I can vividly remember the look on my dad’s face (and the profanities on his lips) several years ago when I told him I was off to Uganda.
In essence, he really didn’t want me to go. For weeks he told me horror stories from the reign of Idi Amin, sent me emails about the dangers of travelling through Africa alone and pretty much convinced me that I would contract the Ebola virus.
None the less, the tickets were booked and off I went.
It was incredible.
But having become a parent a mere month ago, I have found myself questioning how comfortable I will feel when my own daughter comes of age and asks to go on school exchange, or tells me she is having a gap year OR that she is off to Uganda alone.
Am I a hypocrite? Yep. I think I am. These things will terrify me.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I want my children to travel, for us to travel as a family. But I’d be lying if I said I knew how to do this. Faced with the prospect of our first trip overseas with our brand new baby soon, I have been going back and forth on whether this is a) achievable and b) worth doing. So I have thought long and hard about why I want so badly for my daughter to see the world, even if she is too young to remember it, and I think the answer is this…
Fifteen years ago I told my parents how badly I wanted to do a school exchange program in Japan, and my mum worked nights to make it happen. So selfless, and so obviously done for my benefit with the hope that it would help to shape me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this trip would be a life-changing experience, and the beginning of my life-long love affair with airports. I think when you’re young you take these things for granted. You don’t, or maybe can’t, appreciate them enough. You might even be like me, get to 30 and realise you’ve never said thank you. But despite this, many parents continually make selfless decisions and gestures in the hope of shaping their child’s identity.
That is the kind of parent I hope to become.
I want to be like my own mother, and encourage my daughter to see the world, and hopefully share some of these experiences with her.
So I’ve been wondering how travelling with kids will be different to travelling as an individual. And while everyone around me is quick to point out the obvious logistical challenges like the difficulty of flying, the added expense of nicer/cleaner/safer hotels and the perils of street food, my main thought is that travelling as a family allows me an opportunity I’ve not pursued before: travelling with purpose. The purpose being to deliberately expose my daughter to people, places, philosophies, foods and experiences that will ultimately help to shape her identity.
The trip my husband and I are considering is to see two of our best friends marry in Malaysia. Sure, our daughter will only be six months old and she won’t know what’s going on around her…but one day I’ll get to tell her stories from our trip, one day she might ask me why a wedding in Malaysia is different to the weddings she sees on TV and one day she might even see a family photograph from the wedding and realise that her parents were once young and adventurous and aspire to be the same. And just like me she probably won’t appreciate her parents’ efforts at the time, but maybe, just maybe those efforts will influence her life in a long lasting way.
Logistically, I think travelling with kids is one of those things that you have to learn by doing. You can research and prepare as much as you like but ultimately each kid, each family and each experience will be different. All you can do is be prepared for things not to go as planned, expect the unexpected and make sure you pack your sense of humour.
One thing is for sure though, traveling with a baby is going to be the mother of all adjustments! But it’s an adjustment I look forward to.
How did you adjust to travelling with kids? And how does travel as a family compare to travelling as an individual? Share your experiences in the comments!