Friday, September 11, 2015

The Stories Behind Those Vacation Photos

Like many people, I spent a portion of the last few months drooling over the photos friends posted of their summer travels on Facebook and Instagram. It's probably my favorite aspect of being active on social media: the chance to window shop all sorts of destinations and get a glimpse into what everyone else's vacations were like. I suspect I receive "likes" and comments on my own travel photos for similar reasons.

But anyone who has traveled knows that these brief glimpses don't always tell the full story. Especially when you add kids in the mix.

I don't think there's anything wrong with sharing wonderful vacation photos. I post hundreds each year myself. But I hope it doesn't set an unrealistic expectation for others when they embark on their own journeys.

Our May trip to Scotland is the perfect example. My photos suggested gorgeous scenery, interesting historical places, and 24/7 smiles. But had you traveled with us that week, you'd know there was much more to it than what friends saw on Facebook. Let me give you a few examples, from just one day of our travels there that week.

We started the day in Stirling with a brief stop at the castle there. As we were walking through the very quiet parking lot toward the wall where you could admire the view of the town and surrounding countryside, a car veered away from its lane and over to the walking path we were on. An older American woman rolled down her window and yelled at us for not holding the hand of our 3-year-old, saying he was certain to get hit by a car. A few things to note: He was walking on a pedestrian path. There were hardly any cars around. And the only car that came near him was HER car. Also? Mind your own business, lady.

We shrugged it off although it really rubbed me the wrong way. But this was the photo I posted on social media, taken a few seconds after that irritating interaction:

Our next stop was the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, a key moment in Scottish history. We let the boys run around the big field, marveling at how incredible it was that our children were playing in the same spot where Robert the Bruce led his troops into battle. Just as I started to fall into a peacefully perfect state of mind, Big Arrow yelled out, "Mom, he needs you!"

Sure enough, Little Arrow pooped his pants. We now laugh at this incident, saying Little Arrow was just proving what a proper Englishman he has become, shitting on a Scottish landmark for independence.

From Stirling, we drove to the village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond. As we drove there, I remember being worried that our accommodation wouldn't be very nice. I had trouble finding something in that area (waited too long to book on a school holiday week). There were few photos of the place I ended up reserving so I wasn't sure what to expect. The one thing I was confident of was how charming the village of Luss would undoubtedly be. I saw tons of photos of it when I pinpointed it as where I wanted to say.

Needless to say, karma paid me a visit. Our rental cottage was lovely. Spacious, nicely decorated, great kitchen, even a beautiful patio. The village of Luss? A little disappointing. What those dozens of charming photos didn't tell me is that about a hundred tour buses a day roll through there. This photo of Little Arrow tossing pebbles into the loch doesn't show the bus load of senior citizens taking photos of him. (Creepy.) It was like staying where a cruise ship docks, without being on the cruise.

I don't write this to turn anyone off from traveling with their kids. Rather, I hope it encourages you that even despite these hiccups, frustrations, and less-than-Instagram worthy experiences, family vacations are still incredibly worthwhile. I wrote about a wonderful moment in Edinburgh and our enjoyment of Loch Lomond in previous posts, and I wouldn't trade a minute of our trip to Scotland just to avoid those experiences mentioned above.

Just as no individual is perfect, no trip will be either. It's those moments in between the rude encounters, the tantrums, and long waits, that memories are made. Because as I tell people, we sometimes struggle through the average day at home with our boys. I might as well muddle through parenting in beautiful locations around the world if I'm privileged enough to be able to.