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Every few years, our family of five eschews traditional gift-giving at Christmas time. Instead, we gather in some far-off location where we can just be with each other without the distractions of errands, other friends, or holiday madness.

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Epidaurus, Greece

Long before we started this tradition, we carted our kids around the world as they were growing up. When I look back now, I can’t imagine how we herded three children under ten (with suitcases) through the radiating streets around the Arc de Triomphe to catch the rush-hour metro. I am in awe of the mere idea of trekking and camping with five teenagers (our three and two friends) on the Inca Trail. I cringe to remember my 6-year-old pushing and shoving with a friend on the edge of a chasm in the Dart River area of New Zealand. And I have photos to document the times we pulled over to capture some striking scenery and ended up with one boy or another watering the local flora on the side of the road. (T alone has sprinkled five continents, I would guess.) Ten feet out the door was not an excursion for the meek; it was a major production and involved the assembling of a lot more than just people. Back then we had to gather passports, inoculation records, tiny backpacks, snacks  – and more often than not, our wits – as we set off for new places.

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Serengeti, Tanzania

As the years passed, the kids got busy with activities and college and their own lives, and my husband could never get away as much as I could to travel. I started to travel alone – either completely solo the whole time or just on my own until I met up with a trekking group somewhere. Even as some of my neighbors clucked disapprovingly, I grew to really relish my time alone, and I tried to book at least one and sometimes two trips a year during my work breaks to explore somewhere my husband didn’t care to go.

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Iguazu Falls, Argentina

But as much as I enjoy the adventure and peace of wandering the world on my own or in small numbers, the gathering of my brood to travel somewhere new is the greatest gift I can imagine. This year, our gathering spot will be Colombia, and I can’t wait to have our ten feet all together once again!

See some other great takes on the Weekly Photo Challenge here!

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