Traveling (to Crocodile-Infested Waters) with Kids

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.

5 Responses

  1. Although this isn’t really related to this story, life jackets can be a part of worst-first thinking too. Pretty much any time anyone goes in the water they’re required to wear life jackets, even if everyone can swim, the water is calm (and shallow), and the chance of drowning is nil even in the extremely unlikely event that you fall in.

    Of course life jackets are essential for young children, for non-swimmers, and for rough water, but in practice they get required far more often than necessary.

  2. Somebody took their kid swimming with sharks (something I went out of my way to do, knowing how safe it is), and put the video on Youtube. Predictably, the denizens of the Interwebs rose up in shocked self-righteous ignorant ‘concern’ and tried to oust Lenore from her coveted position as “Worst Mom” 🙂 My bet is that none of these people have ever dived, and that their knowledge of sharks was gleaned from extensive study of “Jaws”. A lot of these problems would be solved if people would read a bit more. http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/327977

  3. Have great fun travelling with my kids, a lot more fun than when we travelled by ourselves! Not nearly as much fun as Nancy, though, by the sound of it. Though just travelling by taxi in Southeast Asia is a guaranteed adventure!

    Am surprised at the ‘laidback Kiwi’ husband and the lifejacket though. We do have it drummed into us down here to wear lifejackets anytime you’re in a boat, because boats tip and people drown on a boringly regular basis. Still I guess the high drowning rate shows that a lot of people still aren’t listening, so on second thoughts maybe I shouldn’t be that surprised.

  4. I too have had fun travelling with my kids (if only I had the chance to do it more often before they became adults). On one family trip to Thailand we had one of our “bad” parent moments – which has transpired into a “wow” memory for my son. On our family holiday to Krabi we befriended a Thai fisherman who took us out on his boat eacy day to explore different islands in the area. My 11 son who is not the shy type spent most of the time happily chatting to the fisherman (neither seemed to worry that didnt speak the same language). Our bad parenting moment came when we allowed our son to go fishing at night with Amatar (the fisherman), come back with a giant fish, allow him to get on the back of a motorbike in the rain without shoes or a helmut. Amartar took him to a restaurant in town where they would cook the fish, my son was to walk back to the hotel and then take us to the restaurant to eat the fish. So we have a photo of my son with a smile the size of a watermelon, holding a giant fish, riding off into the dark to an unknownh destination with someone we had known for a week. Did he love the experience – hell yes, would I do it again – absolutely.

    Sometimes you just have to let go and enjoy the experience – my son who is nearly 20 still talks about this as the best holiday ever !

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