I will be very honest and say that yes, we only post happy pictures of our travels on Facebook. This is not to make anyone jealous that my life with children is better than theirs—all smiles, rainbows and unicorns. No. I have been so close to posting bad experiences and gripes only to change my mind and not succumb to negativity. What really is the point of it? Keeping it real or complaining. Anyway, its not for me. We have loads of ups and downs when we travel just like anybody else but we keep on doing it because we love it—all of us!
The kids say their favourite part of travel is the plane ride. They love to sit back in their seats and watch a movie, play a game and order from the flight attendant when she passes by. They squeal with delight over a new passport stamp and thoroughly enjoy flipping through the pages of their books reminiscing about places they’ve been.
Leading up to a holiday we tend to start conversations about the culture of the country we will be visiting, the language, dress and food. We watch YouTube videos that incorporate this information and feed the excitement. We look at the globe in our reception and track the distance from London to our next destination. We look at the capital city and talk in more detail about our trip.
For example, when we were planning our trip to India we watched travel documentaries on Rajasthan, we tried new dishes at local Indian restaurants, we made Indian food at home and we talked about being open to trying new foods while there. We emphasised how important it is to not insult the food or the smell even if their mouth and nose object. Try it and if you don’t like it politely say no thank you or it’s not for me. Thankfully, they seemed to register this because at some of the small guest houses we stayed the chef was looking on with delight after serving us our meal. Preparing for witnessing large scale poverty we discussed people owning much less than us. After traveling to India this opened up such terrific conversation about how little we actually need and how we have too much stuff.
When we are in a new place we do visit historical monuments, museums and other notable cultural landmarks, however, we don’t spend all of our time doing this. Our kids enjoy museums but max out on them quickly. They want to be free spirits by nature and if we let go of our vacation scheduling and lists we can all have a good time. We want them to learn about these new countries but I believe the most memorable experiences are the ones when we have no agenda and we are all very present. This looks like walking around aimlessly trying to see what awaits us around the next corner, going to a local park and making friends with local children, finding the city’s best gelato or coffee house, playing a card game for a couple hours while people watching in a café, trying new foods, watching local tv, planning an active afternoon (bike riding, jogging, park sports), etc.
We were recently traveling in eastern Europe and everyone was pretty tired of being together so closely for many days. We decided to take a much needed breather and soak in the cool night air with a walk through the old town of Riga, Latvia. No one was speaking to one another and the mood was heavy. A turn here and there led us to a re-enactment of the first Christmas tree in the main square. There were bonfires, a drumming circle, folk dancers and singing. It felt almost tribal and was so invigorating we completely forgot about the argument earlier. We watched on entranced until the festivities concluded. We laughed and and agreed what luck we had that we stumbled on this scene as we did! We were soon on to a fabulous dinner at a local curry house, playing cards and thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
Often upon returning home we make a poster board or home movie about our travels for the kids to share with their classmates. This is a great experience for everyone. It reinforces what they’ve learnt and makes a lasting memory for them. They speak to their class and explain about their pictures and souvenirs which helps them with their public speaking and confidence. They are truly world citizens.
What you don’t see or hear about though is the complaining, the temper tantrums, the sickness (lots of holiday sickness), poo accidents, mistakes, miscommunications, getting lost, and arguing. Luckily, I can whole heartedly say that there is much more happiness, laughter, love, pillow fights, games, positive energy, easy rolling, wide-eyed excitement and awe. The five of us tend to agree that it is much easier to put one foot in front of the other no matter the mood or situation. Negative experiences pass, they are just a small moment in time, accept them and then let them go.