Someone Else’s Family Vacation

In my humble opinion, the only acceptable answer to “do you want to go to Hawaii?” is a resounding “YES”. Possibly even a “HELLS YEAH” if you’re feeling particularly raucous. In any case, an offer to journey to a tropical island paradise should never be met with anything but enthusiasm – especially if you’re a nanny. Which is why, when my bosses asked me to go with them to Hawaii, I had nothing but enthusiasm for the idea. It ended up being one of the most memorable and incredible experiences of my life, but it was not at all the easybreezycovergirl Hawaiian vacation I was expecting.

Depending on your level of familiarity with the nanny-verse, you may or may not know that some families ask their nanny to accompany them on vacations. Despite my extensive research on the career before throwing myself into it (and by research, I mean watching several Julie Andrews movies), I had no clue that this actually happened in real life. I had no idea that taking a nanny on vacation was a luxury available to anyone other than the one-percenters, but evidently, it is.

When the C’s (my boss-family) first asked me to travel with them, I was thinking we would take a road trip to a theme park or something similarly run-of-the-mill. When they dropped the bomb that Hawaii was their destination of choice, I had to politely excuse myself to scream and do a happy dance. To me, going to Hawaii was about as likely as going to the Moon – something a select few very lucky individuals do, but far beyond the realm of my possibilities. I consider myself lucky if I get to go to the Olive Garden more than once a year. Yet here they were, offering me this chance to see an incredible place with my favorite little dude at my side – a win-win.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, I spent every available moment scouring the Internet for tips on traveling with toddlers and suggestions for nannies vacationing with families. I read every possible article in the hopes that I could somehow prepare myself for something this huge. Let me be blunt here – there’s no possible way to prepare yourself for this. Traveling with a toddler is a challenge in and of itself. The challenge increases exponentially when you add the long flights, the unfamiliar situation, and the politics of working through someone else’s family vacation.

To be honest, I was sort of expecting the trip to be an easy way to enjoy a vacation on someone else’s dime. I was sorely mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy every minute of it (and I paid for very little – thanks, Mr. and Mrs. C!), but it was by no means easy. Working during someone else’s vacation is such a challenge, no matter how wonderful they are or how well you get along with them. It’s hard to know where you stand in that situation if you’ve never been there before, and none of us ever had.

I never knew if I was supposed to tend to Bug (the little dude, about 15 months old at the time of the trip) if the C’s were present, or if I should let them take over. Bug was also sleeping in my room, so I didn’t know how to handle it when he got fussy. I always felt guilty when Mrs. C would get up and come grab him after hearing him cry for a little while, despite my attempts to comfort him. When he went to bed, I never knew what my role became – could I go socialize with the C’s and their friends on the lanai? Was it okay for me to accept a glass of wine with everyone else? Could I joke with them? There were so many potentially awkward situations throughout the experience, and finding my place in their family vacation felt exhausting at times.

On top of that, I didn’t have much free time, unless you count Bug’s naps (and even then I couldn’t leave the condo). Most nights the C’s would go out with their friends who had traveled with us, or with their parents who met us there, leaving me alone with Bug. When we did go places, Mrs. C and I shared the job of entertaining Bug and keeping him occupied. I ended up working much longer hours than I do regularly, and I was pretty exhausted when we finally made it home.

The trip was still one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Once I adjusted my expectations and found my place in the picture, I had an amazing time. Sure, I was working, but I was working in Hawaii. Bug still had fits and my job still brought difficulties, but they happened in Hawaii. And best of all, I was able to witness my favorite little dude as he experienced so many things for the first time.

I got to hold his hand while he grabbed his first fistful of sand. He sat on my lap while we watched whales breach right next to the shore. I held him in my arms while the sounds of the gorgeous Pacific Ocean lulled him to sleep on our first night there. I identified each new plant and animal that he excitedly discovered. I filled a box with the plumeria blossoms he brought me every day, a box I will never get rid of (even now as the blossoms are years old and nothing but a pile of dust). Being in Hawaii was incredible, but it was nothing compared to witnessing Bug in Hawaii. For that more than anything else, the trip will always be one of my most cherished memories.

Being a nanny is hard sometimes. We work crazy hours. We face extremely high expectations and standards. We never know if we’re friend or employee, so we never really know where we stand. That being said, there are so many things that make being a nanny worthwhile. The love and connection with each charge in our care, getting to experience incredible new things, and witnessing the kiddos who become our best friends have some of the best days of their lives, to name a few. Being a nanny is hard sometimes, but it’s still the greatest job in the world.

Braving the High Roller

Las Vegas, Nevada

The older I get, the more I am convinced that drinking alcohol to increase bravery is a valid and very effective coping mechanism. It should come as no surprise, then, that I turned to liquid courage when confronted with my very real fear of heights at the High Roller in Las Vegas, Nevada. Here’s what nobody told me, though: they don’t actually stop the rotation to let you on. Don’t drink and Roll, friends. Learn from my mistake – this is one attraction that should be done sober.

My amazing grandparents on my mother’s side spend their winters in Nevada, snowbird style. Every time I visit, we spend at least a day braving the wilds of Las Vegas. My Grams, more adventurous in her 70’s than I could ever hope to be, convinced me to go on the High Roller with her and my Papa. Walking up to it and taking in the 550-foot tall observation wheel from below, I was sure I could do it.

In giant observation wheels, as in life, perspective is everything.

We rode the elevator up to the boarding level and exited into a fully stocked bar. Vegas is a beautiful place. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief and ordered a drink heavy on the raspberry flavoring and champagne. My Papa ordered a Velvet Elvis, because when in Rome and all that, and my Grams elected to stay sober. See what I mean? Braver than I will ever be. By the time we got through the line to our designated pod, I was feeling the raspberry-infused buzz. I boarded the pod after my grandparents and the doors closed, all the while feeling pretty brave. That bravery lasted approximately sixty seconds as we slowly ascended until we were level with, and then above, all of the technicolored casino lights. I looked down at the tourists and flashy advertisements and felt very small, very nervous, and very tipsy. I huddled in my seat and sipped my drink, avoiding the clear glass walls of the pod.

That’s the funny thing about perspective, though. Eventually, you’re so far above it all that you aren’t the small one anymore. The buildings and revelers below grew smaller and smaller until, suddenly, I felt bigger and greater than the entirety of Las Vegas. I was enormous and strong. I was invincible. I was drunk (on power or alcohol, the interpretation is up to you). As we slowly rotated, the view became more like what you see from an airplane window and my head filled with bubbles. I bravely left the safety of my seat and ventured over to the window. I stayed there with my nose pressed against the glass for the rest of our rotation, staring down at Vegas.

Standing in the trenches, so to speak, Vegas seems so large and so bright and so full of life. As the wheel propelled us higher and higher, though, those lights grew dimmer and the Strip began to look flimsy and plastic. All of those beautiful people doing beautiful things grew very small, and I realized that at the end of their weekend they would drag themselves back to wherever they lived, hung-over with significantly less money, and return to their regular lives. Vegas, the great paradisiacal city in the desert, was nothing but a temporary mirage.

I may get a little philosophical when I’ve been drinking.

As we neared the exit level, buildings grew larger and I lost my magical above-the-world perspective. Heights were scary again, and I realized I would have to exit while the pod was still in motion. My Grams, pre-knee replacement and all, hopped out of the pod with ease and grace. I leaned over to my Papa and whispered in his ear, “Papa… you’re gonna have to drag me off of this thing…” The exit almost knocked us both over, but we made it out relatively unscathed. We exited into the gift shop (because Vegas) and I fought the urge to purchase approximately eight mugs to commemorate my champagne-infused bravery.

The High Roller was probably the second-coolest thing I did in Vegas (Jersey Boys reigns supreme and you can’t convince me otherwise). While I feel moderately proud of myself for facing my lifelong fear of heights, I feel very proud of myself for spending the rest of my Vegas vacation alcohol-free. Sometimes the best things we do are the scariest, and the view from the very top of the highest observation wheel in the world is something I will not forget anytime soon. I also came up with my new motto in travel (and in life): “If my Grams can do it, I can do it.” Here’s to being as brave as my 70-something grandmother!

I’m not making any promises, though.