Traveling with Kids
Every year, my family spends time on the Baja peninsula in Mexico camping and surfing. Traveling with kids is never easy but we are committed to making it happen.
This year, Jeff had work in Los Angeles midway through our trip. Excited for a bit of extended time in La Paz, a city we love, Emilia and I rent a house for five days while Jeff is gone.
Fear and Panic
After our first day of sightseeing, we return to our house tired and ready to relax. I walk in the front door and my heart races as I realize that the back door is wide open. Hair raises on my neck, I scan the house looking for who or what might still be inside. I tell Emilia to get out while I assess the scene. I spin around and notice that the camera batteries that were charging are gone. So is the camera and the camera lenses. I quickly make an inventory of what was in the house and what is now gone. They left Emilia’s art supplies. Backpack with the tablet-gone. The food was there. My carry on bag is gone. Most of the clothes we took to the laundromat earlier in the day. The rest are gone. When it was all said and done, the missing items add up to about $6000 worth of stuff including $800 cash and Emilia’s passport.
Emilia is crying at the door as I’m rushing around. I go to her and hold her as she cries and keeps saying over and over, “I want to go home.” It pierces my heart to hear her say that but in that moment, I want to go home too.
We Have to Go
After comforting her, I call the owners of the house to let them know what happened. We can’t stay there that night and it’s getting late in the afternoon. All I can do is start to pack.
The owner, Ivan, is a friendly man from La Paz about my age. He rushes over to our house and apologizes repeatedly. He knows we are traveling alone and pleads with us to come to his family’s home where he and his wife have an extra room and we will be safe. We can stay with his family, the kids and the grandma and figure out how to replace our gear.
To be honest, I really just want to go to a campground we know. It’s a familiar place, I know it’s safe, there’s a coffee shop there, laundry…but Ivan’s offer is compelling.
A Leap of Faith
Here’s the thing… if we go to the campground it reinforces to Emilia that the unknown is scary and worse, maybe she’ll be less trusting of people from Mexico. We talk about fear a lot and what causes it. Of course fear is triggered by the unknown. One of the benefits of traveling is to open our mind to possibilities and discover the joy and beauty in new experiences, places and people. When we travel with kids, it’s important to be smart and make good choices to limit risk but we also have to remain open to new people and experiences otherwise we might as well just stay home.
Emilia agrees to go to Ivan and his wife, Desiree’s home, so Desiree gets in our truck with us and we all drive to their house. When we get there “Abuela” greets us. (Abuela means “grandmother” in Spanish.) She gives me a hug and leads us into the kitchen where she puts a warm mug of atole, the ancient Mexican chocolate drink Mexicans enjoy during the holidays, into my hands. She only speaks Spanish and I understand about a third of it but I can feel what she’s saying and so can Emilia. We both relax.
Cared for by Strangers
Over the next 4 days we live with Ivan and Desiree’s family. Four year old Santiago begins to use the English he learns in cartoons and is able to have conversations with me in English while I practice my Spanish with him. The kids play in the living room and they decorate a christmas tree.
Abuela tells me, through gestures and Spanish way too fast for me to understand, how to make her grandmothers mole. Desiree makes me green juice in the mornings and Ivan and I talk about living in the US versus Mexico, our work, our families and the updates we get from the police about their efforts to find the thief.
Within that 4 days, Ivan and Desiree buy a replacement camera and a lens. They make a promise to replace the other lens over the next few months. The purchase is expensive and I am struck by their feelings of responsibility to try to make things right. They are honest, hardworking, honorable people. They are not unlike us.
Most people are good
Of course, Emilia sees and feels this too. I often tell Emilia that most people are good. Despite this ugly thing that happened to us, Emilia was able to see the good in these other people. A family that, at first, felt different from ours. They speak a different language, live in a different city, country, type of house. But they are like us in their humanity.
It is this humanity that connects people. When traveling and meeting people from around the world, we can see “other-ness” or we can see “human-ness.” We choose the later. This is one of the greatest lessons we learn from traveling and getting outside our comfort zone. It’s a lesson that I hope will ring true for Emilia throughout her life.