Sunday, 12 April 2009

Traveling with Kids

Last night while enjoying a bottle of wine, some friends, Andrew and I were discussing travel with children, particularly overseas travel has to be one of those things that makes most parents cringe;

*Hour upon hour stuck in a plane with bored children
*Screwing with sleep cycles
*Food that is not to their liking
*Unsafe water
*Museum/temple/art gallery visits with overstimulated kids
*Gosh just the amount of luggage/snacks/miscellaneous flotsam that kids seem to need is enough to turn anyone off.

There are a few things I wished I had have done pre-kids, I wish I owned a motorbike as my main mode of transport, I wish I had partied a bit harder, I wish I had immersed myself more in some of my interests, and mostly I wish I had travelled more.  As they say hindsight is 20/20.

There are very few places in this world I don't want to see and the idea of travelling to some of the more exotic places with the children seems scary.  How will we be able to DO the things single people do when they go overseas? what if they get sick? how will we manage the day to day raucous that is two children while we are in places that are unfamiliar, when it seems hard enough to do it in our own home?

I got a great and thought provoking email from a woman I know recently, she had just gotten back from Istanbul with her partner and two children (8 & 4) I asked her how she found travelling with her children.   She talked about all of the travel she and her family had done since they had children, they have been to something like 30 countries with them and said that the key for her was 'expectations'.

The way you do your travel has to be altered to fit in with the children and their capabilities, its no use expecting a 3 year old to quietly walk around a museum for hours or to cope with the 'rush to see everything' mentality that we usually have when we travel, we have to plan to slow our wants down, read the children's queues and potentially miss out on some things because today the children are not going to cope with a 4km walk to the top of a mountain to see the most beautiful sunset in the world.

It really made me think, what do I hope to achieve when I travel, do I want to read the guide book and take in all the sights? or do I just want to get a feel for the country? What if that means we miss the Louvre or don't climb to the top of the Eiffel tower because today all the kids can handle is cafes and walks by the river or even chilling out in the hotel room for the day watching some DVDs? When you only do one big trip every few years, will we be satisfied if we don't 'see it all'?

To be honest I don't know! The only thing I feel like I know, is that I don't want to not go because I'm scared of the hard times, I don't want to feel like any travel we are going to do will be a chore where we are dragging the kids round to do adult activities when really what I hope to achieve is just to go and see, and smell.  Sure I want to go climb that mountain (maybe not literally) walk through that temple, but the final question is do I want to do that without my children? the answer is a resounding no, and so I hope that when we do go overseas we will be happy to feed the ducks instead of climbing the Eiffel tower, and maybe if the planets are aligned we can do both.

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