Four years. That is how long it took me to save miles, set aside money, plan, organize, coordinate, and research our first big blended family trip to Hawaii. I love to travel – tasting different food, and experiencing the scents and sounds of new places and cultures is something that has always brought me immense joy. The plan was to celebrate two of our kids' high school graduations. I was looking forward to experiencing a Hawaiian adventure together. We have five children between us. Three are his, one is mine, and we have our six-year-old caboose. By now, we all know how this trip story goes. COVID, canceled, fini.
Fast forward to 2022. Feeling trepidation, I was ready to try again. Spain. It had to be Spain, with its incredible architecture, culture, food, and direct flight from NYC. I don't think I need to overstress how complicated planning a trip abroad (or across town) for a family of seven with five kids between the ages of 6-22 is. The requirements are as follows in no particular order:*
- Food "that slaps”
- A Pool
- Bars and Clubs
- Clubs and Bars
- The beach
- The tiniest bikinis
- Dating apps
- Toy stores
- As little sleep as possible
*this list does not include adult requirements of peace and quiet
My research-obsessed brain managed to find us the perfect spot just outside of Barcelona. I found a charming beach town outside one of my favorite cities, a magical place with something for everyone in our family. At first blush, everything was perfect. Afternoon light poured into the house, allowing us both indoor and outdoor living, and the pool was set to the perfect temperature. The welcoming town of locals greeted us with smiles and sunkissed skin, and the smell of freshly baked bread and fresh squeezed orange juice filled the narrow streets as we all explored on our first day together.
However, in short, within the first five days, our youngest gets COVID, and I get COVID (mind you, we both had it six weeks earlier). Then, our oldest gets a wisdom tooth infection. Then again, the youngest had a urinary tract infection.
I had fantasized about the beach and sangria, but the universe had another plan. I really tried for it not to get me down. I couldn't let it. I wouldn't allow it. I threw on some eye makeup and a mask disguising a deep frown for a trip to Barcelona. I would make the best of it. But, the effort of the outing resulted in a stolen wallet. I was done. Convinced the universe actually hated me. Like really, really hated me.
Resilience. Recovery. That's a bunch of bullshit. What is true is the world expects us to carry its weight while simultaneously expecting us to show the light. This trip was the three-year break I desperately needed but partly broke me because, the show must go on.
Now that we are home, most of my family can reflect back with fondness. For me, it's not that simple. But, I can recall and appreciate my little one's joy as she learned how to cannonball into the pool (an actual pool!) The incredible seaside morning drive and first swim in the Mediterranean with my two exquisite daughters. The hysterical stories over paella lunch the twenty-somethings told us after their several semi-successful European all-nighters. A mistaken dinner at "all you can eat sushi" and the general vibe of feeling eternally grateful we are fortunate enough to do these things with one another and come out a bit stronger as a perpetually complicated but wonderful family.