When Will and I were about 24 and 23 respectively, we went to Peru. We each had 1 backpack for a 10 day trip, and I, even though I am a meticulous planner even left the end of our trip unplanned so that we could try flying by the seats of our pants. That didn't go so well, as Will got violently ill and I had to argue in my extremely limited Spanish to get us a desperate 24 hour long cross-country bus ride to Lima so we could make our flight home. However, I still remember sitting in an outdoor cafe one evening in Aguas Caillentes and watching a blonde-headed 3 year old European girl play quietly in the walkway while her young, hip parents enjoyed their dinner. Will and I were encouraged by the little family, and agreed that once we had kids we would get them used to traveling so that becoming parents wouldn't stop us from continuing to travel the world.
Now that I am actually in possession of those hypothetical kids we were talking about, the thought of figuring out how to fly them to and control them in a 3rd world country puts me in a cold sweat. I realize this is completely my fault; we haven't practiced traveling with them as much as we should, plus I am easily overwhelmed. There's also the fact that it's just plain difficult to provide for your childrens' needs in an unfamiliar environment while also trying to shield the rest of the world from their loud exuberance and fondness for knocking things over. Add in the pressure of doing all this while simultaneously shepherding them from activity to activity in order to make "precious memories" and it's a wonder we ever come back from vacation alive.
We spent the last week of August in the Adirondacks at YMCA Camp Gorham again, and it did not go nearly as well as it did last time. I had thought that NOT being pregnant and having a husband who was NOT currently in the middle of a 2-year long bout of "wasting disease" would make up for the fact that we had 2 kids this time, but apparently not. Part of the problem was that it is designed as a sleep-away camp for kids 6 and older, and it's only the last week of the summer that whole families are allowed to all go together. However many of the rules that are in place for the 6 year olds who are there on their own remain in place even when the parents are present, which results in ridiculously regimented activities. Many of the activities (horseback riding, zipline) were very attractive to little kids but had age limits for participation, and those that didn't have age limits were only available for random short periods of time. The girls desperately wanted to swim in the lake, but kids were only allowed to swim in certain areas for 2ish hours a day which would sometimes be in the middle of their extremely necessary nap time, or while Emily's favorite activity (the bouncing pillow) was open. When you DID swim, you had to wear a life vest (or "PFD") NOT water wings, which the kids were not used to and didn't like. So we spent a lot of time and patience getting the kids TO an activity we thought they'd enjoy only to leave with crying, disappointed girls despite our best efforts. Flexibility is so essential when you're traveling with young children, and all the rules about how we could do activities with our own children took pretty much every bit of flexibility away.
It's especially frustrating for Will because he has such good memories of camp from his childhood, but as adults we had no time to do anything WE wanted to do because it took 2+ adults to tend the always exhausted, usually disappointed kids at all times. The food was not quite as good this time either (lunch one day was chicken patties and french fries) and eating in a dining hall, while it was nice that I didn't have to make meals or do dishes, was kind of like going to a restaurant with the girls 3x a day for a week. Yuck.
The accommodations, which is what I was MOST worried about ahead of time, turned out to be fantastic. We were in a lodge that was just opened this year, and we had several showers and toilets (in stalls for privacy!) attached to our room, a separate room for the girls (totally key) and easy access to a full kitchen, which was great for keeping Will's ice pack for his back frozen and providing a quick and easy place for Emily to realize her dream of roasting marshmallows (on the gas stove, since having a campfire did not work out. AT CAMP.)
So we've decided with equal measures of sadness and relief that we won't be going to Camp Gorham for the next couple years. We'll try again when the girls are old enough to do more of the activities, but for now it's unfortunately more hassle and exhaustion than it's worth. I hold out hope that one day we can go back and enjoy it as it's meant to be enjoyed.
Some pics from the trip: