I escaped my life (and kids) to travel…and I’d do it again
It is no secret that I run away from home for a night or two every now and then. As a mother of two little guys I feel like my sanity requires it. At least one good night sleep every now and then is necessary in my life to function. But if I had the chance to go to Africa without my family for two weeks would I go? Kim from Stuffed Suitcase said yes to just that opportunity and shares why it was one of the best decision she ever made.
If you had the chance to visit Africa for two weeks, but you had to leave your kids and husband at home, would you do it? Well, I did.
My father-in-law has been working with organizations in Botswana, and as a thank you for working on his website he invited me to join him and his wife on a trip to Africa. That trip was scheduled to take sixteen days, eighteen counting flight days. I didn’t even hesitate, and even more amazing, neither did my husband. He would take on the role of a single parent for over two weeks, but still encouraged me to go on this amazing trip.
Traveling with kids is absolutely one of my favorite ways to spend my time and money. Seeing my daughters experience new places, meet new people, and eat new foods brings me joy. I love watching their faces light up with each new discovery. So, taking a trip to Africa without them was definitely not a normal thing for our family.
Traveling without my kids allowed me a sort of freedom and singular mindset that I normally don’t experience when traveling as a family. When leaving hotels, my thoughts weren’t about snacks and kids’ needs; they were solely about preparing what I needed. Finding your focus and attention to be on you is unbelievably relaxing. I’ve been traveling with my kids for so long that I’ve forgotten what it feels like to just think of myself. Having that time to enjoy life and travel for myself was relaxing and joyful.
Taking this opportunity to explore another land and culture was too good to pass up. Our plan was to fly into Johannesburg, South Africa and drive into Gaborone, Botswana where my father-in-law has been working. Later in the first week we would fly up to Kasane, Botswana for our safari experience. After returning to Gaborone from Kasane I was scheduled to teach a children’s ministry workshop to some local churches through a non-profit group my father-in-law works with. We also planned to attend Sunday service at one of the local churches he had consulted with.
My trip was absolutely amazing. Exploring the habitat and animals of Botswana is an experience I’ll never forget. Seeing elephants play in the water and being charged by a hippopotamus aren’t situations most people get to see. It was magical and surreal.
Getting the chance to teach a children’s ministry workshop to twelve local churches was a remarkable experience. As a former children’s ministry director, I take for granted what resources and training I had easily available for that position. To use some of the experience and knowledge I had acquired to help churches on the other side of the world lead, teach, and disciple children was immensely rewarding. I took so much from Africa, but I left a piece of myself there too.
I’m about to say something a little shocking now…I didn’t really “miss” my family. I think technology is partly to thank here. I was able to get Internet most days (very weak) and was able to send emails back and forth with my husband as well as Skype with my daughters every couple of days. I could see that my children were happy and healthy, and loved sharing the stories of my latest adventures. The part I missed most was hugging and kissing them and sharing the amazing sights with them.
One worry I had before leaving on my trip was the thought of the heartache for my family that could ruin or taint my trip. Traveling halfway around the globe and then longing for home isn’t my idea of a vacation. However that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t say this if my trip was longer, and I still worried about something happening to me or my husband and kids back home. But that can be the case even when you’re home with your family.
Africa was such an unknown world to me. Much of it still is. Visiting South Africa and Botswana is like scratching the surface of that amazing continent. I would love to return and see the wineries in South Africa, the country of Namibia, Victoria Falls, and return to the beautiful Chobe National Park in Botswana.
I know that a return trip would probably have to involve my family next time. I’ve had this incredible experience, and now I want to share that with them. I can’t wait to see my daughters’ first sighting of an elephant, hear their laughs at how big and funny-looking hippos are, watch the amazement as they see a giraffe walk in front of them, and just share the joy of experiencing a new land.
There are people, some of my friends in fact, who think that leaving my family for such a long time makes me heartless or selfish mother. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know how you can do that!” Well, let me tell you. I was renewed with fresh experiences. I had stories to tell and photos to share. Taking time to see the world through my eyes alone, helped me grow as my own person. I created new insights and formed new thoughts. If my kids would have been along on the trip, I would have experienced everything as a mom, not an individual.
I lived life, and loved every minute of it. My kids can see that joy, they see me grabbing an opportunity and opening myself to new experiences. They watch me light up when discussing elephants and church services and the people I met. How is that selfish? You must live life to share, and that’s what I think my role as a mom is. I want to share joy and live a life that will inspire my children.
Here’s hoping that if you’re given a selfish life opportunity (that doesn’t harm your family, of course) you’ll grab it and live life. Share joy, experience the world, and grow. It’ll make you a happier person and a better parent.
Kimberly is a Seattle area mom who loves traveling with her two daughters and husband. Stuffed Suitcase is where she shares tips for family travel and life between trips. Follow her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.