Luxury and Freedom in Travel

We spent a full third of 2019 traveling with our children on trips mundane and ambitious alike, short jaunts and long hauls, with extended family and on our own.

Along the way I learned many things — how to rig an iPad video monitor for hotel naptime; how to hang a rubber laundry line almost anywhere; how to pack incredibly lightly for a family of five (and more importantly, be mostly calm and nice while I do it). But I also learned about myself, and one of the things I learned is that I really don’t much like to be pampered.

hanging laundry in Bloomsbury

I think we are supposed to see it as luxury, letting someone else do everything for us. But the service industry can restrict and infantilize as well as delight and pamper. I am hampered without access to more napkins at a restaurant, reliant on staff for a clean floor in our rented flat. The schedule of service and housework is no longer my own, and I have to chase maids from the room of my sleeping preschooler.

Edinburgh: just one hotel room, but a pretty top-notch tub

It is an adjustment more challenging than our family sharing a single hotel room for two weeks, more exhausting than trans-Atlantic jetlag, to work around everyone trying to take care of me when I’d rather just do it myself. Tell me where to take out my own trash and we won’t brim over all the time! Leave me a broom and dustpan in the flat and the floors won’t wind up awash with sand imported from Regents Park. During our weekends and months of travel, it was shockingly hard to shelve habits of independence and housekeeping I’ve cultivated over the years, and a bigger pleasure than I expected to resume them on our return.

So I try to see it as one more gift of travel, that I can return home refreshed and eager to do for myself, to regain my independence along with my sourdough starter and my wildly weed-proliferating garden. I am the queen of the tiny kingdom, and no well-meaning waitstaff is going to stand in my way.

(I would, however, gladly accept someone preparing a buffet breakfast for me and my picky children every morning for the rest of our lives, though.)

“Healthy” breakfast in our hotel in Edinburgh

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