Family Vs. Travel: Regretting the Road Not Taken

by Greg Johnson Oct 14, 2009
We all make choices when traveling. Often, choosing one path, closes a door on another. How does one keep from feeling the regret of the road not traveled?

In a recent New York Times blog, Tim Kreider wrote about something he called ‘The Referendum’, which, succinctly put, is your defense of the major life decisions that you have made: marriage or no marriage, children or no children, career or no career.

To that list I would add to travel or not to travel.

As a recently married person, new to mid-life, and perhaps vaguely entering my first real crisis of conscience, I know exactly what he is talking about. I feel young at 40, and I suppose as newlyweds we feel younger than most, but those creeping question of starting a family begin to take hold like hyperactive vines rising out of the soil in some low-budget science fiction flick.

We have felt wondrously gluttonous this year after a destination wedding followed by trips to Palm Springs, California, Costa Rica and Ireland, while friends and family are busy having babies or are already raising families. We look out the window at them from our taxiing plane and wonder how they handle the late-night feedings, the extra work and, in essence, the tedium. Is it worth it? Are we doing the right thing or are we just selfish. Greedy. Irresponsible, even?

Making Your Choices

We have married travel as much as we have married each other,

because we always knew that travel would be a staple of our life together. More important than a house or an expensive car or children, and we have made our own sacrifices in order to travel.

I’m not suggesting travel with children is impossible, but perhaps it is too much for us to handle at this point, or ever. Of course people take family trips all the time. It’s just that family trips, by their nature, are just, well, different. Are they better? That is the nagging question I cannot answer. Perhaps they see us as unfortunately grounded while they fly into uncharted territory, growing and experiencing the world together.

But what is travel if not the thrill of decision-making? Of course, in choosing your particular spot, you will be not-choosing others, which will cause you to inherit the grief of the road not taken. You will be asked at the end: “Oh did you hike  ____  mountain when you were in ____?  Or “My God, did you take that wild ride down the ___ on the way to ____”

“No, we didn’t,” you’ll say, and then you can smile as you remember what you did instead.

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