A Kaough Family Travel Adventure p. 2

Family Travel with Children-Life in the Slow, Fun Lane

In Part 2 of ‘A Kaough Family Travel Adventure’, Corin delves into everything from pre-trip concerns, the doors travel with a child open and quite a few well earned, insightful lessons from the road thrown in for good measure.

Enjoy!

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Elephant Stables

As far as having a small child with you, what were your expectations/hopes/fears(if any) going into things before you boarded your first flight? I’d say our biggest fear, especially being new parents, was what if we found ourselves in an area with a sick child and limited medical resources. And quite possibly illnesses that neither of us had any experience dealing with growing up in the States. You can’t keep a one year old from drinking the tap water while traveling, especially as much as children like playing in the shower. And if you’ve done any traveling in SE Asia, you know the toilet is often right next to the shower stall, sometimes without even a curtain divider. So we’d spend some time reconning and toddler-proofing the bathroom. But on a similar note, the hygiene and cleanliness of many SE Asian countries was a delightful surprise.

Did you do any pre-trip reading on travel with children? Did you speak with anyone who’d done this sort of trip? Laura followed several family travel blogs and read up on family travel experiences. Because we did not know exactly what areas we would be traveling, despite much anti-vaccination rhetoric going on in the States, we did not want to take any chances and made sure we were all as up to date as possible on our vaccines. Our son was breastfeeding at the time so another thing we quickly learned to pay attention to was to time feedings with landings and take-offs to help ease any pressure changes.

Please list all the countries you visited. We started off in Thailand, flirted heavily with visiting Burma but decided not, then Vietnam, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, back to Bangkok for a bit then a month in California visiting  Laura’s family, a month on the Gulf Coast visiting mine, before heading south to Ecuador and finally back to St.Croix. Just for grins we scribbled on the back of an airline magazine while leaving Ecuador, listing how many times our son had been on an airplane. We came up with seventy-six flights… little guy got around.

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Ice Bath

Describe the early days on the road together. Was there any sort of learning curve early on? Any experiences you can remember that left you guys looking at each other with the realization, we might have to rethink that? Arriving in SE Asia in miserably hot July, we quickly learned to look for hotels with swimming pools. And AC. Gone were the days of youth hostels and crashing fellow travelers’ rooms. It doesn’t take much to entertain a one year old so a little pool time in the heat of the day before taking a nap was perfect. And internet access was key so we could keep in touch with family, research the next destination and arrange travel, etc. We’d already told ourselves our plan was “slow-travel”, so instead of flying in to a place and trying to blitz all the sightseeing tourist stuff in a short amount of time – as you often have to do with limited vacation time – we chilled out. And if we found a place we really liked, we’d rent a house and stay for several months, making friends and becoming as much a part of the community as we could.
We learned to ask for a room with a king size bed, ample enough room for the three of us. Or sometimes a second bed just to give us more room as children can be rambunctious sleepers. But you can’t beat the feeling of snuggling with your loved ones in a big bed, while looking out a window with a fantastic view, hearing different noises and languages, while welcoming the day.
On Day One of our year-long adventure, after landing in Bangkok and wheeling the travel stroller onto the dock to await the long-tail ferry’s arrival, we watched in dismay as Atlas calmly threw his sippy cup into the river while we were pointing out the fish below. We looked at each other, kinda shrugged like “silly parents, of course a one year old does things like that” and we both thought, no big deal, we are in the land of plastic manufacturing, we’ll just buy one at the next store. Wrong! Not so easily found. Then we started noticing that Thai children did not use such a luxury. And with that observation, we realized that our child didn’t really need one either.
Up until leaving St. Croix, Laura was all about using cloth diapers for our son – which work quiet well when you have a handy washing machine. But on the road, disposable was the only way to go and we quickly learned which brand of diapers were the best. Funny enough though, you’d get used to one brand, sort of expecting that that brand would also be available in the neighboring country, only to find that was not always the case. So then the trials would start all over.
We also learned to SIMPLIFY, shedding excess clothes and items that we’d thought we’d need but soon found out we didn’t. After not using or wearing an item for a country or two, we would give it to people we’d meet along the way. And toys – buy one at one market, keep it until the newness wore off, then gift it to a child in the next country who would turn cartwheels of happiness. We have continued the simplify process and strive to eliminate clutter and unnecessary things from our house and lives. It is a very freeing feeling to shed those things that can anchor one down.

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Hi, My name is Atlas

Was there a single eye opening experience that first made you blissfully aware you were in for a treat regarding this travel with a small child thing? Probably the biggest eye opener was sitting down at a restaurant, ordering food, craving a minute of uninterrupted down time to talk to each other and voila – the waitress or hostess would magically appear, hold out her hands towards our son and whisk him away, taking him into the kitchen or the lobby where we’d often hear shrieks of laughter, from both our son and the staff. The first time it happened, the excited hostess barely acknowledged us, the parents, sitting there. As we nervously peered towards the kitchen, Laura finally got up to make sure our son hadn’t been kidnapped or something crazy, only to come back and grab the camera so she could take a picture of him in the kitchen, playing with pots and pans on a counter top and having a great time with all the staff. This got to be the norm – we started looking forward to it and would get disappointed if the restaurant was too busy for anyone to play with Atlas.
Another thing that I noticed right away was that the men were just as openly demonstrative in their affections toward children as were the women. In America, men generally shy away from contact with other peoples’ children as we want to avoid being perceived as a pedophile. It’s not “proper” to approach unknown children in America. It was quiet refreshing to travel and see that those stereotypical barriers did not exist in SE Asia. I love kids – and I love playing with them. And my son loves it when I get involved with other kids. So it was a great treat to travel, to see so many grown men not only looking out for others’ children but also playing with them, making silly faces and making time to play with children.

Can either of you give a specific example (or more) of an instance where having Atlas with you really, really made things ‘happen’ in a way that probably wouldn’t have been possible without him? Customs and immigration personnel throughout SE Asia were very cognizant of families traveling with children and would usually open one of the retractable waiting line dividers, and usher through travelers with children. We got really spoiled to this luxury and would joke about pinching our son to elicit a cry if we had to stand in line too long. Having a small child also helped in getting priority for available seats on a plane when flying standby or when travel issues arose.
Traveling with a child is also a really good ice breaker. People felt more relaxed in approaching us and would ask all sorts of questions. And of course families traveling with children tend to gravitate towards one another. By traveling with a child, we met some incredible people and were invited to weddings, dinners, and birthday parties that otherwise we would not have.

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Transport Inspector

What was your favorite ‘family moment’? That’s a tough one – there were so many. Riding elephants down into the river in Thailand stands out. As does watching young elephants frolic at an orphanage in Sri Lanka. Watching huge orange sunsets every evening from atop the walls in Fort Galle in Sri Lanka while watching pick-up cricket games. We spent a fabulous two weeks in a great little beach town, Varkala in India, in a cozy little beachside cottage – every day was amazing. A sloooow houseboat trip on the backwaters of Kerala was a real treat. A rain-soaked scooter ride in northern Thailand with a sleeping toddler strapped between us. A fabulous ten day lazy stay at a friend’s mountain house in northern Ecuador – a roaring fireplace every evening and morning. Pushing our son in a pimped out wheelbarrow on cobblestone streets in Ecuador because the stroller was not happening. Finding a beautiful wooden farmhouse to rent in Pai, Thailand – complete with teak crib, playground, mountain bikes, kayaks, blazing wifi, surrounded by beautiful rice paddies. Watching the monkeys outside our hotel window in Pushkar, then experiencing the crazy kite festival. Watching the sun set while sitting atop huge boulders outside of Hampi, thinking we had the place all to ourselves when up popped a little brown face of a young Indian boy who was hustling hot chai tea from a thermos. Train rides along the coast in Sri Lanka, the incredible botanical garden in Kandy, water puppet show in Hanoi… I could go on.

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