Travel Travails of Single-Parenting

by Dee Andrews

Traveling with children has enough challenges, but going it alone, being a single parent, while traveling and living abroad is full of ups and downs.

Gaucin, Spain

We had been in the quaint little Spanish village of Gaucin, Spain for a week, my two young daughters and I. My husband had traveled back to the States for business, so it was just us girls. The anxiety I felt on finding myself a single parent caught me completely off guard. It hit me driving back to Gaucin from the Malaga airport. What was I thinking, being in a foreign country where I knew no one, didn’t speak the language, and had two young children. What if something happened to them? What if something happened to me?! I worried my way up the winding mountain road, deciding I’d hole up in Gaucin and all would be right with the world.

Tantrums While Traveling

The following week’s travails were minor, really, but collectively sent me over the edge. What would have taken five minutes in Colorado took me the entire next morning. I was trying to download a book onto my daughter’s iPod. The iPod seized up, the computer crept, and the dongle failed to bring us a wireless connection. Okay. Don’t throw it all across the room. Let’s take a walk to that little organic hippy market on the other side of town, the one that looks like it’s straight out of Boulder, and use their computer. Thirty minutes later, we arrive at the market, pay to use their one computer and an hour and a half later finally have Rikki-Tikki-Tavi downloaded. Whew. Saved. It sounds benign, I know, but it really did me in that morning. Perhaps it was the frustration of something taking so long when I knew it didn’t have to, or the heat, or the isolation or PMS. All I know is multiple tantrums occurred.

Perhaps the swimming pool would be a good adventure, a nice cool place to while away a day. We set off mid-morning the following day. It only took several hours of wandering the twisty cobbled streets and much complaining about the heat and weight of carrying floaty noodles, to discover that the pool was closed on Tuesdays. Another tantrum, you say?

Towards the end of our first week in Gaucin, we discovered we had pretty much discovered the entire village. Holing up in Gaucin was becoming stifling. Bravery won over boredom, and we decided to drive to the beach in Estepona. We set off with our backpacks for the walk to the car. Excitement energized us. Something new for the day. I wound my way through the narrow streets, finding the road that rings around the small village. We were off!

No, we were not. The car started beeping at me, lights flashing and words warning. But the words were in French! I don’t read French. I pulled over and dug out the manual. More French. OMG. Trust me, all kinds of French come out of my mouth then. My daughters sat still and serious in the back seat. Whether it was fear of the car or mom, I was not sure. I just wanted out of the town for the day, just one little thing that went right and was relatively easy. It was not to be.

We walked home. Dejected. Sad. Cranky. Anxiety winning.

In hindsight, it wasn’t just the anxiety of being a single-parent that overwhelmed me, but homesickness, travel fatigue, and the desire for a high-speed internet connection. After nine weeks of living abroad, the novelty of being in a foreign country was wearing off. The vacation had ended and life was taking over. We missed familiar surroundings, routines, family and companions outside of ourselves.

In reality, all minor travails… though they felt like slow torture that week. When we first set off on our sabbatical, I wanted my girls to experience a little stress, learn how to cope, problem solve, go with the flow. Forget my children, it was me the parent who was forced to slow down, admit I had been cavalier about not speaking Spanish and apologize for all of my tantrums.

Why all the fuss over downloading a story? Audible Kids is one of the best traveling-with-kids recommendations I have. Hours and hours of stories to keep kids entertained, especially new readers who may not be reading chapter books yet. Their selection is amazing, and you can download from all over the world. Finding a high-speed internet connection is up to you. 😉 Click Audible Kidshere to check them out for yourself.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary R October 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm

What a wonderful adventure with your family… as far as the frustrations with culture, time, travel logistics, etc, I find my thresh hold of tolerance really fluctuates day to day and it’s normal… some days the smallest thing pushes me over the edge, and other times, I deal with a whole battery of assaults!

Good job! I’m rooting for you… my mom traveled with us as children alone in Europe and she has all kinds of crazy similar stories including having a panic attack on an airplane and demanding to be let off even after they taxied to the runway… and they had no choice but to honor that! You’re not the only one by far!

Dee October 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Hello Mary,

Thanks for the cheers! Do you think your travels with your Mom as a child inspired you to be a world traveler now as an adult? Looks like you are enjoying Asia and experiencing the cultures there. I am hopeful my daughters remember their experiences and sometimes hard-won lessons… and want to keep going… because we sure do!

Best, Dee

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