It’s traditional each December for bloggers to look back on the year. In my case, reflecting on 2017 makes it clear that the intersection between family and travel have determined much of what I did outside my regular job. This year our younger child began university, making us official “empty nesters,” while our older “child” finished her Masters.
Being empty nesters took getting used to, but we like it, apart from generally missing our kids. There’s room in the fridge. The house stays cleaner. We have to take out the garbage less often. And we can travel the way we like to … but more on that later.
Scotland and my son
My first trip was in February to go “college-hunting” in Scotland with my son. It was my first time traveling alone with him (except a trip to Legoland in England when he was about 6), and at 19 he’s a distinct improvement on his teenage non-verbal self. We had conversations that involved full sentences, and the trip made it really clear what kind of university would work for him.
As a travel blogger, though, it was tremendously frustrating to pass all sorts of interesting places and not have the time to stop. Only one single post came out of that trip: The Wallace Memorial and a Travel Blogger’s Heart. Now that my son is studying there, I’m sure I’ll get to see more.
Also in February, I led a weekend workshop in Prague. These workshops (for teachers in the International Baccalaureate) are intensive and long and take a lot of energy. I always try to take at least one extra day for some relaxed tourism. This time I managed to see the Jewish quarter of the city: Six Synagogues in Prague (and one Cemetery).
In March and April I took a longer trip: almost three weeks in Israel. My excuse was a TBEX conference (for travel bloggers), but I also visited my family there and did some touring around. I’ve been to Israel a number of times, so I’d already seen the major sites. This time I looked for some lesser-known destinations. Quite a few posts came out of that trip:
- Akko Old City: Jerusalem without the politics
- At my age? Staying in Hostels in Israel
- Susita National Park in the Golan Heights: a special off-the-beaten-track site
- Going to Jerusalem? First Visit the Tower of David
- Visiting the City of David: Older than the old city of Jerusalem
- Bible Lands Museum: The history behind the Bible
- Biblical Nazareth: My observations
- Visiting Bethlehem for a Day
- Your Trip to Israel: 5 Christian sites near the Galilee
- Bitemojo: A new twist on culinary tours
- Defense (with a view) at Belvoir Fortress
- Um el Kanatir: Ancient synagogue in the Golan Heights
- Zippori National Park and its Spectacular Mosaics
Next up were two more workshops, both in Dubai: one in April and one in May. It’s a city that never ceases to fascinate just in terms of its sheer hubris. Since I’d been there twice before, I didn’t plan much extra time, but did manage to see a couple of sights:
- Visiting Burj Khalifa, the Tallest Building in the World … For Now
- Dubai Miracle Garden: Absurdity in the desert
At this point, posting to my blog slowed down because I started on a path of rebranding it. I switched domains, changed themes to make it look better, and generally tried to improve it. While the switch was happening, I didn’t write or publicize much because both the old and the new site looked embarrassingly bad.
In May I spent a week in Spain with a friend. For me this was a work trip: we’ve inherited a small house there which is for sale, and I needed to do some errands and chores. I didn’t post anything at all, but I did get to enjoy some amazing paella.
Empty Nester Road Trip to Romania
The best trip of the year for me, though, was in July to August, when my husband and I took a road trip to Romania. We spent three weeks, passing through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, and checking out UNESCO sites as we went.
This was, we figured out, the first time in 27 years that we’d taken a proper trip together without kids.
Twenty-seven years! Since our kids came along – and we took in “extra children” here and there – we’ve occasionally been able to get away for as much as a week at a time, but that’s it: no carefree longer trips.
It was wonderful! Without kids, we didn’t have to decide a route or book ahead. Instead, we made it up as we went along, choosing a place to stop each afternoon, and then using Airbnb (If you use this link, you’ll get a discount and I’ll get a cut.) or booking.com to reserve a room for the same day. If something looked interesting, we stopped to see it. And we could tour as many historical landmarks, especially churches, as we wanted in any given day without any whining from kids. We loved it!
As you can imagine, a lot of posts came out of that trip:
- Lovely Burghausen Castle
- Not Visiting Deva Castle
- Timişoara photo essay: Faded glory
- Should you visit Dracula’s Castle?
- Fortified Churches of Transylvania
- The Spectacular Painted Churches of Moldavia
- Wooden Churches of Maramures, Romania
- Macabre Sightseeing in Brno: 3 places to visit
- The Communist Consumers Museum
- Elie Wiesel Memorial House: A museum with a message
We dropped our son off in Scotland in September, but didn’t have the time to see anything. I am so going back in 2018!
In October, I did another workshop, this time in Kuwait City. While I didn’t get any extra days, I did manage to write one post about the two evenings I visited the city’s souk: Impressions of Kuwait City Souk.
November meant another workshop. This time I was excited to be sent out of my usual region (Africa, Europe, Middle East) to lead a workshop in Mumbai, India. While I couldn’t afford much extra time, I did plan in two free days that allowed me to get an overview of the city and see a UNESCO site:
- Elephanta Island Travel Guide: 7 things to know before you go
- Impressions of Mumbai from my first time in India
- Mumbai Sightseeing: 11 sights in 1 afternoon
My sweetheart in San Francisco
Like the Scotland trips, my last trip of 2017 was more about family than tourism. Our daughter was working on her MFA in graphic design. I went to San Francisco, where she studied, to generally support her in the stressful last weeks of her degree.
San Francisco is one of my favorite places in the world, but I didn’t do very much sightseeing. Instead, I spent my time helping my daughter in whatever ways I could. It involved, sometimes, just sitting next to her in her favorite chai bar, keeping her company while she worked. A few times I cooked dinner for her and her roommates. Sometimes she didn’t need me, so I went for walks or did a bit of sightseeing.
I’m proud to say she passed her last two courses, including her thesis project, and I’m tremendously impressed by the high quality of what she produced, which you can admire here, on her portfolio website.
Once she was done, we took a few days in Las Vegas to enjoy some low-stress tourism. I haven’t posted anything from San Francisco or Las Vegas yet, but I certainly will.
So family and travel were the clear themes this year. In 2018, the only definite trip I’ve got planned is a workshop in Ankara, Turkey, but I’m sure there’ll be more.
In the meantime, I’d like to wish all my returning and new readers a happy and healthy 2018!
So here is my question to help us in our empty nester plans for 2018: where should my husband and I go for a three-week trip over the summer? It should be somewhere with lots of history and culture, not too expensive, and the weather should be pleasant in July and/or August. Please add your suggestions below in the comments.
And, as always, please keep reading and sharing my posts on whatever social media you use. I really appreciate it!