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Deep Thoughts at 35,000 Feet

Despite what you may think, traveling for 14 hours over an ocean with a 2.5 and a 4.5 year old, solo, really isn’t all that stressful.  In fact, I was even able to think private thoughts.  PRIVATE thoughts.  Not only that, but I had the time to type them up on my phone, finger-peckingly-slow and all.

You see, I engage in what I call cheat travel.  And only a few supplies are required.

1) An iPod for each would-otherwise-be-squealing child.

2) Age appropriate headphones per iPod.

3) LOTS and LOTS of snacks.

4) A car seat for each headphone wearer under 5.

And what you get folks, is time to actually watch Will Ferrell do stupid shit on the teeny tiny airplane screen AND to think.  Feeling guilty watching other parents walk the aisles with their children, I even offered to go on a plane adventure more than once but NO! Mom, I’m cool – did you SEE that I’m using my iPod right now?  Oh and I should mention that a key part of this recipe is saving the holy iPod for use ONLY in situations that desperately call for it – such as a 14 hour flight (and perhaps, shorter late night flights and long bus rides and car rides and in a nice restaurant) – my point is that it must be kept sacred.

Mostly, the flight proceeded smoothly.  Below are a few musings, cataloged into my phone during the flight and cut and pasted here [and rainbow colored] for your reading enjoyment.

All was going as planned until the somewhat recently toilet-trained toddler woke up abruptly from his nap, because of PEE!!, and then proceeded to pee all over me and my seat (and later my bag – back spray) before successfully (mostly, save the back spray) releasing his flow into an empty water bottle that the universe had not found a garbage for at the airport (he was in the window seat with a sleeping sister in the aisle – lucky mommy in the middle with an overflowing tray table – so getting out fast enough was NOT an option).

What’s up with United giving peeps in first class an extra safety strap?  If you pay more, we’ll keep you safer?

Why do I always end up with the seat with the broken recline (and I’m not even going to mention the broken, sagging into my knee seat pocket)?  And a pissy princess in front of me, reclined [with a huff] to the max?

In an inconceivable way, I kind of like the very forced intimate time you’re made to spend with your kids on a long flight – but on second thought, maybe it’s because they are watching movies and eating sugar the whole time, so they’re a hell of a lot sweeter.

Interesting fact about me:  most often as we’re taking off, I actually rehearse our  last moments were the plane to crash.  It’s not an act filled with anxiety but more that I would want to be as at peace as possible, so in some morbid way, I want to have it planned.  I don’t like to be in control… nope, not. at. all.

WHY does United consistently show the only kids movie of the flight last – when it’s 9pm for them and they only have three hours left to get some much needed shut eye?!  Come on, it’s a HUGE deal.  Nearly ruined the last quarter of my flight experience.

The End.

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?