Monday, September 12, 2016

Looking Back on the Time We Traveled Internationally With a Seven-Year-Old and His Younger Brother

As was largely detailed here several years ago, we took our small children to Israel. We received overwhelming support from friends and family who thought it would be an incredible experience for our boys. Of course, there were also more than a few naysayers who thought we were absolutely OFF OUR METAPHORICAL ROCKERS.

"What if they won't eat anything?" Um...I don't think they will actually starve to death in a country with plenty of food.

"What if they are awful travelers?" They're great travelers so far so I think we'll be okay. If they're awful, I will eat my words and tell you that you were right all along and I shouldn't have wasted my money.

"What if you get shot or bombed?" You people are too dependent on your western news. And also, too driven by fear. I've been there. I was neither shot nor bombed.

"What if you spend that money and they don't remember?" Hmmmm...

We knew that was HIGHLY likely to happen. We also knew that God provided a way to take them when they were little. Given that, even though I'm not afraid of being bombed in Israel, I am aware of its frequent travel advisories, we decided to take them while we could.

It was one of the best decisions we ever made.

I knew before we left that we would make them Shutterfly books so that we could always remind them of their trip.

My friend is traveling internationally with her son soon and asked me for some tips for getting him adjusted to the time change as fast as possible. We messaged back and forth and I got so jealous of her trip to London and Italy and so nostalgic for our trip to Israel. After chatting with her, I went into their rooms and grabbed their Israel books down from their shelf.

I started flipping through Garrett's. He was seven when we flew him halfway around the world. We bought him a drawing pad and, at some point during our travels on the following day, we asked him to color a picture of his favorite thing from the previous day. We then took pictures of his drawings and included them in his Shutterfly album. Nearly three years later, I was looking back on these drawings and it hit me what a great idea that had been.

Now, while we did tons of things every day and there were many things every day that he loved (and sometimes he had a really hard time choosing), we have a glimpse into what really impacted our seven-year-old on his historical and biblical tour of Israel.

Our first day was spent alone with just our family. We arrived in Israel and spent the night right by the Mediterranean Sea. Garrett's favorite thing from the entire day was when his daddy threw him, repeatedly, into the sea. I sat on the shore, nursing a raging case of airsickness and the beginning of a sinus infection while three guys hit on me in Arabic.

On day two, Garrett drew a picture of him, his brother, and a women we'd just met who became a fast friend, standing in the ancient remains of Herod's Pool. Turns out they weren't really, actually, exactly supposed to get in it but it's his favorite memory from that day and no one threw us into an Israeli jail so I consider it a win.

Our third day was filled with sites. Among them, Tel Dan, which is stunning. People think of dirt and dust and heat when they think of Israel. That's there, but there is also water and trees and beautiful country. Garrett took off his shoes and waded through the streams and pools that come together to form the headwaters of the Jordan River. His picture, sketched with first grade hands, shows him standing next to a tree in the middle of a pool on our nature hike. The tree looks like a big person with blue hair. Just go with it.

One of the things we did on day four was visit a working replica of a Nazarene village. This kind of things was, is, and will probably always be right up Garrett's alley. I'm certain if he had any idea that places exist where people reenact the Civil War, I would have to move him to the battle field where he would set up permanent residence. He LOVED Nazareth Village.

Our fifth day was filled with archaeological sites and places with deep biblical history. I'd begged Troy to beg our tour guide to stop at Gan Hashlosha, a spring that they've turned into a type of natural water park. It's refreshing, beautiful and SO FUN. In the middle of a busy tour schedule, it was nice to take a dip. I'm so glad I pushed the issue and got it worked into our trip because it was my son's favorite thing that day. He didn't actually go fishing but there were fish so his picture shows some dude trying to catch them. Even though they were, like, the size of my toe.

Day six was also filled with sites. We took a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The captain and his crew tossed fishing nets into the sea, the crew and some of our group danced a traditional dance, and the ride was what my kid chose to draw. His little brother ate a bunch of fish eyes that day. I might have drawn that.

On day seven we did so many fun things. Garrett stood in a waterfall in En Gedi, floated in the Dead Sea, and rode in a cable car. But, he was also baptized in the Jordan River. And THAT was what made the biggest imprint on his mind. The picture kinda looks like a couple of praying mantises playing in a pond but is, in fact, his daddy submerging him in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Day eight was spent relaxing in Eilat. I was in the horrendous stages of my sinus infection and we just went to the beach for a few hours before I slept all afternoon and the boys played in the hotel pool. I think it was one of his most favorite days. The picture shows Troy and me on top of a short retaining wall. The beach was below and you can see the boys playing beneath us.

On day nine, the boys climbed a hill. I mean, they did WAY more than that but that's what Garrett drew a picture of. We'd gone all over and, eventually, ended up at the valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. Troy took the boys up a steep hill and they ended up having to kind of slide back down on their bums. Garrett got some scrapes and scratches, had a blast, and drew all about it.

On day ten, among other things, we visited the Garden Tomb. Likely not the actual site of Jesus's resurrection but beautiful, peaceful, and impressive, the Garden Tomb stood out in Garrett's mind above everything else from that day. That's a tree you see. Not a giant carrot guarding the tomb. He must have been going through a very Picasso-y tree phase.

Day eleven was filled with so many Jerusalem sites. We walked the Via Dolorosa, saw Gethsemane, went to the western wall and more. But Garrett was seven. And Garrett rode a camel. Not a hairy elephant, a camel. I mean, he rode a donkey, too, but, apparently, the camel made a bigger impression.

On our last day, we walked a third of a mile through an underground, water filled tunnel that may have been used as an escape route out of the walled city. It didn't matter what else we did that day. Walking through an underground tunnel was most impressive to a seven-year-old. And to his then 32 year old mother.

I'm so glad we did this trip with them and so glad we had Garrett draw pictures. They're hilarious and also so telling of the things that might stick permanently in his mind. If you get the opportunity to travel with kids, DO IT. Jet lag, interesting foreign foods, scrapes and cuts and one kid barfing on the tour bus and all, I wouldn't change it for the world. They both talk--always--of wanting to go back and of wanting to see the rest of the world.

I'm also glad that his carrot/blue hair person tree phase will forever be remembered in this photo album.

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