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June 2013 | safariRoo jQuery(document).ready(function($){$('#aside .widget-archive > ul').addClass('fancy');});

My Child Appendages

Without further ado, I introduce to you, my right hand and my left foot.

Believe it or not, I find the idea of this quite liberating.  You can’t go anywhere without your appendages, right?

If I think of my children as extensions of myself, journeying around the world with them seems obvious.  OF COURSE I’m going to bring along my hands and feet.  And I don’t mean to say that my children and I are one being, with a murky, mushed together identity.  Realistically speaking, my right hand and my left foot are quite unique (just ask my mister, he’ll have you on the floor laughing) and most definitely have their distinguishing marks.  Same with my kids.  While we share similar genes and are most definitely a unit, we’re all our own people, which I believe is something that is of UTTER importance in keeping us all happy.

If I look at my children as being extensions of myself, it makes living the life I (yes, I) dream of, feel simple.  The way I see it, and I’ve said it many times before, my journey can be their journey.  The universe/God/whatever larger force your faith names, put these unique beings in my life and I trust that the decisions that I make will be right for us all (as long as I’m observant and open enough to see the signs).  Don’t get my wrong, 100% of these decisions are and will always be, made with the interests of our children first and foremost (I believe this is just inherently part of the process).  I’ve learned that young children are extremely adaptable and flexible and oh-so-open to new experiences, so at least for the foreseeable future, my idea of life works well for them.

If I see my children as being extensions of myself, all it takes is a simple recalibration, and the challenges that come along with traveling with young kids is base zero and rather than being challenging, is just normal.  Sure, sometimes my right hand feels like its getting osteoarthritis and my left foot is going numb, but who said life was without growing pains?

We recently went away for two nights, ALONE, sans children.  While, yes, it was everything wonderful I had hoped, it also made me realize that the things you find to be so burdensome in the moment (i.e. bedtime routines, pee stops just as you’ve embarked, the fact that you can’t go ANYWHERE without snacks stashed), are never the memories you’re left with and at the end of the day, aren’t really that annoying after all.

Being able to experience new cultures, foods, geographies, people, and places with my children, is nothing short of amazing.  More than that, being able to experience these things through my children, is unlike anything else in this world.

We often wonder which, if any, of their travel experiences, will be pivotal in their lives.  Will there be a hike up a desolate mountain that will inspire Denali to be mountain climber?  An acrobatic show that will spark a fire in Safari to become an acrobat?  Will there be a street performance that will incite a love of music?  What will those moments be that will shape the adults they will become?

People often question travel with young kids because they won’t retain the memories anyway (which I’ve never vibed with – I believe, concrete memories or not – experiences impart themselves into our beings).   Safari is four and a half.  We took a trip through New Zealand almost exactly a year ago and just yesterday, totally unprovoked, she recalled memories of seeing two dead possums on our trip.  So although I think she was subconsciously gathering information long before she stored it in her long-term memory, it’s still exciting to know that what she experiences now will be backed up by real, raw, solid memories… for a lifetime.  Though, I’m not so sure what the memory of two dead possums adds up to?

My greatest hope is that their travel experiences will leave them as more balanced, open-minded, confident children and eventually, adults.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  Mark Twain

*All the my’s and I’s should be read as us’s and we’s, to include the mister, who most definitely completes our unit.

 

Sometimes, You Just HAVE To Resort To Yoohoo

Or, if you’re in Malaysia, Milo.  At least I think the two are one of the same.  Fake chocolate, faux milk, full of crap drink marketed to kids.  Same, same… right?  Good old nestle has a STRONG hold on Malaysia, so much that on an hour and a half hopper flight, Milo was one of three drink choices.  The first time it was offered, I thought to myself, “well, what’s the harm with this one time, especially when the result of which will ensure a mellow flight?”.  When we reached for one, as an alternative to the Nestle crap ice cream bars offered at our jungle lodge, I began to feel guilty.  When I stashed two boxes of it in my bag on our return flight, I felt remorse.

That’s one aspect of traveling with kids that is a DEFINITE challenge: not giving in to treats and media that you normally wouldn’t allow… all in the name of peace and sanity.

A small trade-off, I suppose.  What their bodies are sacrificing in health, their brains are gaining in rich experiences.  When trips are relatively short (especially in places where healthy alternatives are hard to find), it’s a drop in the bucket.  I do often think about what our landscape would look like were we to take an extended (6 months or longer) trip with the kids.  How do perpetually traveling families do it?  Is there an ice cream bar at the end of EVERY long journey?

A Kid in a Candy Store

You’d think I had been out of the country for 20 years with the amount of salivating that occurred at the grocery store yesterday.  It wasn’t just any grocery store though; it was an amazing little coop in my hometown that has expanded into a beautiful butterfly of a store.  And so, I walked through it, drooling all over myself and throwing FAR too many things into my shopping cart.  Because organic kale.  And cashew cheese.  And teff torillas.  And personal care products that don’t contain a myriad of endocrine disrupting chemicals.  ENDOCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS [sighs and then rolls eyes at self].

And then I looked around me and at my reaction to such things and went WOAH.  The store was full of super hip hippies (if I had a better word for it, I’d use it, but I don’t, so I will).  And I was in heaven.  I was like a damn kid in a candy store.  Were these my peoplePart of the confusion was a result of my hometown all of a sudden feeling like Portland or Fairfax, CA (strangely, two of my most favorite places)… all hip and shit.  Hip people who grow their own veggies.  Hip people who consume hemp and chia seeds rather than resource consuming meat.  Hip people who only buy locally and make their houses out of straw bale.  Hip people who care about the planet they live on and the impact their choices make. 

You see, where I’ve been for the past few months (Shenzhen, China) is most definitely NOT full of super hip hippies.  Or anything that resembles a hippie for that matter (though, you do occasionally see a dreaded, shoeless, napping on the ground Chinese guy around – and they all look eerily similar and oh so out of place – we still haven’t figured out the mystery – YOU don’t happen to know, do you?).  I often feel like I’m [one of the] only one[s] barking about the atrocious air/water quality and lack of clean/ORGANIC produce (though, I should mention, China has a more restrictive policy on GMO’s than many western countries).  In those short months, I think I forgot that I’m not in fact [one of the] only one[s] who thinks about these things.  Had I forgotten what my people looked like?  I looked down at what I was wearing.  No super hip hip bag.  No super hip rustic cowgirl hat.  No dreads.  An arm full of bracelets, yes.  No super hip locally made skirt.  No handmade leather sandals.  Fresh out of river bun, yes.  No basket for my produce.  No bag AT ALL, disposable paper bag used.

Here’s my deal.  I care A LOT about all of these things, but I still kind of want to barf on myself when I reflect on my deep entrenchment in these very much elitist problems (i.e. those who have enough to worry about the details).  I start to think of all of the suffering and malnourishment and turmoil occurring across the globe AND THEN, in the next thought, I think about how totally TERRIBLE it is that I can’t find raw honey and organic produce in China and I’m like… “come on hunny, stop your bitching.  Relax.  Your kids aren’t going to die if you put white sugar in the quinoa, rice flour scones this one time”.  But then in the same reflection, I see the connection between feeding ourselves in a sustainable [healthier] manner and our planet, as a whole, becoming healthier [sustainable].  LOUD and CLEAR.

SO, when I look in a mirror at myself, I get a little confused.  Am I a super hip hippie?  Were those my people?  I tend to live in shades of grey, so I think that the answer is yes!, depending on which day you’re asking.  Most days I can find the resolve to live out my convictions (you can read about them, as well as our carnivorous children, here), but dammit, some days I just want a brownie or worse yet, barbequed honey pork.  It’s true.  Sometimes, I eat pork.  Have you ever been to China?  Let’s just say they’re pretty into pigs over there (I wrote a bit about it, in a post that kinda makes me feel like a broken record, quite a while ago, here).  Point is, it takes A LOT of self discipline to live out ones strictest values ALL of the time, and well, I have two young kids, so sometimes, breaking down is merely a matter of survival (if you actually read the last linked post, now you understand the broken record bit).

What I DO know is that I very much took for granted living in the land of plenty (i.e. California), where you can find fresh, seasonal produce 12 months a year at a farmer’s market.  Where you could taste test a different store bought nut milk every day for a month.  Where there are more natural personal care product companies than cigarette brands.  Where micro brews on tap and organic, fair trade coffee beans are the norm.  [Where the water fountains flow with coconut water and the streets are paved with vegan chocolate chips.]

This isn’t my first travel rodeo, yet this is the first time I’ve been confronted by such a strong yearning for the goods that blossom in the land of plenty.  Perhaps it’s partly because I’m more effected by my environment now that I’m traveling with kids, perhaps partly because it really is difficult to access clean food stuffs in China.  Perhaps it’s just because I’m a hip, hippie.

At any rate, as you see below, we’re smuggling boat loads of plenty back with us, so we should be set for a while few weeks.