What happens when you take a family who have been living amongst Redwood Trees for three years and plonk them in Las Vegas? You blow their minds. That’s what. After saying our sad goodbyes, we finally left the woods and drove for two days to Vegas. Arriving at The Strip at night was bedazzling. Unbelievable.
“Let’s stay here for a day,” said the Dactyl.
“How about a week,” said the Dimple.
“No a year!” said Bob, staring at a hotel that was a medieval castle, parked in between a roller coaster, the Statue of Liberty, a pyramid, and the Eiffel Tower. And he hadn’t even seen our hotel, Circus Circus, which had a big top inside with acrobats, screaming rides and days of games.
Our first morning was overwhelming. The crowds. The choice. The colours. Standing in line at the ticket office we tried to make some decisions: David Copperfield or Viva Las Vegas; knights jousting on horseback or Cirque du Soleil; small plane, helicopter or drive to the Grand Canyon? The frenetic energy of the place turned our children into little dragons. They could not stop shoving each other, flapping, shouting, breathing fire.
The ‘Dactyl kept filching postcards and was waving around one advertising a strip club card with a woman bent over at the waist to reveal a glossy, bare bottom and bejeweled crotch. “Look at the sparkles Mummy!”
Oh put that back darling.
“But what are those jewels between her legs?” Others were staring in horror at what our four-year-old was holding.
Because she’s hoping to be a princess. Please put it back.
Unable to make a decision we headed outside for some fresh air along The Strip. It was not more relaxing. Watch out for cars. Lights. Stick to the right. Don’t talk to homeless people. Stop staring! Then we got lost in a replica Venetian shopping mall complete with gondolas, statues, fake blue sky and plastic faces. Round and round we went looking for a way out, Bob and the ‘Dactyl were begging to go home and the Dimple turned green from the Chinese buffet we had eaten for lunch.
God, why is travelling with kids so hard, I thought.
And why the bejesus did we choose Vegas of all places?
We both started looking for a giant margarita.
The next day our small dragons were just as antsy, begging for more rides, escalators, coins, and games so they could win MORE SOFT TOYS. We had reduced our gigantic soft toy collection to two each before leaving the forest and there it was, reproducing faster than rabbits.
Feeling frazzled we legged it to the local airport where we were buckled up in a helicopter. Forty five minutes of blissful silence as we choppered towards the Grand Canyon—the main reason we chose Vegas in the first place. I was so excited. This was IT. We were going to witness one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And we were going to stand right in the canyon. It was going to be amazing. Trippy. A once in a lifetime moment.
When you think about seeing something your entire life it’s hard to make it as special as all those dreams built it up to be. The canyon was deep. And orange. And rocky. And yes, very big. However, Bob was more interested in the prickly cactus everywhere, and the ‘Dactyl began filling her pockets with rocks, as she tends to do. We couldn’t get them to look UP or experience the AWE. Feeling a little disappointed, like I failed to capture the spirit or grandeur of the whole experience we were then buckled up and taking off again.
On our way home the ‘Dactyl took a shining to the microphone hanging below her headset. Our bashful little girl, who is too scared to dance in a ballet class, started to sing. Tra la la la la la la la la. La da de de da. Tra tra tra.
The Dimple and I exchanged glances, amazed she was singing into something where we could ALL hear her, including the strange other family with teenage children. She delighted the whole helicopter including the pilot, who had not heard her speak up until that point.
And then it hit me, this is why we travel. To expand ourselves. It’s not about seeing it all, or seeing the best. It’s about finding new edges.
As our good friend Ashley says, “The magic happens in the unexpected moments.”
Taking our little girl out of the forest is good for her—for all of us.
A couple of days later, in a hotel near Joshua Tree, Bob said, “All we do is sleep in hotels. I want to go home.”
The Dimple and I both felt a pang that can only be described as guilt. We don’t currently have a home for our children—we’re travelling around with four gigantic suitcases and a box of toys each. That’s it. The closest thing we’ve got to a home is our SUV. With no concrete plans of where we will live in New Zealand, we are officially untethered.
It made me want to cackle loudly, “YOUR PARENTS ARE NUTS. WE HAVE NO HOME!”
Maybe we are a little crazy, but while it’s terrifying it’s also exciting. We’re being itinerant one last time before we finally have to settle down.
All I could say was tra la la la la la la.