Last week I was busy putting together my itinerary for my upcoming visit to Israel, and I was thinking about: a) how critical a mission statement is to life in general and helpful to my trip in particular, and b) how you can craft the best opportunities for yourself by knowing what you want and being willing to put in the legwork to create the necessary framework.
I have a very finite amount of time for the trip – ten days, but that includes travel so it’s really just 8 days there – and there are an infinite amount of possibilities for how to use my time. As I’ve said before, our choices in life generally aren’t between the good and the bad, but the good and the best! And that’s what makes it so challenging to organize our time – because the good things are appealing and we can lose sight of what is our personal best.
I had to determine what activities would be the best for me and dd16, and to do that, I had to repeatedly think about the purpose of my trip. And this was easier said than done, because I kept mentally latching on to different aspects and planning around specifics, then feeling like I was losing sight of the overall goal. The goal is to spend time with dd, to take advantage of the spiritual opportunity for connecting to the holiness inherent in the land of Israel, to access some inspiration, and to have some fun – and keeping this all in mind helped me put together an itinerary that I think will allow us to maximize the enjoyment of our time together.
Thinking about my personal mission statement as a parent, as well as for this trip itself, was so helpful. I’ve talked here and in my classes about the importance of having a mission statement (whether written or not), having a clear understanding of where you want to go. This is a powerful tool to use in making decisions of all sorts. Knowing where you want to go is helpful to keeping yourself on track, as well as getting back on track when you stray from your original destination. It’s like developing an internal compass that directs you. One example of how this helped me in planning my trip was the following: I initially planned to meet the English speaking homeschoolers in Jerusalem (some of whom I’ve gotten to know online over the years) on their regular get together date. I even got the information about their meet-up in advance so I could schedule my ticket around it. And I kept scheduling things around this activity, that was set in mind as a definite. But when I finally assessed what I had time to do and where my time was being allocated, I realized that I was giving priority on my very first day after arrival to something that my dd wouldn’t find interesting and would minimize my interaction with her, and would keep me from acting in accordance with my inner value system of what was most important to me to do on my first day in Jerusalem – to go to the Kotel/Western Wall. This was a hard thing for me to take off of my schedule, but I had to do it to make room for what was most important. By making this choice, I was able to schedule a visit to some holy sites that are deeply important to me, allowing me to schedule the best option (for me), by bumping off something that would have been good.
I had to continually evaluate each activity in the same way: what was the value, what would it give me, and what would it cost me (not in money, but in lost opportunities to do something else). I also recognized that regardless of how others who visit Israel spend their time, the activity had to be of perceived value to us – it doesn’t matter how much it’s a must-see or must-do if it doesn’t touch me or interest me. This helped me really balance what I wanted to do, and I’m very pleased with the schedule I’ve come up with. Some of it may change as I share it with dd and get her feedback, but overall I’m confident that she’ll enjoy what I’ve loosely organized. (I’m not trying to be secretive about my plans – I’ll share about them next week as I experience them!)
As I was putting in hours researching, looking at maps and destinations, reading descriptions of tours and activities, I thought to myself that I could really appreciate the appeal of going on an organized tour. You pay the money, and are assured of great sights and activities every day. It reminds me kind of buying a structured curriculum – you know what you’re going to get, and trust that you’ll hit the most important information.
Yet what you lose in that is the personalized approach – my itinerary is crafted with our personal needs in mind, and as such, I’ve scheduled in some things I haven’t ever heard others mention or seen on online tour schedules. I won’t have to stay a set amount of time somewhere if we find it boring or not what we expected when we get there; we have the freedom to go where we’d like to go!
That’s the upside of creating your own trip plans or learning structure, but the downside is the time and thought involved. And perhaps even more than that, the fear that the professionals (educators, tour guides) know what’s most important or more interesting, so how could a regular person without a specialize background possibly do any better?
The answer is that you don’t have to know the answers for everyone else; just for your family. I can create the best curriculum for my kids because I know their needs and interests, and I can create the best tour schedule for dd and I, because I know our needs and interests. Does that mean that there’s no value to the organized offerings of the professionals? Not at all. But they should be used as a tool to support your goal rather than to replace your effort. With curriculum, I’ve chosen to use a structured math curriculum that works well for our family (Singapore), and with my trip, I’ve chosen to participate in two organized outings that I think will be more enjoyable for us than trying to do it on my own. To me it feels like the best of both worlds – I can access some of the fantastic support available, and I can enjoy a personalized experience that will bring me joy and inner satisfaction.