grad trips

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Jordan may kill me for posting this picture, but I love it. It perfectly depicts our first up-close look at the Eiffel Tower. It was a beautiful day. We were weary from travel, but the tower? It perked us right up -- what with its grandeur and iconic nature and all.

Sterling and I never intended to institute a graduation trip "tradition." Even now, I'm not entirely sure that's what to call it. I got lucky last summer and was able to present a paper on Dickens at a conference in England at the beginning of July, and it seemed like a fine idea to bring just-graduated Jordan along. Plus, having her company was way more fun for me. We looked around London for a few days, took a train south for the conference, and then chunneled our way to Paris.

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Despite tiny airplane seats, an entire jet-lagged day spent wandering London (before our hotel room was ready), squishy subway cars, and one very drafty, extremely moldy hotel experience, the trip was a smashing success. Here's why:

  • One on one time with Jordan. This was our last summer before she left for college, and it helped ease my have-I-really-done-everything-I-could-as-a-parent anxieties. Not that traveling abroad is a necessary part of the parenting experience in any way, but in the busyness of graduation and prom and college prep, we had plenty of time to contemplate and discuss family life and friends and her adulthood. Gulp.
  • Travel experience. We took multiple planes, trains, subways, and taxis on this trip. We had to navigate a number of public transportation systems, one with instructions only in French. By the end of the trip Jordan was a pro, which gave her a much-needed boost of confidence for traveling alone once she left for college. On her first trip home from BYU (at Thanksgiving), her flight was delayed and she missed her connection in Denver. She had to take a shuttle 20 minutes away from the airport to a hotel, spend the night, and then make her way back to the airport the next morning -- alone. She was, rightfully, nervous but managed the logistics easily.
  • And, of course, it was an exciting introduction to both the thrilling highs and grouchy lows of adventurous undertakings. One of my concerns for my children as they leave home is that they learn to be happy -- to make themselves happy despite their immediate circumstances. I think a big part of that is understanding how to enjoy the journey. The destination itself is important, don't get me wrong, but the bulk of the trip is comprised of getting there. You have to learn to smile at the tired toddler who is encroaching deeply into your already-limited airplane leg room. You have to search out a side-street ice cream shop to break up a long walk back to your room. You have to appreciate the brightly painted doors, or the quaint tea shops, or the unexpectedly fabulous Italian restaurant at the end of the street where your less-than-ideal hotel room waits for you. I want them to find happiness and satisfaction in all of that. And that analogy seems to pop up often while traveling.
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Perhaps I'm fumbling the sentiment here. What I wanted to teach Jordan is aptly expressed in one of my favorite quotes by Jenkin Lloyd Jones:

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” 

P.S. Madison and I are planning a grad trip to NYC in July. I'm thinking of a VRBO in Brooklyn and some Broadway shows. Any suggestions from New Yorkers out there?