10 Tips for Successful Travel with Your Teens

These are tried and true ways to rock travel with teens in tow.

Oh. My. Gawd. Seriously. Mom. Stop. Stop it.

Eyes roll. Shoulders shrug. Backs turn. Feet shuffle. A few paces away. I do not know you. I am not related to you. Maybe even hoodies pull a little lower over faces. Or beanies down. Heads definitively away. Buried in phones perchance? Anything to disassociate themselves. From YOU.

Traveling? With teens in tow? Ever felt like you are suddenly the most embarrassing person on the planet to your teens? Uh. Every day. Oh! You too? Welcome to the club. It’s fun here. Especially when you put teens in a situation that takes them ever so slightly outside of their fragile comfort zone. Immediately that propensity by parents to perpetuate gross affronts escalates. Like instantaneously. Upon landing. (Sometimes even while you are still in the air getting there.) Anytime you maneuver your offspring outside your bubble, there is potential to exasperate. Both you. And your teen.

BEEN THERE DONE THAT

Stop trying to speak the language mom. Stop pretending that you know where you are. Stop taking pictures of me. I mean it. STOP. NOW. Stop telling everybody everything about us. I just told them we live in Denmark, not our social security numbers. MOM. They don’t care.

Um. But I do. I’m engaging here. Interacting with the locals. They asked anyway. And they can decide if they don’t want to make small talk with me by their own selves. Just like you. My dear teen.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not always like that. But it definitely has been. On occasion. Or two. Or more. Who’s counting? Not me. But here’s my math. (Maths if you’re British.) Currently living under my roof are two full-fledged teenagers and one trying to keep up full blooded tween. I will have a good five to six years in this zone with all three smack in the middle of this age group. And a good five years after that until they’ve all graduated through teendom. Yay me! How ’bout dem apples.

(P.S. I love my teens. And my tween.)

REASONS TO TRAVEL WITH YOUR TEEnAGE CHILDREN

A million and one posts have been written advocating travel with your children. Start them young and I concur. It’s cheaper. They take up less room. They’re somewhat containable. They don’t have opinions yet. Terrible two’s don’t count. It’s a great time to travel with your littles. When they are just that… little. You know, soooo – by the time they are teens turning into young adults, they will be perfectly compliant, capable and confident traveling companions. Right? Wrong. Sorry.

Take your teens traveling and you can possibly exacerbate, irritate and otherwise aggravate your humans in their already volatile state. Those humans that you brought into your own hearth and home. Hormones are real people. Learning to navigate their effects while outside your comfort zone can be chaos. But for all the potential pouty faces, mood swings, general apathy and outright egregious offenses to their newly emerging independent identities – I’m here to tell you that traveling with teens can be amazing. I promise.

TASTE THE RAINBOW – TAKE YOUR TEENS TRAVELING

Teens are interested. (When you figure out what interests them.) And interesting. Truly. Teens have enough life under their belt to be able to make comparisons and understand contrasts. Teens are smart. They know things. They know A LOT OF THINGS. You don’t need to tell me mom. And when they share those things – when you let them – you both can learn.

Teens notice things. When you encourage them to look up from their screens. And it’s probably not the same things that you notice. It is fun seeing the world through their eyes. Through their filters. You, as the ever protective parent, will still be surveying the area like a ninja anticipating all potential threats, danger zones and subway gaps. They, on the other hand, will be the first to notice the cool guy with the colorful hair and anywhere that sells ice cream. Oh! Yeah. That is cool. I will continue to advocate travel with your potentially temperamental teen. But there are ways to make it easier. For you. And your teen.

TEN TIPS TO MAKE TRAVELING WITH YOUR TEEN AMAZING

I can assure that all of the following tips on how to enjoy traveling with your teen have been field tested. Thoroughly. We have experienced lots of trials. And errors. Every moment of every trip has not gone swimmingly. But that’s just life with a teen. And tweens, to be honest. It’s a gentle balance of lowering expectations while raising them at the same time. Let me explain.

1. Engage them in Travel planning

From the very beginning. Gone are the days that you can pick, plan and push your own agenda and expect perfect happy compliance. Believe me. I learned the hard way. Ask them where they would like to go. Make a list. A family travel wish list. Make sure to include potential activities that might interest them while in each location. Give them an idea of budget. More often teens have grandiose ideas of what travel means – being honest about costs can keep expectations in check. Let them suss out what costs what and then prioritize which activities hold highest interest. To them.

2. Keep them up to date on travel plans

Once settled in on a setting and some activities to pursue, keep them posted on what is happening when. If your teens are like mine, surprises can be upsetting. And they get a little suspicious. Wait, wait. Woah mom. Where are you taking us? Is this another one of your just one more block to see some old painting? Where are we going? Mom?! I hear that one a lot.

Let them know the plan for the next day and what is set and where there is wiggle room for improvising. I am not a scheduled person per se and travel with much more free flow without kids along. But I have found from first-hand experience that meandering seems meaningless to teens, without some sort of structure.

3. Balance between cultural and physical activities

My kids’ eyes start to glaze over when I mention the idea of stepping inside one more beautiful church. True story. I was literally told – after four days traipsing all over Rome, upon arriving in Florence – that I was allowed to take them to one church that day. One. OH, THE PRESSURE. (Side note – did I tell you I studied Italian Renaissance art at uni? I did? Then you understand how difficult that ultimatum was.) But I give. They give. It’s a balance. And just as I’m not interested in (or able to afford) ziplining through the jungle or scuba diving reefs every day, one church it is.

4. KEEP THEM FED

This seems simple. You’re a parent. You have always worried about providing well-balanced meals to help your children grow up healthy and strong. Don’t forget this on vacation. I’m serious. It’s easy to do. You get carried away with what to see, how to get there, what you are doing (having a great time of course because you have engaged your teens and kept them informed) that you forget to eat.

You are ok. You can handle it. Even if you feel a little famished, you don’t let it influence your perception of a place. But they do. Low blood sugar in hormonal teens is a very bad combination. Keep healthy snacks in the day pack to bridge gaps between meals. Everyone will be more receptive to that medieval castle’s display of gilt chalices that you are dying to get to. If they aren’t hungry. Don’t make your teen hangry. It’s not pretty.

5. Work With Their BiorHythms

Make sure they get enough sleep. My teens are notorious night owls. And they definitely sleep in. I programmed them well. From the beginning. Or maybe it’s genetic. Who me? *Wink, wink. But sleepy teens are about as much fun as hangry teens. Again. This seems straightforward, but if your teens naturally sleep in, don’t plan to take the first tour across town. Resistance. Push back. Humphing. Nobody likes humphing. Let them sleep. Go get a coffee with your partner, pick up some healthy snacks. Come back and then start the day. Less humphing. Usually.

6. Let them connect

Living in Copenhagen, my children all have phones. In Denmark, and Europe in general, children are afforded a greater independence and autonomy. My children make their way to school and activities on their own. I feel safer that they have a phone with them. With the phone comes social media applications. Kids want to connect. Let them. Not all the time while traveling. But give them some space and time to share their experiences with their friends.

When you are traveling together in close confines with the entire family jammed in a rental car or sharing a hotel room, that private space that teens crave can be lacking. Make sure your accommodations have wifi, or that you have a huge bank for data. Giving our teens some time each day to plug in and tune out or snap with friends seems to recharge everyone’s batteries.

7. Use technology to enhance travels

For teens who can’t live without the tether of their technology, give them a task. Download site specific apps and put them in charge. Many cities have apps that make public transportation tolerable. Download before you go and let them help with train routes.

Encourage them to search for what interests them and guide you to it when in town. Do you have a sneaker-head in your house? Have him look up where the local shops are and save them in Google Maps. (You can download specific areas to use offline.) Then let him take you on a tour to find them. We saw parts of Paris that I have never seen this way. He felt empowered. We enjoyed the enthusiasm.

8. Don’t ask for a selfie

But let them Snapchat away. They don’t want to associate with you – remember? This tip applies to photographing your teen anywhere in public in general. Nothing annoys my teens more than – hang on wait – let me get a picture of you guys! Wait, let those people leave, no, move over, stand this way, hang on, right…. THERE! In bodies that are changing and growing and taking up more space, being singled out and made to feel even more conspicuous as you attempt your perfect family Christmas card shot can feel like their seventh layer of hell. If you have a selfie taker and they are willing to take selfies with you – then, lucky you! If you don’t – don’t force it.

9. Arm them with cultural information

Teens can feel massively conspicuous in their own skin. Bodies growing at exponential rates, voices changing, hormones raging. Taking them to a foreign country, or even to a different city or state, can make that feeling grow by a factor of ten. Helping them blend in by understanding some background about where you’re headed will help. Give them a few phrases in the local language. Yes. No. Please. Thank you. No thank you. Excuse me. Start there. Helping them respect the culture you’re visiting will make them feel more comfortable and open to experiencing.

10. Respect their perspective

Your teens aren’t you. What? I know. Hard to believe. But get over it. They aren’t. They have opinions and feelings and approaches to life that you may not understand or even agree with always. I have to consider three very different approaches from my three very different kids. What is deemed a parental offense by one, may not bother the other. What one is willing to try, may mortify the other. Trying to be conscious of these differences is important. Challenging. But important.


Other Travel Bloggers with Teens Offer Their Tips
HILARY GUDGEL FROM HILARY STYLE ME

Hilary is a blogger currently living in Southern California with her two teen boys. She has taken them across Europe and Asia and has learned her own ways to engage them when traveling.

We all know teens can be a fickle bunch, so how do I get my 14-year-old to go with the program when traveling? Of course, every teen is different, and it changes by the hour, but here are a few of the tricks up my sleeve. Empower them! Give them the guidebook and ask them to choose three ideas that specifically interest them, then make sure to actually do one of them. Teens love their phones, ask them to use Yelp or other Internet tools to locate a good restaurant in the area, find out when the train is leaving or look up other information related to the day’s agenda. Visit somewhere related to their current studies! It’s always fun to be able to say, “Hey! I’ve been there!” when they return to school. When all else fails, appeal to their childish nature… Good Luck!

HILARY GUDGEL AND HER TEEN TRAVELER IN IRELAND | Hilary Style Me Blog
FIND Hilary on FacebookInstagram | Pinterest | Twitter

PHOEBE THOMAS FROM LOU MESSUGO BLOG

Phoebe has been traveling the world since she was 10 days old. Since then she has lived in 9 countries and traveled to 65. She has been taking her children along traveling since they were young and her 17-year-old has now been to 32 countries and her 11-year-old to 26. They have spent time on four continents and currently live in the Côte D’Azur, France.

Travelling with teenagers can be lots of fun, honestly, you just have to have the right expectations and work around their rhythms whenever possible/practicable, while taking into account the rest of the family too of course.

Here are some of the things we do in our family to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.  Take a friend!  Friends are so important to teens, way above family, that bringing along a friend if at all possible, changes everything (we do this a lot for day trips or weekend breaks).

Accept that the mobile phone will be omni-present and don’t fight it (too much!)

Try not to plan too much in any one day, allowing for down time in cafés with wifi, parks to lie in the sun etc.

Try not to have too many early starts – but when unavoidable accept that the teen will sleep on the tour bus/in the train and will not look out of the window marveling at the view but will therefore be on form for the actual visit/event later.

Allow independence, whether this means leaving the teen at the hotel/apartment for some time alone or letting them go to eat/shop without adults every so often.

Eat a lot! Teens are always hungry and get as grumpy as a toddler if not satiated.  Accept that you can go to less “authentic” restaurants every now and then such as a burger chain, don’t get hung up on always having to eat local.  After all eating MacDonalds on the Champs Elysée in Paris is an experience in itself even if it’s not one you’d ideally have!

Try and avoid queues – pay the extra for fast passes or research ahead of time the best way to avoid long lines as teens and waiting do not go well!  Remember it’s their holiday too and hopefully it’ll be a great success.

PHOEBE THOMAS’ TRAVELING TEENS IN VIETNAM | Lou Messugo
FIND PHOEBE ON FACEBOOKINSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | TWITTER

CLARE THOMSON FROM SUITCASES AND SANDCASTLES

Clare is a former travel writer for the Daily and Sunday Telegraph in England. Although her adventures may no longer include backpacking for six months in India, she believes strongly that traveling and culture with kids can be fun. Her two boys are just entering the teen zone, but Clare realizes the importance of engaging them from the beginning when talking travel.

My tip for travelling with teens is to get them as involved as possible with the planning so that they feel included when choosing where to go and what to do. Get them to do their own research about your destination and ask them to suggest places they’d love to visit – whether it’s a tourist attraction, a restaurant or a specific shop. When you’re there, let them take control by guiding you to their chosen sights and explaining what’s so special about it.
Downtime is really important to teens so always factor in enough time for them to flop in your hotel or appartment before heading off on another family activity. And finally, try not to get too wound up when they revert to stroppy teen mode when they’re tired or hungry!”
CLARE THOMSON AND SON | Suitcases and Sandcastles
FIND CLARE ON FACEBOOKINSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | TWITTER

HAVE TEENS WILL TRAVEL
MY TWEEN AND TEENS | Oregon Girl Around the World

I hope this list helps and encourages you to take your teens traveling. Been there done that? Have other ideas to engage and interest kids in this age group? I’d love to hear. Please share in the comments below!

Know someone who is about to tread in this teenagedom territory? Tell them about these tips.

 Pin for later!

Oregon Girl Around the World

Faraway Files #16

TRAVEL BLOG COMMUNITY

Enter THE year of the rooster

Xin nian kuai le! Chinese New Year started January 28th this year. Did you celebrate? Happy New Year!

Now that it is February, I’m crowing a bit. I always do a little happy dance this time of year. Give myself a pat on the back for making it through the grey and dark of January. Especially this January. The rooster can be cocky and competitive and loud. Have you heard him? Who hasn’t.

But February is for love. And light. Especially in Denmark. Every day this month we gain four minutes of daylight. It may seem incremental to you, but by month’s end, that totals two more hours of daylight here. Four minutes. EVERY DAY. This. Is a good thing. This video is also a good thing. Have you seen it? A simple and beautiful message for the whole world.

We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think?”

All That We Share
– TV2, Denmark

Let’s not put each other in boxes. Let’s connect on what we have in common. Put me in that box. The connector box. The willing to try box. At least once box. The build bridges box. Put me in the “I love drinking coffee” and “eating cheap tacos” and “watching Vikings” box. Put me in the “Yes, I do know all the words to American Pie box.” The “my house is usually messy*” box. The “I love cooking but don’t always follow recipes box.” You too? See. We do have things in common. Let’s celebrate that.

My favorite posts from last week are perfect examples of places and experiences that, on the surface, might seem to separate us living so faraway. But each one shows us that we have things in common too. We celebrate. We explore. We love. We laugh. We all made it through this January.

But, maybe you live somewhere where January comes with picnics and strawberries and barbecues and swimming. Are you smack in the middle of summer right now? Lucky you. If you are – I would love to discuss potential home swaps right about now. Ok – only slightly joking. But please share your posts! I’m looking for a little virtual warmth and sunshine at the moment. And that is not fake news.

This isn’t either. Just one more reason, that my family will support Airbnb as hosts and renters.

Airbnb is working with partners around the world to support refugees and those who may have unexpectedly been affected by the recent travel ban into the United States. If you would like to help by temporarily hosting these people, please add your listing here.”

– Brian Chesky, co-founder AirBnb

FAVORITES WEEK #15

Thank you to Bryna from Dotted Line Travels who shared her what the Chinese New Year’s markets look like in Taipei and Hong Kong. I would love to celebrate all that color! Amazing. Cheers!

CHINESE NEW YEARS MARKETS IN TAIPEI AND HONG KONG | Dotted Line Travels

And while the landscapes of Jordan’s Wadi Rum may feel as familiar as Mars, Kat of Where is Kat Going? assures us that we have more in common with the Bedouins who help us explore here than we might expect. Who doesn’t love the rush of wind on their face from an open jeep?

THE WONDERS OF WADI RUM | Kat Pegi Mana | Where is Kat Going?

Ruth from Tanama Tales shares a perfect itinerary and a little history of Spain’s melting pot of cultures – Toledo. Disparate cultures, religions and architectural styles bump elbows and influence each other here in this beautiful Spanish outpost.

A PERFECT DAY IN TOLEDO: A TRAVEL ITINERARY | Tanama Tales

Let us not repeat a divisive history. Amanda Afield reminds us about some of the difficult and emotional places in our collective pasts. She shares her experience visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau in her post about a day trip from Krakow, Poland.

A DAY TRIP FROM KRAKOW | Amanda Afield

On that note. Let’s rock February. Let’s rule the collective roost. Let’s connect. It’s all one big farm yard peeps. Every corner of it connected. Show me yours. Your corner people. Of the world.

This week, I’m going to take you back a little further historically. To the Bronze Age. Let’s rock some old rock carvings. Really old. Petroglyphs. In West Sweden. You know you want to. Or even if you didn’t, let me show why you should want to. Let’s go to Tanum.

Read on. Be inspired. Link with me. Connect with us. Faraway Files begins below.

* I have recently finished, The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place, by Jennifer McCartney and feel completely validated in my life choices. You too? See. Same box. Or lots of boxes, if you really embrace the book.


FARAWAY FILES TRAVEL BLOG COMMUNITY LINKUP #14
WANT TO JOIN IN?

We’d love you to join us in building this supportive and growing community who will inspire and share each other’s posts. All three hosts will try to read and comment on every post and we’ll share them on social media too. Each week we’ll choose our favorites and highlight them on our blogs and social media channels using #FarawayFiles.

HOW IT WORKS:
  • Link up one travel-related post and add the Faraway Files badge onto the post or your blog (code below) or link back to the hosts.
  • The link up will go live every Thursday at 8 am UK time (9 am, CET) until midnight on Friday. It will alternate between Untold Morsels, Suitcases and Sandcastles, and Oregon Girl around the World.
  • Link ups work best if everyone shares so please comment on all three of the hosts’ posts and at least two others.
CLARE IS HOSTING THIS WEEK |  SUITCASES AND SANDCASTLES
TWEET US YOUR POSTS

(@suitandsand, @UntoldMorsels, @oregongirlworld) using the hashtag #FarawayFiles and we’ll retweet to our followers.

SHARE TRAVEL IMAGES ON INSTAGRAM

Tag @FarawayFiles and #FarawayFiles – and we’ll repost our favorites.


WE’LL PIN YOUR LINKS

We are posting each week’s links on community Pinterest page – join in over there.


FIND US ON FACEBOOK

Find Faraway Files on Facebook. Like us. We’ll like your page. We’re friendly that way.

GRAB BADGE CODE HERE:
Suitcases and Sandcastles
Faraway Files | A Travel Blog Community Linkup

Faraway Files #12

TRAVEL BLOG COMMUNITY

Godt Nytår! Happy New Year from Copenhagen!

I know there are many reasons that much of the world was ready to kick 2016 to the curb a few days ago. But there were so many things I felt grateful for last year. I am working hard to welcome the new year with an open heart full of the same gratitude and sense adventure. I am so very thankful for this growing and supportive community that Faraway Files has become. I have met new friends. I have learned of new places. I can’t wait to explore more.

Every corner that you share, each different travel that you compare, takes us places. Some we may know, but now see anew. Others are added to our ever growing wanderlusting wishlists. Where are you headed this year? Where will you take us?

2017 TRAVEL WISH LIST

For our family – we are looking for experiences, quite near AND quite far. For our winter break, we hope to illuminate our nights with Arctic Circle activities and the northern lights. Bring on the Borealis. My wish list grows daily, but here are places that take the top spots lately:

  • Morocco and Marrakesh with its souks and its sounds. I’m dreaming of camels and carpets and mint tea and blue cities.
  • The Faroe Islands sound fantastisk and feral and wild.
  • Portugal keeps calling with its colors and cable cars. Lisbon and the Algarve sound lovely and languid.
  • And Denmark has places I have yet to still see. Islands like Æro and Bornholm and Samsø. I want to climb down the white cliffs of Møns Klint, run into Vikings in Ribe, and straddle the converging seas under skies in Skagen.

If you have been to any of these or have tips and tales – I’m open and eager. Please feel free to share!

This week for Faraway Files, I am showing you our lastest Scandinavian discovery, off the beautiful west coast of Sweden – the little fishing village Fjällbacka. But before we start linking, I like to look back. Give a shout out to a few posts shared by the community.

FARAWAY FILES #11 FAVORITES

Each week the hosts – Clare, Katy & I – pick our favorites from the previous submissions. We are so grateful to have such a difficult time choosing! These are my faves from the final 2016 link up on December 15th.

What would you do if you had 8 hours in Paris. Seriously. Left your kids with the parents and took the train to Paris for the day. This is a dream for someone who hails from the States. I love Paris and Rebecca from All About U does an amazing job of fitting a ton in – travel along on her vlog!

8 HOURS IN PARIS | VLOG | all about u

Ahila from Perspectives Quilt took us to Wales and on a Welsh food tour. I appreciate her willingness to explore, taste and try. Would you try cockles?

LOVING WELSH FOOD TOUR | Perspectives Quilt

And Kat from Brights Lights of America took us tiptoeing along the treetops for the holidays. Travel to beautiful British Columbia and see how they light up the forest for Christmas at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Even I, with my fear of heights, might tempt this one!

TWINKLE LIGHTS AND TEETERING HEIGHTS: CHRISTMAS AT THE CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE | Bright Lights of America

FARAWAY FILES TRAVEL BLOG COMMUNITY LINKUP #12

WANT TO JOIN IN?

We’d love you to join us in building this supportive and growing community who will inspire and share each other’s posts. All three hosts will try to read and comment on every post and we’ll share them on social media too. Each week we’ll choose our favorites and highlight them on our blogs and social media channels using #FarawayFiles.

How it works:
  • Link up one travel-related post and add the Faraway Files badge onto the post or your blog (code below) or link back to the hosts.
  • The link up will go live every Thursday at 8 am, UK time (9 am, CET) until midnight on Friday. It will alternate between Untold Morsels, Suitcases and Sandcastles, and Oregon Girl around the World. This week,
    IT’S ME! YOU FOUND IT – IT’S HERE. LINKUP BELOW. BUT FIRST:
  • Link ups work best if everyone shares so please comment on all three of the hosts’ posts and at least two others.

TWEET US YOUR POSTS
(@suitandsand, @UntoldMorsels, @oregongirlworld) using the hashtag #FarawayFiles and we’ll retweet to our followers.

SHARE TRAVEL IMAGES ON INSTAGRAM
Tag @FarawayFiles and #FarawayFiles – and we’ll repost our favorites.


WE’LL PIN YOUR LINKS
We are posting each week’s links on community Pinterest page – join in over there.


FIND US ON FACEBOOK

Find Faraway Files on Facebook. Like us. We’ll like your page. We’re friendly that way.


GRAB BADGE HERE:

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Faraway Files | A Travel Blog Community Linkup

Discover Scuba Diving in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Fun underwater discovering Scuba with Blue Planet Dive Center | Dubrovnik Croatia

Come under the sea. The Adriatic Sea with my family and me as we discover Scuba Diving for the first time, all five of us together. What a perfect first experience for our two youngest. My husband and I have been certified for many years, it was kind of a requisite entry card to be part of my family at the time. My parents liked diving and took us many wonderful places in our young adulthood. I have wanted to share the mystery and amazement of the underwater world with my children for awhile. As lovers of snorkelling, they were ready and eager.

Discover Scuba Diving with Blue Planet Diving Center, Dubrovnik Croatia | Oregon Girl Around the World Continue reading “Discover Scuba Diving in Dubrovnik, Croatia”

Madrid | Spain via Oregon Girl Around the World

Make Madrid Mine

Madrid didn’t do it for me. Not the first time. Millions and millions of Madrileños can’t be wrong. But it didn’t make my heart sing. Not at first.

2014-november-madrid-spain-oregon-girl-worldimg_1081
Maybe we missed the magic of Madrid. The first time.

Let’s rewind. For a minute. Two years ago. Having moved my family around the world to Copenhagen, Denmark. We took a flight leaving Portland, OR to Vancouver, Canada on to Frankfurt, Germany then finally landing in Copenhagen. Capital of Denmark. That alone was exhausting. We picked up a tiny (at the time) rental car and dropped seven HUGE overstuffed overweight bags at my husband’s office. What a great first impression that was. And then, after only two days in damp, dark Denmark, we took our very first European family trip.

Why? Why did you do that? Well. We had a few weeks before my husband’s job contract was to start and the children had open spots in their new school. We had to move out of our house in Oregon because we’d already rented it to incoming Aussies. What better way to spend those gap weeks than traveling. Immediately. I know it sounds intense. (As it turns out – it was.) But this was part of the reason we took the job in Denmark to begin with. All those amazing travel opportunities.

We decided on Spain. For a week. We planned to split the week between Barcelona and Madrid. That Renfe express train between the two cities is amazeballs. You should try it. It was November. It was definitely not peak season to visit Spain. Perfect timing we decided. The weather was pleasant. Not too hot. Not too cold. Definitely warmer and brighter and lighter than the dark, near December we encountered upon landing in Denmark.

2014-november-madrid-spain-oregon-girl-worlddsc_3441
Fall in Retiro Park, Madrid SPAIN

This was Spain. This was my first visit to Spain. My husband’s first trip to Spain. My childrens’ first visit to Spain. This is why I chose it. Why we chose it. I wanted our first familial foray into European exploits to be a FIRST for us all. Perhaps in retrospect, a wee bit of familiarity might have been preferable. Make our transition easier. Maybe.

Madrid is amazing. But Madrid is a metropolis. The third largest capital in Europe behind London and Berlin. Madrid is HUGE. And crowded and bustling and busy and loud and large. We were overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Exhausted. And because of this, I will admit, we were underwhelmed with the Spanish capital. Lo ciento España. I’m sorry Madrid.

2014-november-madrid-spain-oregon-girl-worldimg_1092
Madrid is a METROPOLIS. It is mega huge.

We had a perfectly situated Airbnb apartment near Puerta del Sol. The epicenter of Madrid. Of Spain, really. This is kilometer zero. All mileage in Spain is calculated from this point. There is where first impressions are made. Ours ? A wary sense of outsider-ness. I don’t know how to explain it any other way.

It was different from Barcelona’s colorful, whimsical, mosaic’d and mercado’d  beach vibe. Madrid hit us like a Flamenco dancer – fast and loud – clapping and stomping to a beat we couldn’t hear. We couldn’t understand.

Maybe it was the somewhat intimidating costumed characters strolling around the plaza at Puerta del Sol looking for a little pocket change in exchange for a photo op from passing tourists. Chubby spider men busting the seams of their suits; slightly tarnished Mickey and Minnie Mouses taking breaks with their “head” under their arms. But the most disturbing and definitely creepiest – was the red headed giant butcher knife wielding Chucky looming atop the fountain mid plaza. THIS is what my daughter, then 8, remembers most about Madrid. Did you see him? He was creepy.

I have to jog her memory (and mine) about the delicious chocolate con churros at world famous Chocolatería San Ginés. OH YEAH! Those were good! Can we get those again? Maybe. We’ll see. And how about that stroll through Retiro Park, listening to the live music at that outdoor cafe while boats paddled in the nearby lake? Oh yeah! That was good too. Is THAT where we had the milkshake? Yes. Yes it was.

And how about renting bikes and riding along the canals down to Casa de Campo (a gorgeous green space/park five times the size of New York’s Central Park?) Remember we found the ropes course and climbing structure? That was MADRID? Yes. Yes it was. OH. That was cool! A little stressful I will admit as parents letting our 8 year old ride an adult sized bike in a not as bike-friendly town as our new home Copenhagen, but she did it. In spite of the hills!

And how about that kilo of bacon we bought at the Museo del Jamon? HAHAHAHA! Group chuckle inducing memory jog. Having just moved to Europe and not yet used to metric weight system, I ordered one kilo of bacon. It seemed reasonable at the time. There are five us and three are growing children. As we watched him slice and slice and slice….and SLICE. And. SLICE. And keep slicing. We soon realized we’d made a critical error. OH. Kilos. Got it. (For those of you – who like me – didn’t get the conversion immediately – one kilo of bacon is exactly 2.2 pounds of bacon.) Yep. I cooked that bacon for an hour. Couldn’t take raw bacon home to Denmark you know. I will admit – although I couldn’t shake that animal fat smell for days – it was delicious.

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So many fun memories when we sit and think about it. So why then the ho-hum response when we look back at Madrid on our list of places visited? Timing. Bad timing. Unfortunately I think our collective familial state of shock that we had actually packed up all our earthly goods, sold off half, put some on a ship and stored the rest in my mother’s attic and shlepped ourselves AROUND THE WORLD – before even establishing ourselves in our new home just MIGHT have had a little to do with it.

When my husband had an opportunity to travel back to Madrid for work, at first I wasn’t interested. Too many other places to see. Don’t need a repeat. But I am SO GLAD I did. Two years later. This September. I will be happy to show you how I made Madrid mine. More intimate. More accessible. More approachable.

How do you make a huge city feel less intimidating? More like yours? I’ve got ways. Now. I’ve had to learn. Ways we have made it work in the past two years. I’m happy to share. I’d like to hear yours. Madrid is mine part II to follow. Stay tuned. Memories help – a place looks better in retrospect sometimes. Look at all those things we did. We are grateful. That matters. It helps make a place like Madrid ours.

Cheers from Copenhagen, xoxo Erin

 

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Sharing with Faraway Files Travel Blog Community – a link up hosted by Katy at Untold Morsels, Clare at Suitcases and Sandcastles and me – Oregon Girl Around the World. Click the badge to add your own post or come over and read where to travel next! Cheers, Erin

 

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