In today’s Why We Travel, I interview Brittany and Nick Stretchbery, creators of “Family on Standby,” a platform that aims to inspire other families, who may be nervous about planning a trip with kids, to hit the road. In addition to publishing tips, stories, and lessons learned on their website, they have a popular YouTube channel that gives practical advice and documents their adventures with their two children, Olivia and her little brother Everett.
Describe your first transformative travel experience.
We didn’t have a transformative trip, per se, so much as a progression over the course of a few years. What started as a fall break vacation in college to Cancun (and many follow-up trips) progressed more and more into travel and exploration. The turning point was buying a last-second fare on Air Berlin into Budapest and out of Vienna. We had no idea what we’d do, what we’d see, and how we’d get from one place to the next. We just saw stupid cheap tickets and bought them. We got to experience new food, new people, and new destinations together. We grew as a couple while we explored something completely outside of our comfort zones together. It was an experience we knew we had to keep on finding. We were hooked. Little did we know that a few years later, Brittany would start working for an airline and that last-second standby stuff would be our whole life mantra
Why is travel important to you personally?
Travel is our escape, it’s our personal challenge, and it’s how we teach our kids. For us, flying standby everywhere, we teach our kids and ourselves flexibility. Nothing EVER goes as planned, try as we might. So we just largely don’t plan. We pick a few destinations that could work, head to the airport, and hope one of the options work out. Our three-year-old even is starting to grasp the concept that we don’t always go when we intend. She asks if we have tickets or no, talks about how it’s ok if we just hang out at the airport, and has adapted “it happens” as her life motto. It’s super cute; we hope she carries on with this flexibility as she grows up.
How would you describe your travel “style”?
Our approach is to not have an approach. We pick a date we’d like to travel, we pick a particular geographic region, and then we pick a few hotels in each one that we can book in a hurry. So, as an example, we’ve planned on visiting Europe, but had it narrowed down to Munich, Amsterdam, and Paris. On the day of travel, there were seats open to AMS, so we popped on that flight and booked our houseboat BNB while taxiing for takeoff at EWR. Side note, that sounds impressive at first, until you realize that you could likely drive to Amsterdam in the time it takes you to take-off in Newark. Another time, we planned on going to Honolulu. But at the last second, the flight oversold and we ended up in Athens. Which, not quite the same thing, but we rolled with it! We experience the whole breadth of travel: we love beaches, cities, exploring, relaxing. Largely, we do what’s available when we can and make the best of it!
What tips do you have for travelers to make their experiences more meaningful?
Our two are very much contradictory.
1) We try really, really hard not to say “if we don’t do XYZ, we can always come back” because who knows if we will! So, we try incredibly hard to experience everything we can. But… we also don’t stress about it if we don’t hit everything. We’d rather deep-dive into something we’re really enjoying than rush it in the name of hitting everything your “supposed to” in a place.
2) Put the camera down and take it all in. Particularly with kiddos, you miss things if the camera is to your eye the whole time. And coming from vloggers/photographers, that probably sounds hypocritical. But we definitely take time to enjoy just each others’ company exploring a new place for the first time. But also, photograph everything. Photography is one of our favorite pastimes, particularly taking pictures of our kids growing up.
It’s a balance! We try to get a little bit of everything on our travels, but we also know we can’t do it all.
What are your favorite travel-related books, movies, paintings, poems, songs, etc.?
We suffer hard from recency bias. After visiting Japan, we went on a traditional Japanese architecture and design kick. Vienna? We came home with Klimt prints and a healthy obsession with Art Nouveau stylings. Which, of course, led to having to visit Barcelona.
As for a book, we’d have to add The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. While it’s not at all travel-related, it very closely aligns with our flexibility mantra. Things happen often in travel, so you have to learn to go with it. As he puts it, not making lemonade, but stomaching lemons better.
One silly thing we do: Nick plays Boston’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” every time we land in a foreign country. No idea how that started or why, but we laugh way too much at it.
It’s stereotypical, but as Mark Twain wrote: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
This is so, so appropriate, especially in today’s climate. If everyone would go somewhere that made them uncomfortable and pushed their boundaries, life would be so much better. Travel lets you see others in ways you might not have before. It’s an important lesson we hope sticks with our kids.
Get in touch with Family on Standby
Check out what Nick and Brittany Stretchbery are up to: