This weeks interview comes from Theodora from EscapeArtists, previously known as Travels With A 9 Year Old. She is a single mother who has been travelling with world with her son since 2010. You can connect with her at the blog, twitter or on facebook.
I was always an indie traveller, typically backpacker style: I did things like hitch-hiking solo across South Africa when I was young and stupid.
Zac had his first passport when he was four months old: you can see my hand holding his head up in the portrait shot! We started longterm travel when he was nine: he had already visited five continents.
To me, travel is a basic fact of life. It’s something that you do. Longterm travel? That flowed from a desire to have a year of just being mother and son and seeing the world and having quality time and enjoying things, with some vague ideas about it being educational as well. I’d always wanted to do longterm travel with Zac, since a trip to Mexico when he was rising two, and I had the year from hell, so that was the time to do it.
Well, Zac’s eleven and has his own ideas about what he wants to do. So we’ll do theme parks and water parks, which I wouldn’t do as a solo adult but actually quite love; I’ll seek out arts and cultural things for him to do as part of the unschooling that we do; we go to every science museum in every city we ever visit, because he’s addicted to them; we’ll do stuff like tubing, zorbing, zipwiring; and we’ll wander around looking at stuff while he chases puppies and kittens. I think most kids need more downtime than most adults, so that’s probably a cultural shift, as is the ability to just mooch around.
But, as regards the practicalities of travel, I’ll do quite hardcore travel with him: he climbed Mount Kinabalu when he was nine, and fit early-20-somethings were giving up.
I honestly don’t find it difficult. The baby stage is a pain in the arse – I mean, I loved the baby stage! But the amount of stuff you have to carry with you is ridiculous. All the paraphernalia around feeding and wiping, and the constant changes of clothes.
I have one easygoing, sensible, calm, happy child so I’ve never really had to cope with tantrums or drama. That said, he did throw up on me on a bus once: I was slow with the sickbag. It was tamarillo juice, so red and very fibrous…
Quality time, new experiences, shared memories, shared stories – all of it, really. My son’s fantastic and I enjoy his company immensely.
We dived an undersea volcano, which was cool, and with sharks and turtles in Komodo, which was exciting. Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia was very cool. And I liked the dinosaur museum in Savanakkhet, Laos, where the curator took him into the office and let him hold real dinosaur bones.
I honestly don’t know. There are so many beautiful, dramatic, amazing places that we’ve been to! But I was very proud of how well he coped with live animals being sacrificed at a funeral in Indonesia: that was kind of a wow moment for me, because he was only nine, and he managed the etiquette really well, despite feeling uncomfortable with the animal cruelty involved.
The freedom to move on when you want.
Zac doesn’t have an individual favourite country. But he does like Bali a lot.
According to your child, where in the world do they most want to travel to next?
That varies according to the age of the child — babies are one thing, toddlers another, etc – and the mix of the family. A two-adult one-child family will have it much more easy than a single parent of seven kids, for example!
My top tip would be not to get too hung up on routine. If your kids can’t function if they stay up 10 minutes after their bedtime, they’re not going to cope very well with the timing demands of travel: let them be flexible, and build in flexibility, and you’ll have it a whole lot easier.
I think it’s very much a matter of personal taste. What do you like? What do your kids like? How do you want your travel to be? Where do you want to go?
I’d be cautious about taking very young children, when they’re at the age when they can’t communicate that they’re sick, to places a long way from medical care with nasty illnesses around, and also about taking them to high altitude, extreme heat or extreme cold.
Houses or apartments can be more appealing if you’re a large family. But I think the notion that you suddenly have to go all-inclusive and do nothing but theme parks and beach just because you have kids is ridiculous.
Wow! OK, at the moment we’re in Greece. We fly from Istanbul to Bali, from Bali to Nepal via Kuala Lumpur, and we’re hoping to do Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We’re meeting friends in Beijing, then, most likely, we’ll be spending winter in Northern China, in or near a ski resort, with Zac in a Chinese school so he can improve his Mandarin. Then I think we’ll do Mongolia and some ‘Stans… All a bit freeform, y’know?