Traveling with young kids is not easy. Our kids, in particular, are very active and quite loud. They need a good exercise early in the morning and time every day for their imaginations to take over. A related trait, fortunately, is that they are great adventurers. So, we end trips exhausted but normally pretty happy. At the end of the day, we hope that all of this travel only inspires their imaginations even further. That their hearts grow in empathy for others and thankfulness for all of God’s amazing creations. And that their bonds with each other and with us grow even stronger.
Our first trip to Portugal tested the adventurous spirit of us all. Just barely into the drive home, our van broke down shortly after refueling. Driving down the highway, the check engine light started flashing and the engine bucking to a stop. We were able to coast down an exit ramp before we totally broke down. Which was our first blessing, as I can’t imagine wrangling our kids on the narrow shoulder of a Portuguese highway.
A sign advertised a resort one kilometer down the road, so we strapped Henry in the stroller and Cora in the carrier and off we went. This area of Portugal is quite rural, and the first creature we met was a stray dog that trailed Charlotte and me for a few uncomfortable moments. After what was certainly a kilometer, we stumbled upon a nearly deserted equestrian event space. We wandered through the arena, past the stables and back out before finally finding a few employees. It was Sunday afternoon, proceeding a national holiday, so they were unable to find an open mechanic, but did ring the resort owners for us before all driving away.
As soon as Carlos and Monica of Villa Bora Bora arrived, we knew we were not alone. They drove us to their beautiful bed and breakfast, which as luck would have it, had an available apartment with a queen size bed, bunk beds, and crib. There was a soccer field where the kids and I ran around while Dennis spent hours on the phone with USAA (Skype over WIFI) until they could find a tow truck to transport our van into storage until after the holiday.
Dinner wasn’t served until 9 p.m. (10 p.m. in Spain), and the main course was grilled octopus. Our kids were such troopers even hours after their bedtimes. They sat at the table, tried the octopus, and ate lots of kid-friendly sausage and eggs. If we weren’t so stressed (and still waiting for the tow truck), this would have been such an enjoyable meal.
In the morning, Carlos called us a taxi to take us to the rental car stands at nearby Faro airport. By the time we got in a car and on the road, it was after noon, and no one had eaten breakfast. Which of course was the breaking point for Henry who just wanted a Yoo-hoo from the broken down Hertz vending machine.
We quickly realized that we had inadvertently put diesel into the van, which apparently is a fairly common mistake for Americans to make in Portugal. Our van was fine and after several days of incessant calls to the mechanics we were able to get it straightened out and back in our care. This trip is officially over, leaving us with many take away lessons, not the least of which is just how kind and caring people are, even when they don’t know you or your language. What better lesson is there for an adventurer, no matter their age?