At the age of 28 I found myself dancing on tables in a mafia-run Bulgarian bar. The cocktails were cheap, but dreadful. The “fresh mint” in the Mojitos was really mouthwash. As a result the drink was luminescent blue and potent. We drank it anyway.
At 25 I went to Paris and booked a cheap hotel around the corner from the Place de Republique. The lift was so small that only one person could fit in with luggage. The showers quickly blocked up and flooded your feet. But I called it home.
At 23 I called in sick to my job as an intern reporter, jumped in a car with a bunch of friends and drove to Canowindra for the balloon festival. Strangely, my editor just happened to be at the same festival that weekend. He laughed and let me get away with it. I pretended to sniffle.
Now that I have children, the way I travel has completely changed.
Family travel is less spontaneous. You can’t really just pull the kids out of school because you booked flights to Peru on a whim. Well, you can. But you don’t. Ever.
Family travel requires far more planning (and less boozy nights) but it does allow you to see the world in a richer way. Our travel now has a depth to it. Post-child me finds all sorts of cool facts and figures to engage the children and ensure they learn as we travel.
Place de la Republique is not just a cool statue and a place to find great bars. It’s a square dedicated to the glory of the Third Republic laid out around the Statue de la République which was unveiled on Bastille Day in 1885. It was once a crazy French roundabout with traffic zooming around it. The statue is Marianne, a young fictional woman who represents the French republic. Marianne has an olive branch in her right hand – the symbol of peace. She also has a tablet that says “Droits de l’Homme” – that means “human rights”. The statues of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity can be found with their backs against the pedestal. There’s a lion at the foot of the pedestal with a ballot box and two medallions – one for work and one for peace.
Post-child me comes prepared to answer (or Google) any question that is thrown my way. Pre-child me looked at Place de la Republique and went to find a “Royal with cheese” and a beer.
When planning a family trip, you need to research. For starters, you need a hotel. And one that fits the whole family. Pre-child me once took the train to Vernaza, Italy and followed an old lady saying “hotel?” to find a place to bunk for the night. Post-child me would know the name and room sizes of just about every hotel in that village and I would have directions at the ready to counter the inevitable “how much longer?” questions.
Pre-child me booked cheap flights. I once slept in Newcastle airport just because the flights were cheaper. Post-child me obsessively saves frequent flier points to cover some of the cost of airfares and hotels. Our flight times are chosen with the kids in mind – we’re trying to avoid over-tired ratty behaviour. Airport sleeping has been crossed off the list.
Packing is much more complicated. Can the children wheel their own suitcase? Does their stuff go in my bag? Do they share a bag? How much luggage allowance do we have? Should we take pillows on the flight? Do we let them take their iPads? What do we do if they get sick overseas? Do we take all kinds of kids’ medicines with us? Do we let them hold their passports? Or do we take charge of everything? How do we ensure they don’t drop their train tickets? The list goes on.. and on.. and on. Don’t even get me started on the stroller choices. I’m just glad we are past that.
Travel now happens at a much slower pace. There’s no rush to be anywhere. We take time to explore and have lots of rest stops. We book a lot more activities. In Japan last year, we organised for the kids to do a karate class in Tokyo. There’s also a lot more silly photos like this one in my album.
By far the biggest thing that I love about post-child travel is seeing the looks on my children’s faces. I love watching them learn and absorb information and grow cultural tolerance, understanding that not everyone does everything the same way – and that’s OK. That alone is worth all of the preparation.
How did travel change for you post kids? Tell us on our Facebook page.
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