When the flight attendant asked if we had any rubbish, it became clear that while we were going to a country that speaks the same language, it wouldn’t quite be the same.
This is one of the reasons why we decided to take our kids abroad. We want to expose them to the world and experience its differences and similarities. At 15 and 12, they’re the perfect ages to learn through travel and retain these memories. We rarely get the opportunity to take a trip with just the four of us, and our dwindling time before college is even more precious.
We took advantage of frequent flyer miles and went to the U.K. for their first trip overseas. The kids really wanted to go to London, partly because of Harry Potter. I studied abroad in Bath and haven’t been back to the country since my junior year of college, so I couldn’t wait.
I was most excited about seeing how the kids reacted to being in a foreign country, and I wanted to see it through their eyes. While we travel to Canada often, the differences are too subtle to change their perspectives. Before we even left Heathrow, my son was already picking up on the differences. As we followed all the Keep to the Left signs, he said, “I feel like such a rebel!”
Two days in, my daughter heard her first “Bloody hell.” We delighted in the different names for things like lift for elevator or towels for sanitary napkins. The grocery stores all specialized in prepared meals, which were convenient and allowed us to try different things. We especially liked that there were gluten free options for the kids, one thing we wish we had here.
Highlights included the Harry Potter Movie Experience, the London Eye and visiting Bath. The older one loved using the public transportation. We thoroughly explored London and regularly reached our Oyster Card fare caps. The kids were troopers as we walked miles each day and pretty much were with one another 24/7.
Friends were also a part of this trip. A college classmate I hadn’t seen in more than 26 years gave us an extensive tour of some Sunday street markets, which felt like the Strip District turned up to 11. When my daughter discovered that one of her Lebo friends would be in London with her family the same day as us, we all met up for coffee. “Look who I found!” they wrote when they tagged each other on social media; some of their friends actually believed this was a random occurrence.
We agreed on the things we liked least: the smokers (more than expected), thick, rough Kleenex, poor Internet, and traditional British food, which mostly sucked.
I’m glad we took this trip. The kids experienced a lot and now have a bigger view of the world. Whether it’s to another country or even another state, these are the memories and lessons that will last longer than rubbish.