When I wrote my Lilly grant, I was aware that I was going to have a very different experience than if my children were grown. Many people are hiking a pilgrim trail or some such thing. I am traveling through Europe with my husband and two sons aged 8 and 12.
So we have to take a pace they can manage. We need to try to find places to stay that are comfortable for them, at least a bit. (When we arrived in Cardiff Theo said, very loudly, "not another apartment!") (Although it turns out he is thrilled with having a room of his own.) We need activities that interest them, (there are only so many old rocks they will look at) and we need, we have discovered, to act like we know how we are getting from one place to the next. I doubt we will make the "a taxi from the airport/train station is too expensive; we can use public transportation" mistake again.
Our food is not as exotic as it might be - we have pizza once a day - and here we are in Wales watching the Eurocup in an apartment.
But what an amazing experience we are having as a family. We are getting to know each other really well. I am remembering how Kelly just does what is needed if I fall apart. The boys are learning a lot about their father's sense of humor. (Ask them about pudding.) Kelly and Zane had to amuse themselves for several hours while Theo and I went up the Eiffel Tower, chatting together. And we have had some very giggly evenings.
We have learned that Theo loves learning words in new languages. Zane is an excellent navigator and often knows the way back to someplace. He figures out the money quicker than the rest of us, and is more aware of when we are likely to get run over.
Before we left Zane asked why we were doing this long trip and I said it was my dream, and that this is just what families do, force themselves to be far from home with no one to bug but each other. Yesterday he thanked me for this trip. I knew it would be good to spend this time together, but I did not realize just what a gift this would be for us.
Another thing: the Lilly grant for clergy renewal is so amazingly gracious. To have a budget generous enough to see the things we want to see, stay in a variety of places, and to not have to scrimp on food has been wonderful. We have many memories of wonderful meals and experiences that we will talk about for years.
(If you want to apply for a lilly grant, I would be glad to talk about it. I think I am only beginning to understand what a grace it is.).