The journey of our lives... so far! 

A little while back, in the Easter Holidays, we decided to take the boys to Germany to see my brother, his beautiful wife and my 2 gorgeous nephews who live over there. We were all extremely excited as we began to plan this holiday, and among the excitement of it all we made the crazy decision to drive there!
First part of planning was getting the boys passports, and so of course that meant getting the dreaded passport photos done. After wasting £10 of my money on closed eyes and cheesy grinned faces in the do it yourself photo booth, where you now only get three attempts at the photo, I decided it was best to get them done in one of the professional shops in town, where they guaranteed that the photos would be accepted by the passport office. This proved a success, and the passports took very little time to arrive.
We then had to decide how exactly we were going to get to Germany, and for me and my partner, driving just seemed the more obvious option. Everyone was telling us otherwise. ‘Just fly, it’s quicker/cheaper/less stressful.’ We knew that driving would of course take a long time, but that making our way to the airport, checking in, waiting for out flight, and all the security checks, would be a lot more boring, and hassle with impatient children. Price wise, it was pretty matched, we only had to pay for the ferry and then of course petrol and insurance for the car.
What really helped us decide to drive was the fact that we could pack a lot more. We took lots of presents for my family, a variety of clothes, as the weather was seemingly unpredictable in April this year, and also toys and things to do for the boys. Once we had made up our mind we decided what would make the journey even better, and less boring, would be to stop off in other countries on the way. This would also make the drive more bearable for me, as Marcus doesn’t drive, it was all in my hands. I looked forward to the feeling of accomplishment after completing the journey and driving on the wrong side of the road, although there was a small, uneasy feeling that once I’d started, and we were over the channel, I had to complete the long drive however hard it was.
We planned pit stops along the way to Dunkirk, France, then to Antwerp, Belgium, Venlo, Holland, before arriving in our destination Paderborn, Germany. 5 countries (four new ones) In less than 24 hours! Not bad at all for their first abroad holiday.
The main reason behind the decision to stop off in other cities rather than just the normal service stations along the way was so that the boys could see a bit more of the world, and Marcus and I had not been to these cities either. I knew that this was going to be the biggest trip the boys had been on, and the first time that they realised, perhaps, just how big the world is, so I wanted to show them as much of it as I could. This was important for us because we had always made it clear to the boys that they were the centre of our world, and that they were the most important things to us, but I didn’t want them growing up with a chip on their shoulder. I wanted them to understand that yes they are the center of our world, but they are not the centre of THE world. I wanted them to see, and accept that there were so many different people in the world, that people have different cultures and languages and beliefs, and that there was still so much for them to see and learn about but that all these differences make the world an interesting and wonderful place. I wanted them to have open eyes when looking at the world, and not believe that everyone around them, speaks the same way or even lives the same way, but to show them that no matter what we also still breathe the same air and share the same earth and for them to understand that this is perfectly normal.
And I feel we accomplished exactly that.
The first major culture shock for them was driving on the wrong side of the road, Toby found it absolutely fascinating and had his nose pressed against the window! I enjoyed watching the amazement in his eyes as he marveled at two young French boys communicating next to him, in a language he did not understand, yet these two boys so innocently like him, in their paw patrol T-shirts. In Belgium they took in the sites of the city appearing out of no where from the country side, and I enjoyed hearing their giggles as people on mopeds sped alongside them on the path, something that would be completely alien to them, and completely illegal in this country. My eldest who is an avid reader, kept trying to read all the signs and enjoyed asking what everything meant and giving the pronunciation a good go. The boys found it so exciting as cars stopped to let trams cross and people waved at them from the boats on the river alongside us. We pointed out beautiful houses and really pretty looking trees, and even Marcus and I were shocked by these differences that appeared just across the sea.
We had made up a really long playlist with suggestions from all of us, and had packed the boys individual bags with toys to play with and other thing s to keep them busy in the car. We also bought lots of little treats (surprise eggs, Lego blind bags, and sweets) to give to the boys every hour, so they had something to look forward to and something new to keep them entertained. We also made sure that the stops we had planned were never too much more than a 2 hour drive apart, so that I was able to stay alert, and we could all look forward to stretching our legs and taking in a new city.
The journey was a huge success. The boys were so well behaved, I literally couldn’t have asked for anymore from them, and we had lots of fun. (The journey home was a different matter, but no on ever enjoys coming back from a holiday, let alone one with family that you are not going to see again for a long time!)
I’m not going to write about the things we got up to once we were in Germany, as I had blogged about these when we were there, so you’ll have to look at the past blogs.

What I will say is we definitely got a lot from this holiday, my boys definitely have a better acceptance and understanding of the world around us. Something that really stands out for me is how well the boys got on with my nephews. Lennox and Louis only speak German, and Toby and Jack only speak English, yet somehow these boys, who had never met each other before managed to communicate, and play together. And very obviously loved each other – it was a really beautiful thing to see, and made my heart feel extremely full.