Proudest Travel Accomplishment: A scared little girl taught me that we can conquer the world
I was recently asked what my proudest accomplishment was that I achieved while traveling. I had never really thought about that. My first thought, getting over my fears and just traveling. I mean, that’s pretty big, right? But when I stopped to really think about it there is one instance that has given me the confidence and courage to increase traveling with my kids. To show them more of the world we live in. And know that I can actually do it – with or without the husband in tow. (I always want him to be in tow but sometimes his work doesn’t allow for that.)
I don’t write very much about our international adoption process for Princess Two. For a few reasons, one I signed some privacy agreements with the adoption agency. (I have no idea if it’s enforceable anymore given that Russian adoptions have been banned in the US but I’ll still honor it.) Two, it’s a very personal story and one I can talk all day about to anyone who asks, but sharing it on this blog has been something I have not wanted to do too much of. Princess Two will get older, she will read this and I don’t want to have anything I write here upset her. (She is a girl and will be a teenager someday with drama spewing from every pore.) However, it was quit a journey and one I’ve decided to start writing more about but within the parameters I just noted…
So that brings us back to my proudest accomplishment I achieved while traveling. It was my trip home from Chita, Siberia (Russia) with Princess Two. I had traveled to Siberia alone that last trip to get her; three trips in total. The Husband would meet us in Moscow and we’d then all travel home together later that week. But I was on my own that first leg.
I spent nearly a week in Chita before Princess Two and I could leave for Moscow. Each day spending time together playing and eating goldfish crackers at the orphanage. She knew who I was. Liked me for the most part, especially if I had goldfish crackers. But she didn’t really know me. She didn’t trust me. She couldn’t understand everything I was saying. I was just some nice lady who played with her and brought her treats. Yet that morning when I arrived to pick her up at 6am she was thrilled to see me. Even more excited to see the new clothes I brought for her to wear. But I was terrified. Not because she was finally coming home, but because I knew what the next 10-15 hours had in store.
We said our goodbyes to her care takers and stepped outside into the dark, negative 34 degrees Siberian morning. That’s when she saw the car. That’s when the crying started and didn’t stop until we reached the airport. There was no question she was now terrified too.
Given Princess Two had never been out of the orphanage, everything was new and terrifying. The car ride to the airport. Entering the airport. The crowds. She had never seen so many people in the same place. And going through security was an adventure in itself. I was fortunate to have arrived early so there weren’t too many people going though yet. While Princess Two was visibly upset she bravely held her tears when it was our turn to go through security. She let the armed security guard sit down with her while I went though the screening process. Her tears and fears were finally at ease when we sat down in the one room waiting area and I cracked open the bag of goldfish crackers. That was until we visited the bathroom. I’ve blogged about this before so I won’t repeat myself, but let’s just say it scared her for life. So much so, she still won’t visit a port-a-potty.
When it came time to board our flight into Moscow we followed the crowd outside and began the walk to the plane, which meant walking the length of a football field in negative 34 degrees. Not only was I carrying a two-year-old who looked like she was suited up to go skiing – if you’ve ever held a child in ski gear you know they just kinda slid right through your arms - but I also had on a 20 pound backpack. I was the last person in line to board the plane.
As I shifted Princess Two back and forth to help offset the weight I was carrying, a large, gruff man smoking a cigarette grabbed my arm as he blew smoke into my face. He started yelling in Russian and everyone turned to look at me. I had know idea what was going on. I froze.
We had been told not to talk about our “business” in Russia since international adoptions were a political button for some. It was best to just not say anything. So when the man grabbed me and started yelling, all those things we had been warned about that had become fears went racing through my head. Were they going to let me board? Were we going to be able to leave? Were they going to take her away? Did I have my translators phone number programed in my phone? Where the hell was my phone?!?
The next thing I knew he was gently pushing me forward and the crowd parted ways to let us board first.
Once we got settled into our seats we started the seven-hour flight into Moscow on a tiny, turbulent plane. Princess Two sat in my lap the entire flight eating goldfish crackers, cheeses and all the sweets the flight attendants could bring. We didn’t watch a movie. We didn’t color. We didn’t read books or play any games. We sat together and spoke in our broken Russian and English. We just were. Amazingly enough, that was beyond ok for this busy little two-year-old.
When the plane landed the next phase of the journey began – getting from the plane to the bus to the terminal. Remember, for a little person who has never seen a bus, getting on one was not an easy task. I think we laid on the floor of the bus for the entire 10 minute ride to the terminal. Her crying and me trying not to. And the escalator. Enough said. I simply cannot describe the looks of udder bewilderment we got from people as we laid on the floor of the bus and as I tried to coax her onto the escalator.
All the tears that had bravely been held back on the plane, all came out and then some. From her. I was still bravely holding mine back.
When I arrived at the hotel in Moscow after having gone through the last 12-hour journey, I felt like I conquered the world. I knew I could anything. I knew “we” could do anything.
Now when I think back on how hard that trip was I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment that I did it. When we travel with the girls now and things start to get difficult I look back on this experience and take a breath and remember “we” can conquer anything.
What’s your proudest accomplishment you have achieved while traveling?