Coventry Chronicles: 7 years of adventures
September 17, 2017
As I sat down to start writing my column again, I realized: it's officially the start of our seventh year living abroad. Let me paint a picture for you: our first year was in 2011. My husband, Ryan, who is a professional hockey player, had signed his first European contract with a team in the Italian league. We were thrilled; we were off to Italy for a whole hockey season, with a side of pasta, wine and travel.
I was 25. Ryan and I weren't even engaged yet. We had three suitcases full of clothes, impractical-for-Europe shoes and a few mementos from home. There was a card from my parents, tucked away in my carry on, that we had opened on the way to the airport.
"If your world got a little sunnier every time we thought of you….you'd have a great tan by now!" Inside, my dad had written "this is the start of a great adventure for you!"
How true those words were. I remember the gray cashmere sweater that I wore on the plane to Venice that day, newly purchased in an effort to appear slightly more European than my current look. We boarded the plane in Denver, had a few glasses of wine, watched a movie or two and then pulled our eye masks on and slept for a couple of hours before landing in Venice the next day, ready for our Italian adventure.
Fast forward seven years later. We've left the Italian league for the EIHL, the premier UK league. We've been married four years and have two children. We have a thousand adventures under our belts. But none quite compare to the adventure of a travel day with two kids under one and a half.
This year, it didn't occur to us that our four large hockey bags, two car seats, two baby beds, a double stroller and two carry on bags might not fit in our car. We don't travel as lightly as we used to.
After my second son was born, I learned quickly not to buy new clothes, so there were no new cashmere sweaters. In fact, both my husband and I were covered in blood before we even left Steamboat, a result of a fall during a coffee stop in which my older son fell down face first and cut his lip.
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Having finally made it to the airport six hours later, we were told that all of our bags were too heavy to go on the plane and we would have to buy more bags and re-pack. This resulted in spending $600 in baggage fees and checking 11 items. We were officially "that family." (Our kids were screaming too.)
After running through security – as much as you can when traveling with two children, which is not fast at all – and boarding the plane, Ryan and I planned to wait until the kids fell asleep and then have a glass of wine and go to sleep ourselves so that we arrived in England feeling fresh and rested. Ha.
What really happened is that I had to forcibly hold my son down to get him to fall asleep after three hours of him standing on his seat, staring at the poor passenger seated behind him and grinning like a maniac.
There was lots of screaming, lots of looks from other passengers (ranging from dirty to sympathetic to bewildered), lots of tears (not just from the children) and finally, a few crucial hours of sleep before we touched down in the UK to begin this year's adventure.
Feeling desperate in those first jet-lagged days in a new place, I pulled out the card that my parents sent us off with seven years ago. "The adventure is yours!" my mom had written in it. And while it's changed quite a bit from those first years in Italy, it's still an adventure, now more than ever.
Sophie Dingle is a freelance writer currently living in England. Dingle's husband, Ryan, is a Steamboat Springs native and professional hockey player; you can follow their adventures online at sophiedingle.blogspot.com.