Hi Folks! It’s vacation time for many. Here’s a guest post by Nancy Harper, a Canadian mom, writer and travel junkie who lives on a farm in Ontario. She’s author of Travellin’ Mama: A Parent’s Guide to Ditching the Routine, Seeing the World and Taking the Kids Along for the Ride, and the instigator of her family’s upcoming odyssey through Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Her travels sound great except for the PART ABOUT NO LIFE JACKETS!!! (And the crocodiles, of course.) – L
Why I’m a Travelin’ Mama
Pre-kids, my love affair with travel started rather tentatively — just the occasional boozy March break in Daytona and your standard post-high school, rite-of-passage European trip.
Later, the love affair progressed into something a bit more exotic in the Middle East, Asia, Australia and beyond. These days it’s a full-blown addiction, albeit without the hedonism that punctuated those single-girl years of roaming.
As both a mom and a still-addicted travel junkie, what I’ve learned is that we don’t need to trade all the interesting stuff for the manufactured entertainment of a Disney-style vacation once the kids come along.
I actually dig this idea so much that I wrote a book about it.
Travellin’ Mama is about the funny stuff that happens on the road with kids. (It’s also about the unbelievably annoying s*** that makes you want to start smoking again.) But mostly it’s about showing parents who yearn to travel that it’s not only possible to travel with kids, it’s amazing to do so. And it sure beats living with the regret of having put off one’s own dreams to faithfully toe the modern parent’s sacrificial line.
Like travel writer Bill Bryson, whose first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can’t make your children carry, I found that having my kids along to carry stuff was one of the many upsides of taking them on a 12-month, long-haul adventure across Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southeast Asia.
Not that it was 24/7 bliss, mind.
Had I known, for example, that I’d be ankle-deep in water, wringing out my granny panties in a thundery monsoon as lightning struck directly overhead again and again, I wouldn’t have made for the croc-infested environs of Darwin, Australia, at the height of the rainy season with plans to sleep rough.
(That the lightning continued to illuminate the sleeping faces of my mercifully unaware daughters only served to heighten an ever-growing suspicion that I was indeed the WORST MOTHER EVER.) That I didn’t start smoking is still mildly surprising.
And that I didn’t smother my Kiwi husband with a pillow in the dead of night is a MIRACLE, especially after he allowed our youngest to frolic out in the South China Sea on a parasailing boat with neither lifejacket nor parent.
More worst-mother-ever shaming occurred when I insisted on shuffling my hapless food-poisoned family onto a so-overcrowded-I-can’t-believe-it-didn’t-sink Malaysian ferry because I was damn sure the island getaway would be worth the torture of getting there.
But oh, the magical moments. There were plenty.
On a couple of occasions in South Africa, my very cool husband (who never shies away from the unexpected) simply stopped the car, grabbed our girls and joined in a game of pick-up soccer with a gaggle of local kids.
The kids we met in Lesotho were probably good enough to play on rep teams, if only the talent scouts would venture that far. The kids from KwaZulu Natal, who belonged to the local witch doctor, played with neither shoes nor a real ball, their “ball” being a wad of plastic bags wrapped up in Scotch tape.
Experiences like these reaffirmed for me a few things that most Free-Range readers likely already know: that showing kids what lies beyond their suburban safety net is always going to be a good thing, and that parents who go after what they want once in a while aren’t bad or selfish. They’re actually happier people, and therefore better parents. – Nancy Harper, whose Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/travellinmama.