Expat Tales: When The Holiday Trip Doesn’t Go As Planned

by farrah on December 4, 2014 · 4 comments

It’s been a crazy week. We arrived home (in Oisterwijk) early afternoon last Saturday and jumped immediately into our routine. My husband had to go back to the US for work this week- so while he’s been gone I have suffered the pains of jet lagged children (and self) while we gear down from Sinterklaas and gear up for Santa. Felling scattered doesn’t even begin to describe it. Nonetheless, now that we’re home I can reflect upon what our first family trip ‘back’ was like, and give you the low down on what happens when things don’t go as planned.

bread turkeyMy sister made this!

The travel part

This was our shining moment. Our trip over went so smoothly I had no issues gushing over how well my boys did- as well as the fellow passengers and airport/airplane personnel we encountered. It exceeded every expectation and my worries were put to rest. So funny how the universe works though- since once you think you’re safe….. the gods step in and mess with you just to remind you that you can plan all you like but that doesn’t mean a thing.

The plans part

Once we were in South Carolina- we executed the schedule I had made without a single misstep. Arriving late Wednesday night, we scooted off to our friend’s house in our former town of Simpsonville. Being such gracious hosts- they took us in and our boys immediately hit it off with their kids. Bright and early (um, 3:30am) the next morning they were up and ready to roll which was painful. But never fear! I had us booked morning, afternoon and night both days- and we packed in every doctor, dentist, friend visit and storage unit empty operation with the precision of a military operation.

By Friday I was dead tired. At this point I still scheduled visits with friends even up to the airport where two of them came out to see us off. My husband was meeting my brother there who generously gave his time to help drive the U-Haul truck up to Michigan (about 12 hours) with what remained of our ‘stuff’. The boys and I flew without issue to Detroit and were scooped up by my father who was gladly waiting for us back in the Mitten.

Where it goes wrong

sickWhere we spent the majority of our ‘holiday’.

Saturday night we had a good time with my family- my father hosted a huge bonfire and we waited for my husband and brother to arrive safe and sound. Just as expected, they were on time that evening and once again I felt safe and happy that my family was once again reunited. In my mind I went over the meticulous list of plans, appointments, and dates for the upcoming week. This was the first time the boys had seen family and friends in over two years- we had a lot to do- but with the way we conquered the SC leg, I had no doubt that we could pull it off and our reward would be a fantastic Thanksgiving filled with food and family.

Any expat knows that going ‘back’ isn’t easy. You brace yourselves for relatives or friends that might not understand you or why you left. You might fear that things would be too different, make you sad- or even uneasy with the life you left behind. I can say that I am somewhat a freak of an expat in that I do not experience homesickness- and I was completely distracted with the giant to do list which was ever-growing in my head. I don’t know how my husband felt. All I know is that my kids were happy and gobbling up the attention. So far this was all a big adventure. But.

And then Sunday happened

With my husband back, and boys *almost* adjusted to the time difference, we started out on our ‘tour’. His friends were hosting a party which was planned more than a month before we got back. By late afternoon we piled into the car and drove to their house, the boys dozing in the back seat. We looked forward to an evening our friends Katie and Dan had planned. They had a new baby to meet (baby, at this point she is pushing 2!) and we wanted to see our boys play with the 7 or so other kids. As soon as we got out of the car, cheerfully greeting the other revelers pulling up in the driveway behind us, Chase threw up.

I thought it was a fluke. I figured travel, car, lack of sleep and crappy food was all to blame. I assured everyone of this knowledge and the party continued. However…. maybe thirty minutes later Chase threw up again. We weren’t there yet an hour- and I knew it was time to pack it up and go home. He was miserable and I couldn’t infect an entire house of people.

Once back at my parents’, he threw up again. I realized this wasn’t travel-related. This was bad. And so it was. For the next four solid days the other two boys, my husband, myself, my mother AND my father all came down with the nastiest stomach bug we’ve had in our lives. It was miserable. We couldn’t move. We couldn’t eat. Someone was constantly getting sick. Plans were cancelled. Relatives not seen. Friends not visited. Stores not to be patronized. Family photos cancelled. Food most definitely not to be eaten.

What if…

tabMy sister’s setting. 

So by Wednesday I was really starting to worry. I was worried that Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving was not going to happen. Truth be told, however, that my biggest concern was how were we going to get home. In the state we were in, there was no way we could endure a long flight. We couldn’t do that to our fellow passengers or ourselves. I wondered if there was a shot I could get to stop the vomiting even if for just a little while so we could make it the 8 hours. I didn’t know what to do.  What if we couldn’t get home?

Thankfully Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving arrived and we were all in decent shape. My dad had relapsed, but said he would be ok by my sister’s dinner that evening. We had my mother-in-law’s house to visit in the morning with all of their relatives. We had a new cousin to meet. I worried about us giving this godforsaken illness to anyone else. I watched the boys constantly for signs of sickness. I tried to get them to eat- something, anything- but they were terrified that it might come back up. There was never much of a fever involved, so we trucked on. Our first Thanksgiving without hardly any food. Not exactly what I had in mind.

My sister’s that evening we were all feeling a bit better. She had a beautiful table set and a mountain of food. My family as well as my parents were still not completely to the point though that we could enjoy such a feast- which was a shame. But it was really nice to see everyone together and watch the boys enjoy themselves regardless with Uncle Joe and the wonderful Hot Wheels track that he had gotten especially for them.

Exhausted, that night we went back to my parents’ and slept sound. No vomiting. No late trips to the bathroom. Friday was our day of more appointments and our flight home. We had to be ok.

During the afternoon we salvaged what time we could spend with our families and worked around the packing and visits with friends. It was all over so quickly and losing those four days could not be changed. We could sit there and wallow in self-pity over the tragedy or focus on the moments and the minutes that we still had left. My mom hadn’t seen the boys in over two years. I felt awful for the let down that we surely made of her holiday. Everyone was so excited….everyone was so looking forward to it all. Everything was So.Well.Planned.

The end result

flightOmg almost home. 

So what can you do? You can’t look at something like that as a major tragedy. As many people told me over the course of the week- this will indeed be a story in the years to come that we WILL look back at and laugh. Hopefully. I mean, how can I continue to fool myself time after time into believing that I know better than the gods and fates and all that crazy stuff and escape their peril? My planning, my scheming, everything that I try to orchestrate which makes me feel invincible and in control is nothing but a farce. But that’s ok. That’s life. I’m human. And this is reality.

So lessons be learned ye expats. Don’t plan. Or at least try not to plan too much. Don’t set your expectations so high for that return holiday trip home that you’re bound to piss off the universe and land on your ass. Go with it. Let it be. Exist where it’s important and just make the most of what you have with those you love most. Can you do that? Can I? Not sure. At this time we only plan (see? there I go again planning) to have people come to us, not the other way around. I think we earned it this trip.

All photos taken by me.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Phoebe @ Lou Messugo December 4, 2014 at 9:46 am

Oh gosh you poor things, that sounds so awful, there’s nothing worse than being sick in someone else’s house during a highly anticipated visit. If you want Christmas visiting vomit stories…here’s one (it’s not as good as yours but it’s still a goodun…) Visiting my sister at Christmas about 10 years ago I got sick on the last day and had to drive back to my parents’ place, I threw up 8 times in a 6 hour car journey! I was pregnant too and couldn’t take anything for it. Luckily despite being in such a confined space for many hours I didn’t pass the bug to anyone in the car, but it turned out my sister got it too back at her place (and she was pregnant too!) I know how disappointing your visit must have been but I promise you, you will laugh about it one day!


2 farrah December 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Any kind of barfing while pregnant is the WORST, throw in a car trip and that is just plain hell.

It’s stories like these when we look at our kids and are like- do you realize how much we’ve suffered?!?!? 🙂


3 Ace December 5, 2014 at 8:52 am

That trip was truly a saga for the times. So glad you guys were all able to get back to normal for Thanksgiving and the trip home, though!


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