Panic and pain engulf her. She feels warm fluid stream down her thigh. She doubles over in pain. Yet the corners of her mouth rise into the biggest smile she’s ever felt.
“Get the bag! It’s time!” she screams to her husband.
The adoption call is differently similar.
It’s a turning point. It’s the moment when all the paperwork and notaries and training classes and impatient uncertainty fade away into the reality of finally going to meet my child and bring her home.
Waiting becomes action.
Every country (including the US) is unique. But there are also some commonalities that apply in many situations. One of the most significant is travel.
No matter where an adoptive child is coming from, chance are, it’s somewhere else!
Many domestic adoptions involve long road trips or flights across the country. For international adoptions, let’s just say…most countries don’t deliver.
The details of the referral process and travel requirement vary widely and change frequently. Rather than try to provide detailed information that addresses every variable, I’ll try to share some principles that will help take the focus off of common travel anxieties and onto meeting your new child.
Our experience is with Ukraine, which has one of the most unusual processes (blind referrals) and one of the longest single-trip travel requirements of any country that I know.
Keep the right attitude.
How we approach adoption travel is one of the greatest indicators of whether the trip will be a success or a nightmare.
This is not a beach vacation.
We did not go to be entertained or to sightsee. This doesn’t mean you won’t have an amazing time or see any your child’s native country–you will. It just means that’s not the primary purpose of your trip. Be mindful of that.
Always remember, first and foremost, that you are there to get a job done. You are paying someone to help you do that job. Your part of that job is to show up when and where you’re told to, sign the paperwork they put in front of you, and wait a lot.
Your job is to listen to your facilitator or agency or guide and follow their directions.
Be a good guest.
Approach the trip with a sense of adventure and not one of entitlement. If you’re traveling internationally, respect the country and culture you’re visiting. Respect the people you meet.
And this might sound harsh, but consider this: most people you will encounter will not agree that you are doing their country a favor by adopting their children. So don’t act like that, ok?
Learn at least a few words in the local language. You won’t be able to get by, so don’t expect to. But “good morning,” “please” and “thank you” go a long way to creating goodwill. If you’re adopting in the US and traveling to the Deep South, you should still learn those three phrases–they still use them down there. And throw in a “y’all” if you can.
If you have specific medical needs that require you to eat or take medicine with food, keep food and bottled water with you. At all times. (Please learn from my experience: Bananas do not travel well in a purse.)
If you have ADD and don’t wait well, fill up a Kindle with eBooks, or go old school and take a little book of puzzles. Keep these with you at all times. Oh, and be self-contained–you can’t count on Internet connectivity in the Thai mountains.
Also keep in mind that the availability of things like electricity and running water might not always match what you are accustomed to in the US. Be prepared for your trip to be more like camping with mostly solid walls. Anything better than that is a bonus.
You will be limited in the amount of luggage that it is practical to take. Pack LIGHT.
You might be tempted to take many extra suitcases full of donations…unless your agency specifically asks you to do this, don’t. If people want to help, take cash and support the local economy by spending it on the orphanage when you get there.
Ask. They know their needs better than you do. Really.
I am not done.
Not even close.
I realize this is far from “Everything you ever wanted to know about international adoption travel and more….” I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic if you care to hear it.
What would freak you out about traveling for an international adoption? Ask your question here….