We’ve now been travelling through Asia for 100 days. It’s been great fun. Of course we’ve had some not so good days in amongst the great ones, but there’s no doubt that it’s all added up to an amazing experience for the whole family. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned along the way – from a Dad’s perspective:
Our kids are incredibly resilient
All kids are different, and some may cope better with travel than others, but we’ve been amazed with how Sophie and Jack have handled everything so far.
Constantly sleeping in different beds, eating out most nights, a lack of real routine, some big travel days and cultures so different to our own – we’ve asked a lot of Sophie and Jack and they’ve pretty much just taken it all as it comes.
That’s not to say they haven’t had their moments, but looking back those challenging times have probably been fewer than if we were living our “normal” lives in Auckland.
When we planned the trip we we’re conscious of staying longer in fewer places to cut down on the number of days we were on buses, planes, taxis, boats or trains. Even with this firmly in mind we have still managed to see 8 countries in 100 days and over that time we’ve put the kids through some very long travel days.
Sophie has suffered from travel sickness on a few occasions, but not once has she complained about getting on a bus or in a car. We’ve given her some travel sickness pills and her travel bands for her wrists and she’s just got on with it – full of questions about our next destination.
Tablets are OK!
Of course, we’ve had to find some coping mechanisms for long travel days. For our kids that means making sure that their tablets are fully charged. It might seem like poor parenting from the outside, but you do what you need to do to get through and we’ve learned to not be precious on travel days!
The kids haven’t gone hungry
Food was also a bit of a concern for us in Asia. Jack’s not at all keen on spicy food and has developed a keen chillie sensor as we’ve progressed. “Daddy, this is Indian spicy!!!” has been heard numerous times so far, sometimes while he’s eating a plain omelet. That said he’s perfectly happy with some rice and soy sauce, so he’s never gone to bed hungry. Sophie has tried all sorts of things, especially the amazing fruit on offer.
We’ve been conscious of getting enough fruit and veg into the kids, and trying to limit the number of ice creams they (or we for that matter) eat, but apart from that we’ve listened to the kids – if they say they’ve had enough, they’ve had enough. They haven’t starved and they seem to be well nourished, so it must be going ok!
There have been some funny moments though, like the time Sophie refused to eat an ant spring roll at the Bug Cafe in Cambodia because it had carrots in it!
Constantly re-packing the suitcases is tiring
We’ve generally tried to spend at least a week in each place so far, but there have been a lot of one or two night stops as we travel through countries to get to where we want to be. In total we’ve stayed in 30 different places so far and it has gotten progressively harder to fit everything into our two bags each time we re-pack, especially when we’re trying to keep below the 40kg weight limit for Air Asia.
We’re now in the same place in Bali for a month, and it’s great to be able to completely unpack and not have to worry about re-packing for a few weeks!
Packing cells are brilliant
When Kylie brought a whole lot of packing cells before we left I have to admit that I thought they were a waste of money. However, 3 months down they track I’m happy to eat my words – as painful as it is packing every 3 or 4 days, it would be so much harder without the cells.
Seeing more of fewer places is the way to go
This isn’t a new one for us – both Kylie and I have long held the view that you’re better off spending longer in fewer places than trying to cram in every possible tourist highlight. Sri Lanka is prime example – we would have loved to have seen the cultural highlights in the north of the country, and we could have fit in a visit north, but we decided that seeing the highlands, the safari and the beach in three weeks was plenty, especially with the kids. It’s always tough to leave stuff out, but it’s worth it for the enhanced experiences you have in the places you do visit.
Spending 24 hours a day with your family is…
Sometimes challenging but also incredibly rewarding if you put in the effort. Kylie and I had our first dinner out on our own a couple of nights ago as we have procured the part time services of a really nice babysitter in Bali. It was bliss to have some time on our own and a decent conversation over dinner without the kids wanting an ice cream, another drink, wanting to play UNO or to leave because they were bored.
However it’s also been a great experience to spend so much time together without the normal pressures of everyday life. The kids can be completely charming, and even when they’re a challenge you have the time to be patient with them.
Sophie told us this joke 3 weeks ago:
The interrupting cow
I’ve now heard that joke 6,327 times with both kids thinking it’s comedy gold. There are not too many things better than your kids sharing a joke with you so I’m just trying to laugh at each re-telling. And Jack has provided me with an almost non-stop explanation of the pros and cons of each super hero, so it’s also been an educational experience!
Asia is very cool
Kylie and I have travelled through a few different places – South America, North America, Africa, the Middle East, India and lots of Europe, but we hadn’t spent too much time in South East Asia (just a few stop overs and a couple of resorts), so this was a relatively new travel experience for all of us.
We’ve found all the countries we’ve visited to be really well set up for tourists, especially in comparison to Africa and South America for example. The food has been great, the travel relatively easy, the accommodation plentiful and reasonably priced and the scenery often spectacular. The Philippines has probably been the toughest given its geography and constant tourist taxes, and it’s probably the only place we’ve been a little disappointed with the food. But that said, we still loved our time there.
It’s has been a fantastic region to experience with kids as well. I’m sure that people have treated us differently (and better) because we have the kids with us. They all want to chat to Sophie and Jack and are genuinely interested in what we are doing, and I’m convinced that this has enhanced our overall experience.
So that’s an overview of my take on the first 100 days. When we talked about taking this trip about a year ago I was a little apprehensive – it’s a big thing to give up your job of 10 years, take the kids out of school and kindy, rent out your house and just backpack around the world for 9 months. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. There have been challenges for sure, and some tense and stressful moments, but when I look back on what we’ve done so far I couldn’t be prouder or happier that we decided to make this happen. Life’s too short to wonder.