trip so it’s especially fresh in my mind.

      THANK YOU for what you said about learning Italian. I do have the tapes, but now I think I’m going to step it up a couple of gears, especially since I’ll be on my own with the kids for part of the time. I just found a very cool site called “Fluent In Three Months.” The big advice is to start speaking the language – with real people. I’ll have to get over my self-consciousness and just do it.

      By the way, these days Brain Burps is my favorite way to pass the time in the car. I just discovered them about a month ago, and I am in awe of how many golden nuggets they contain. Since I have your voice for company so often, I feel as though I got a celebrity comment on this post!! 🙂

      Children’s book writers – if you don’t know about Katie’s Brain Burps about Books podcasts, follow her link to go check them out. You won’t be disappointed!

  3. Oh, Julie, this sounds amazing! You are brave and totally my hero!

  4. You go, girl! What a wonderful way to spend the summer.

    I’ve done many things in life that others did not support:

    * traveling to St. Thomas by myself for Spring Break senior year
    * stopping the practice of law without another job in mind
    * moving to MD without lining up a job first
    * moving to FL while our house in MD was still in the market

    When we risk nothing . . . we risk everything.

    Mangia!

    • Traveling alone for Spring Break is a big deal. I never would have had the guts to do that at that age.

      Terrific quote!

  5. Your trip sounds like it’ll be fantastic! Should be a great chance to slow down and live the culture.

    Re: crazy things – Dave and I have quit our jobs three times to take extended backpacking trips (2 circling the Pacific, 1 in Europe). We saved for each of them, but people thought we were crazy to leave good jobs, and crazy to head off with no plans except vague flight itineraries. But each of those trips was amazing for different reasons and brought us even closer to each other.

    And our boss hired us back each time, so that was nice, too. 🙂

    • Shannon,

      Leaving good jobs to travel is the epitome of bravery. I can see why people would be astonished by that decision, which makes it even more incredible. At the end of the day, I think we have to live the lives we want to live and that make sense for us. I decided some years back that I didn’t want to wish I’d always done something that was within my power to do.

  6. Julie, this is a wonderful plan! I am inspired by the fact that you were able to make it all happen. No doubt it will be scary at times, but it will also be something your family will remember forever.

    I lived in Japan for 10 years and am so very glad that I did. I do remember my parents driving me to JFK for my flight. Somewhere along i-495 I started raving that I didn’t really have to go. I almost blew it due to nerves, but I boarded the plane and took one step at a time after that. Some things worked out perfectly. Other obstacles seemed insurmountable. I learned so much.

    I hope you will write about the experience and post lots of photos. I’m looking forward to hearing about it all.

    • Lynda,

      Wow – Japan for 10 years! Languages that don’t even share the same alphabet as English completely intimidate me, so I consider that hugely brave.

      I will definitely be writing about the experience, so stay tuned. 🙂

  7. Julie!

    I am so inspired by you and your adventures. I will follow you very closely, as one of my major goals is for my little family to spend the summer of 2012 in Italy (We’ll be bringing a one-eyed shih tzu puppy instead of two children 😉

    <3 Bridget

    • Bridget,

      It’s always a thrill to hear somebody say I’ve inspired them. I will be glad to share the nitty gritty of my planning with you, and I’m obviously going to be writing a lot on the blog. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

      You’re lucky you can bring your puppy! Our “puppy” is a little too much at 75 lbs – not exactly a Europe kind of dog.

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