Updated: Mar 20, 2019
Why is this so hard?
Everyone makes it look so easy.
The cursor hovered over the purchase button. I held my breath and clicked. The internet took a few moments to load the page and I wondered, if for a brief moment, maybe it's a sign... we shouldn't go. Maybe the purchase won't go through. Maybe it's not meant to be. Perhaps some catastrophic event is lurking on the horizon and the thousands of dollars I just sunk on airline tickets would have been better spent helping to mitigate whatever that unforeseen thing was.
Anxiety is such a treat, isn't it?
I could not talk about the business end of travel, you know. Most people don't. The reality of our day to day life doesn't really sell... and the appearance of a life as a series of Mediterranean adventures featuring fancy packing cubes and floppy hats from Urban Outfitters, unfortunately, does.
That is everywhere, tho.
I don't want to sell you anything.
Blogs and social media are lovely beasts. Really they are. I love the connection and inspiration that I draw from my fellow friends (virtual and otherwise) on these platforms. However, one has to work incredibly hard to be both honest and interesting. Usually interesting wins out and a polished Instagram feed appears. (Because, really, who wants to see a sweaty me at an unflattering angle in economy class? No one. The answer is NO ONE.) It doesn't help being inundated with the glorious, tidy squares of those to whom adventure comes so easily. It's easy to make it seem, well, easy. Easy is so nice.
But life isn't easy. And soon the truth of our own life will win out and those glorious tidy squares we consume for inspiration will eventually give way to jealousy and discontentment.
I don't want to do that.
Perhaps because it is a lie of omission.
Perhaps it is my puritan upbringing that gives me a penchant for respecting the struggle.
It is part of the story, after all.
Perhaps because inspiration only goes so far.
Because only a few of us have a lifestyle that is conducive to clarendon-filtered-floppy-hat glory.
We are the many... but that doesn't mean we have to stay home.
Cluster Fuss Travel was always meant to be a place for raw honesty about traveling as family... peppered with, I hope, some practical advice. This isn't the place where I'm going to write about my favorite packing cubes (mesh laundry bags from the Dollar Store, if you must know) or my "10 Tips for Traveling with a Toddler"... you can find those sort of repetitious listicles anywhere on the internet these days.
Family travel is beautiful, yes. It is also many other things. It's messy. You smell bad. The kids will puke. You will cry. It takes time, money, sweat, and whacking your elbow on the armrest to make this stuff happen. I never want to gloss over that fact. For every tidy square and edited photo you may see of our family know this: It is hard earned.
As I find myself on the verge of a magnificent trip to Greece and the UK, I want you all to know just what it took to make it happen. The stories behind every curated image and the struggles that we go through on a daily basis. It's not pretty. But it is real.
My husband is a functional work-a-holic. He works hours well beyond corporate expectation because he loves his work and takes his career seriously. Leisure time is not something we really have. When we plan adventures, I plan them. I suffer from crippling panic attacks and anxiety that I slowly get ahead of and then regress all over again. This was brought on by a precipitous birth- complete with hemorrhaging and a baby born blue (he's fine now) and a brush with death when toxemia set in with my second baby. The inevitable PPD that followed didn't relinquish its hold on me for a long, long time... and then anxiety took its place. While we, yes, have a savings account and emergency fund- we aren't swimming in silos of gold like Scrooge McDuck, either. Our travel takes planning and budgeting. So clicking "purchase" always catches me off guard like "what if..."
We live in a beautiful part of the country, but it is so stinking hard to get to anywhere that isn't here.
Over the last three years we have dealt with a crisis that would be appropriate for a PG-13 version of Game of Thrones. We spent most of our travel budget and time tending to those emotional fires. (Read the book Boundaries, too, and are feeling much better about everything.) We've moved across the country. Rented a home from the landlord from hell. Dealt with a ballooning housing market. Root canal and crown. Septic system broke (We showered at the local state park. That part never made it to Instagram) $3,000 later we can shower at home now. Brakes went out on the car, then the tires. I had a catastrophic ski accident followed by an equally catastrophic surgery (the answers of what went wrong there are still trickling in). We nearly died on a ferry in Gibraltar. Everything. Has. Been. Awful. Not in that order. But, it has been three years of pure, awful.
So please know this, that when you see a photo of a macaron... a Grecian column... a beach sunset... a cute sweater... a recommendation... know that it is hard earned.
There are no lofty travel goals here. We don't force ourselves to choke down a ticket to Tierra del Fuego just so we can notch it on our travel bedpost. Chances are good you'll never find us in the Maldives. When we go places we make it count. The stakes are high as we can't just "go again" if the trip is a bust... because we just sunk $4,000 and a 10 hour flight on this adventure and we want to make sure we get a good ROI.
It is a struggle to get out the door to the beach across the street... it's a struggle to get on a plane to Hawaii.
The minced oath that is the title of this very blog should convey exactly what happens when we step outside our door: For better or worse, with every ounce of financial responsibility we can muster, we pack our suitcases and experience the joy and vulnerably that seeing the world will give us. Cluster Fuss Travel (blog, Instagram, podcast, and Facebook) is meant to be a honest space. Or at least a "Whew, I'm glad this happens to you too." kind of place. Because it is what I would want. A person who is willing to say "The flight is hard, but darling, so is paying for it in the first place." I want to be that person. There are plenty of people who have it easy, and my (Target Dollar Spot) hat goes off to them. But, for the rest of us there is a litany of struggles and victories that funnel into this time and money pit that is family travel. And for the rest of us, I'm here. Cluster Fuss is here.
Onward to more adventures and struggles and basements flooding.