My family and I are really excited. Honestly, I'm not sure who is more excited, myself or my kids. I haven't left my country in 4 years, since I had to return home a day early on my trip to Austria in March of 2020, since all the flights afterwards were being canceled because of Covid, followed by a long lockdown and shutting down of borders. And 4 months before that, I had taken my kids on their first family trip abroad (and first time abroad for my younger 3, period).
Going on vacation abroad has been a panacea for me. In 2017 I traveled to Poland on my own, my first time going abroad since moving to my current country in 2006, other than a short work trip back in 2011. It was during the lowest point I got to in my mental health journey, and it had such a healing effect that I made sure to go on such trips regularly. Frugal trips, certainly, but I had been so burnt out by my giving my all to my children homeschooling them and dealing with their special needs and had no time for myself, that even the cheap and non luxurious trips I took provided such healing for me. Between July 2017 and March 2020 I traveled to Poland, Belgium, Romania, Greece, US, England, Bulgaria, and Austria, and every second of those were so healing for me. Romania was with my eldest son, Lee, and Bulgaria was with all my kids.And then everything stopped because of Covid. And lockdowns meant we were stuck together more. I tried booking tickets between then and now, but new waves of Covid and airport shut downs canceled them including my planned trip to Venice that never happened... I tried getting that energy I got from my trips by taking trips locally, once going away for 6 days alone to an Airbnb with a jacuzzi, twice going away with my children on trips to other cities for weekend excursions, camping trips... but none of that was the same. And then finally, nothing was closed, finally travel out of the country was a possibility... and my ex wouldn't let me take my children abroad. After taking Lee abroad the summer before he was 11, I told my other kids I'd also take them abroad alone the summers before they turned 11, and I had 2 more kids who'd turned 11 and still hadn't gone on a trip with me... But since my ex wouldn't let me take my children, I didn't feel comfortable going on a trip abroad when I'd owed them one...
I switched to a new therapist this summer, and one of the topics that came up so much was how burnt out I felt all the time, and how little energy I had for things because of how spent I was with all my responsibilities and challenges, etc... She asked me to talk about things that helped me emotionally, and when I told her how much trips abroad helped me, she told me that it was clear that I needed to do what I could to make sure that happened for me. Because it was clear how desperate of a situation it was. And the thought of going on a trip perked me up for some time.
Unfortunately, because of reasons I can't get into here, taking a trip, despite how important it was, wasn't an option for a few months. And it sucked. And that made me slump more.
Then things sort of happened, and my oldest son had an option to possibly go to the US this summer to work... only his American passport expired years ago. Since Covid, getting appointments locally at the embassy to renew passports or do anything has been extremely difficult, with people even selling appointments, and with whatsapp groups to notify people when there are available appointments, so you could grab them before they got taken. Finally I managed to snag an appointment for a passport... and it was in May. Yes, you can try to get an emergency passport if you show up within a week of your flight, but those only last one year, and you have to go through the hassle and expense again.
A local friend of mine had written a while back that because of this ridiculous situation, she'd taken her kids to Cyprus, and went to the American embassy to get passports, and that's how they managed that. I asked my ex if he would be ok with me taking the kids to Cyprus to get American passports (they are also citizens of where we live, and have local passports) and fortunately he agreed.
So I looked in December to see when the next available appointments were in Cyprus... and they had so many open in January. It was ridiculous how easy that was compared to locally. I looked at pricing of tickets, which were ok but not amazing. But prices for AirBnb's were cheap, so it seemed like something totally doable. But when looking further, I saw airline tickets in January were twice the price of tickets in February, so I decided to wait until the appointments for February opened up.
I emailed the embassy in December asking when the February appointment dates would open up and they said a little bit after New Year's... so every single day, basically, since New Year's, I would open the website and see if there were appointments available, and nothing. It was January 15th and I thought it ridiculous that February appointments still weren't available, so I emailed them again asking when appointments would open up, and they responded to me a few hours later that appointments were available. (Did they only open because I emailed them? Who knows.)
The day I saw the appointments opened up, I double checked with my ex that he wouldn't have a problem with my taking the kids abroad, and I booked tickets. I decided that if I anyhow was taking my kids abroad, we'd make a full trip of it, and I booked an 8 day stay. I paid 199 dollars for 5 of us round trip. On a cheap, no frills airline, but that is totally fine with me. A trip is a trip is a trip.
We will be going to Cyprus on February 4-11. When I told my kids this they were absolutely thrilled, and extra excited that within 2.5 weeks of my booking the tickets and telling them, we'd be going.
There is one big down side, though, of traveling so soon after booking tickets. There aren't so many available AirBnB's now, and the ones that are available are more expensive than the ones I saw when looking back in December... I ended up booking 2 different Airbnb's, splitting the trip into two parts, 4 days on each side of the island. The total of that was 499.8 dollars, which makes that the most expensive part of the trip. If it were just myself traveling, I would have gone with a hostel or something, but can't do that with younger kids.
I rented a car and that is extremely cheap because it is February, the quiet month on the island...That is 87 dollars! By renting a car, not only will it make the trip so much better, it'll also allow us to do things that aren't as accessible by public transportation.
As for what we'll do in Cyprus? Well, the first day we get there in the afternoon, so that is just getting to the Airbnb and doing some grocery shopping (because we cook on our trips instead of eating out, nearly all the time). Then the next morning bright and early we have an appointment at the American embassy in Nicosia, after which we will explore Nicosia, as well as crossing the border and going to North Cyprus (by foot because the rental car company doesn't allow border crossings) so my son can check off another "country" on his list of places he's been around the world (he wants to visit as many as he can in his life).
After that, it's all open to possibilities.
I tried posting in some travel groups asking what things I should do in Cyprus in the winter and got some ridiculous answers like "don't go in the winter" which frankly isn't what I asked and was as unhelpful as possible. Even if that isn't the most popular time to visit, and beaches, which most people go to Cyprus for, aren't something for the winter, that is fine with me because we have plenty of beaches where we live, and I know we can find some great off the beaten path and frugal things to do in Cyprus in the winter.
I've scoured the internet and made a long list of things we can do in Cyprus and will be having a family meeting with my kids to decide on the itinerary, but lets just say that after narrowing it down to things we won't be doing, I have a list with 2 pages of links to information on different places, and a few documents saved on my computer, so there are plenty of things to do. My oldest, Lee, asked me if that stresses me out, and I told him that it's quite the opposite, this is part of the fun part for me. A big part of the excitement for me is planning the trip, and doing that is just adding to the length of time I can enjoy myself, as I get giddy with anticipation of the various options. (Cyprus has a fairy tale museum! Come on, tell me that isn't fun and different.)
In addition to all that, I now have technical things to arrange before our trip.
1) I need to get luggage. A lovely friend paid for an upgrade for my tickets so that we can each take a carry on suitcase in addition to a personal bag, but I'm not sure how many suitcases can actually fit in the car we're renting. It's a Nissan Note or similar, so it says 3 small suitcases on Google, but if it's similar then I don't know what. We'll see. But either way I only have one small carry on and the wheels are broken, so I'll need something new.
2) I need to arrange for my ex and myself to meet with a notary for him to sign parental consent for my kids to get their passports.
3) I need to get my kids passport pictures.
4) I need to arrange travel medical insurance.
5) I need to arrange cell phone service while there (and decide how many of my kids will be getting that on their phone, or if it should be just me).
6) I need to buy my son new sneakers because if we do any hiking he'll need better than what he has now.
7) I need to arrange a mail forwarding service for them to mail the passports to us abroad.
I think that might be it. But that's enough since we are flying officially in 13 days!
Eep! I'm so excited!
Anyone been to Cyprus before? What was your favorite thing to do there? If you went to Cyprus in the winter, anything you'd recommend?
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