Twilight was settling over Paris as we emerged from the Metro to walk to our apartment on Rue de la Fontaine au Roi. A cloak of lavender sky was settling over our final day in the City of Lights, and we felt serene and satisfied. Well, almost satisfied. Reed and I had a craving for one last crepe, so we said goodbye to Tim and Seth in Square Jules-Ferry and crossed the street to a nearby crepe stand. Soon, holding warm crepes filled with Nutella, we turned toward our apartment.
Instead, we found ourselves looking at roads that diverged from the park like the spokes of a wheel. I was filled with confusion and had no idea which way to go. The sky was now as dark as a plum, and panic surged within me. Sensing my anxiety, Reed said, “Mom, we go this way.” My fifteen-year-old, who had been apprenticing his dad in the art of navigation over the past seven days, calmly led me back to our Airbnb.
It was an important moment for both of us. Reed saved the day by successfully steering us home, and I witnessed how calm, confident, and capable he was in a moment of distress. I leaned into my son’s care, and he experienced both my vulnerability and my trust in him.
Our family has had many such moments as we have traveled together through the years. In fact, we have come to know, experience, and appreciate one another deeply through travel.
Travel is more than a luxury; it will expose you, challenge you, stretch you, and unite you like little else.
Sometimes we would load the minivan with camping supplies and take off for the nearby Smoky Mountains. We’d pay $17.50 for a secluded site near the creek and go to work setting up camp. Quickly I became convinced that nothing could raise Tim’s stress level like pitching a tent with the help of two young boys and a distracted wife! Yet, as soon as the tent was standing somewhat erect, we would shed our shoes and spend the afternoon playing in the creek. When an unexpected rainstorm drenched our dinner or cut the trip short, we learned how to adapt and deal with disappointment.
On a trip to Colorado, we discovered our ability to persevere when I was plagued by a terrible cold and the boys contended with altitude sickness. Simultaneously, we cultivated courage as we tried activities new to us, like horseback riding and whitewater rafting. On a vacation to Grand Teton National Park, we watched the boys exert their independence, strength, and stamina on a two-day kayaking adventure. At the launch point, they claimed a kayak for themselves and paddled more than seven miles each day without complaint. At night they slept in their own two-man tent on Grassy Island. On annual trips to the beach, we experienced both the blessing and complexity of extended family. We also learned the importance of savoring beauty, rest, and play.
Sometimes our travels led to moments of tension, frustration, and fear; other times, moments of compassion, encouragement, and joy. Throughout all of them, we served as witnesses to one another. Tim’s strong, steady demeanor shines as he steers us along unfamiliar streets or through stressful situations. Seth’s calm and content spirit invites us to relax, take things less seriously, and be present in the moment. Reed’s curiosity beckons us to slow down and pay attention, and his humor and wit keep us laughing.
Tim and the boys have seen me gripped with fear on a gondola in Switzerland and rushed to my side to encourage me. They’ve watched me delight at the surprising sight of erupting geysers in Yellowstone and joined me in awe. They’ve witnessed me weeping in the Paris Metro, overwhelmed by the sight of the homeless, and hugged me tenderly. It’s humbling to be seen in these vulnerable moments, yet it has allowed them to know me, to care for me, and to enjoy me.
In our basement we have an engraved sign that we inherited from Tim’s grandparents, and the sight of it makes me smile. Carved into a piece of wood shaped like Tennessee are the words, “The Travelin’ Tuckers.” Wanderlust is in our blood. We love to explore, adventure, marvel, and discover, and when we return home, we hold a greater sense of awe of both the world and of each other.
A lover of story, Susan Tucker has always been captivated by beautiful writing. She is drawn to themes of tension, joy/grief, hope/loss, freedom/shame, which she explores in her own writing. Susan spends her days teaching middle school English, mothering her two teenage sons, and loving her husband of 25 years. She cherishes her first cup of coffee each morning, moments of quiet and solitude, restorative yoga, worship music, and faithful friends.nbsp