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The Binder

I am a planner. And by that I mean I enjoy the act of planning things: events, concerts, staff retreats. What I love planning the most, though, are trips. Family vacations. I will spend hour upon hour, for week after week, researching online, reading reviews, drawing out routes, making spreadsheets. This planning always culminates in the thing for which I have become notorious in the Malinowski household: The Binder.

At first glance, The Binder appears to be nothing but a standard, plain black, 3/4″ plastic three ring binder. A closer look, however, reveals a carefully constructed chronological itinerary that includes copies of all reservations, boarding passes, driving directions, pre-purchased admission tickets, insurance coverage, sight seeing guides, emergency information, and a partridge in a pear tree. On our first trip together, my wife Julia poo-pooed The Binder (of course, it was just a road trip to Iowa). Last summer, though, when GPS wasn’t working for us on tiny Irish back roads, she found herself in the unenviable position of crawling back to The Binder, begging forgiveness and directions (I love you, baby).

Why do I bring this up? Well, this weekend, for the first time in my adult life, I will be making a trip sans Binder. We are travelling to Mexico to attend the wedding of two dear friends. While I’ve been looking forward to the trip for quite some time, I’ve been so engrossed in all things Kidznotes that I haven’t had a spare moment to plan it (let alone the hours of work that it takes to create The Binder). I honestly don’t even know how we’re going to make the two hour trip from the airport in Cancun to the resort in Tulum. I’d be lying if I said I had no anxiety about this situation.

My work with Kidznotes so far reminds me of the classic Peace Corps tagline: “The toughest job you’ll ever love.” There just aren’t enough minutes in the day to do everything that needs to be done – even though I love (almost) everything that needs to be done. There are going to be occasions when time simply doesn’t allow for the type of planning I’d prefer before a big endeavor. Decisions will have to be made quickly, and I will have to plan and adjust on the fly. I won’t always have The Binder to guide me in our work at Kidznotes.

This weekend will be good for me. Flexible travel plans will leave us open to impromptu, authentic experiences. I know, for example, that I’ll use my Spanish more this weekend than I would if I had The Binder at my side. I know, too, that this weekend will offer choices, and not just prescribed actions. I can’t wait to come back next week and tell you how wonderful – or how crazy – the results of our choices turned out to be.




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