Going Sideways to Go Forwards

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And then everything opened up.

I told you last time that, even though there is definitely some frustration in the planning stages of a big trip when it feels like there’s a wall that I can’t get around, I have learned that I almost always just need to back up a bit and wait till I spot the path that I haven’t been noticing. Well, it happened again this week with the railroad trip! One easy mistake in my thinking corrected and suddenly everything looks clear.

I had been fretting badly because I couldn’t find a way to do the trip I had planned in the first place, and that was basically because of three problems:

1) I wasn’t sure I could afford to take all three kids with me on one trip. I have a fixed amount of total money for all the trips I’m going to take over the next few years, and unless or until I start getting sponsors for this blog or places begin inviting me to come visit at their expense in order to write about them, I will have to make it cover them all. The more people I bring along on a single trip, the fewer trips I can take myself to bring home the stories to you. So I need to be careful to limit the guests I bring with me, at least among those who can’t pay their own way.

2) My older kid, M, has fibromyalgia like me, and does even worse with severe heat than I do. Bringing them on an active sightseeing trip in high summer sounded to me like it had the potential to go disastrously wrong.

3) My foster kid, K, doesn’t yet have legal identification, and therefore cannot travel anywhere by air. We’re working on getting that sorted out, but it’s not likely to happen sooner than I would need to put down a deposit on a trip to be taken this summer. So I would have to trust in booking that we’d be able to get her ID handled before the actual travel dates… and stand to lose several thousand dollars and have a very disappointed kid if we turned out not to be finished on time and so she couldn’t go.

Eventually, I stopped digging into how I was going to solve each of these problems in its own right, and instead looked at them all from a big picture perspective and asked myself what they meant about the trip. That was, at last, the right move. Sometimes getting the answers is easy, once you figure out the right question to ask. This was definitely one of those moments.

The right question was “What do all these issues, taken together, tell me about my railroad trip?” And the answer, immediately, was “That I shouldn’t be trying to stuff everything into just one trip when they don’t really all fit together very well.”

What I need to do, I realized, is to take the kids on separate trips. That way I can go two different places and tell you all about them both. M can have a trip of their own during a less hot season of the year, while I take J on this one by himself. K can join me for a trip when she has a passport, which will also open up the range of places we can go at the time. That might be another individual one or it might be taking K together with M (they’re partners, which is how K came to live with us in the first place), but that’s up to the two of them, and they don’t need to figure it out now. Right now, the important part is that this trip — going pretty much anyplace in the middle of this summer — is right for me and J, but wrong for K and M, and so I shouldn’t be trying to wedge K and M into it.

So I checked this stuff with all of the kids, and got their approval to separate them out. M, who has really wanted to do the Canadian version of the transcontinental railroad (but would have been willing to settle for the U.S version), can come with me another time on Via Rail’s Vancouver to Halifax route (or rather, routes; it changes trains in Toronto). We can do that trip in spring, when it’s cooler and less apt to trigger M’s pain. And K might even have the ID to come with us by then. If not, I can take a different trip with her, when she can.

VIA Canadian route – CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It feels like a gate has finally swung open for me, with that decision. So simple an answer, but one I hadn’t been able to see because I was trying too hard to push straight forward. Chance says that I should have known better after my long association with traveling crabs, and he’s probably right, but I’m doing better at it now.

What’s more, when we had settled all of those changes and I had K and M’s buy-in for leaving them out of this trip in favor of one tailored more to their needs a few months later, I realized something else: this didn’t especially have to be a transcontinental railroad trip, either.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the railroads dearly and I would be very happy to ride them for any trip, anytime. But it hadn’t actually been J who asked for the transcontinental railroad, it was M. I’ll probably be doing the TransCanada route with M next spring for their trip, unless they ask for something else when we get closer to the time. There’s no particular reason why the American version also has to be this trip that I take with J.

So I asked J where he wanted to go. We both have passports; we can go pretty much anyplace in the world that isn’t dangerous and that I can afford. His eyes lit up and he hopefully asked, “Europe?”

I asked him which part of Europe. He said he was happy to visit pretty much anywhere, but that Italy really excited him. He’s a history and archaeology buff, and Italy is so jam-packed with ancient ruins and medieval art and architecture that it draws J like a magnet.

The Coloseum in Rome

So I am investigating Italy, and finding out what we can do there for roughly the price that I had planned to pay for me and J on the train trip. It’s a totally different direction from anything I had thought even yesterday that I would be doing with this summer’s trip… and it’s making me happy. M is relieved at not having to try to sightsee through the summer heat, and J is very excited about the prospect of seeing Italy.


All suddenly feels right with this plan once again, simply because I finally remembered how to back up and go around.

I don’t know much about where we’re likely to go in Italy or what we’ll do yet. I’m hoping at least to see the classic three cities: Venice, Florence and Rome… beyond that, it’ll depend on how much time and money we can spend there. I don’t normally do seven-week monster trips like the Africa tour was; it’s more likely to be about two weeks. But it’s still going to have a ton of interesting stuff packed into that time.

Florence – The Duomo

If you have any suggestions of places to go or things to do in Italy, please tell me in the comments! It doesn’t have to be places you’ve actually been yourself yet… tell me where you want me to go and write about. My job is to bring back the stories for you.

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