Well to say I am excited would be an understatement. An opportunity arose through my work to attend a conference in England and I was able to convince my family to come along for the ride.
It is a quick trip. 2 1/2 days in London, 3 in Manchester and 3 in Paris. First time for all of us in England and France.
It took a bit of convincing for my daughter, who will be in her second week of high school at the time. There has been some stress about going to high school, mostly around social stuff. She’s a strong student so I have no doubt that she’ll be able to catch up on a week of missed school. And a trip to France for a kid who is heading into her 9th year of French immersion will be a learning experience all on its own. She’ll be the one who this anglophone will be relying on in Paris.
In the end, it was her friends who convinced her that Europe was the better option than high school. She has good friends who understand the bigger picture. Not always easy to find with high school girls. I can’t wait for her to see the Eiffel Tower, something she has dreamed of since she was wee. To cross something off your bucket list at 14 is a special thing.
The day we arrive in London is the day that England plays Spain at Wembley stadium. I’m a soccer nut, and we somehow managed to snag tickets to the inaugural UEFA Nations League game. We’ll be exhausted having just done an overnight flight from the west coast of Canada and arriving in London that morning. But it will be worth it. So worth it to attend a European soccer game with my son, who is almost as big of a fan as I am. Almost.
Truth told, I’m a bit of a nervous mess about the whole thing. My son’s allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) weigh on our mind whenever we travel. We have our foods and routines that we know are safe. But traveling to other countries – especially a country where we don’t know the language – is still a stress inducing affair. We do our research as best we can, but we don’t have the flexibility to just pop in anywhere whenever we get hungry, or grab any old snack food when we feel the hangry’s coming on. So, that is a complication. But one that is fairly easy to manage.
I worry about things I cannot control. I live a privileged life in the safety of a small city on the west coast of Canada. My kids and I know nothing but safety at the most basic level. Foreign to us are the threat that someone could drive a car into a crowd at any given moment. But threats like that are real, watching the news a week ago of a car driving into a crowd just a few blocks from where we will be staying in London.
I fret over how much to share with my kids. Do I tell them that our government says that travellers in the UK and France should “exercise a high degree of caution travelling in both countries? I don’t even know how to prepare for that. What does “exercise a high degree of caution” even mean to a family that has known nothing but safety and security? Do I tell my son that we need to be even more vigilant when attending high-profile sporting events? Of all the places I have wanted to travel in the world, I never thought I would feel anxious about travelling to England and France.
It’s likely the Dad in me, worrying more than necessary about remote things. Because, despite the warnings, these do remain extremely remote possibilities. And while I do fret, I also struggle to contain my enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunity. Honestly, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. We Gen X’ers are not supposed to get enthused quite this much.
Sometimes my small northern Alberta roots really show through. I’m still just a smalltown boy with big city dreams at heart. I always said I wanted my kids to have a different life than I did growing up. This is exactly what I meant. I don’t want London or Paris to be some mythical place in their imagination that they only hear about/dream about like I did as a kid. I want them to have opportunities I never had as a kid. To experience life. And have the opportunity to cross things off their bucket list at 14 that it has taken me 51 years to do.