Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
We like to travel as a family (see my posts from our 5 week adventure through Malaysia and Indonesia, and our current trip to Japan) and while for the most part everything runs very smoothly and we have a great time, there are some aspects that are difficult.
An aspect of family travel that’s been bothering me:
It’s thanks to my excellent organizational skills that I am successful in my job. I have a full schedule with very little relaxation time in my life (deliberately). Numerous times I have been told that I’m intimidating yet I have many dear friends so please don’t think I’m an automaton! I oversee many projects at work and I have organized successful fundraising events for 200 guests for Room to Read, etc. Similarly my husband organizes the lion’s share of our household, works part time, drops off and picks up our children, does the after school activities, and studies at university. Perhaps inevitably then we tend to clash at the start of our family trips. My husband states that I always want to take charge and plan but don’t let him do what he wants, which is to meander and see what happens. He is probably right and I’m taking measures to rectify the issue. It’s also true though that I do a great job of the planning and we get myriad special experiences that aren’t available to the package tour tourist because of that. Life is a constant juggling act and I hope that I can soften my urges to plan and control for the sake of our family adventures!
An accident that is causing me trouble:
When we spent 2 months in Europe together 2 years ago we travelled with water proof mattress protectors for our young children and they saved the mattress 2 or 3 times. Since then we have had only dry nights for 2 years (including 5 weeks travel in Indonesia and Malaysia). It was with dismay then that I discovered that the sofa bed was wet this morning when we were packing up to leave our cupboard in Tokyo. I did what I could by stripping off the bedding, and we took turns sitting on dry towels trying to draw the moisture out of the sofa. We did not have wifi access in the cupboard and while many cafés in our neighborhood advertised wifi, none really had it, not even McDonald’s. Similarly we were unable to buy SIM cards and our phones don’t work outside of Australia. I was therefore unable to contact our host to let him know in advance of sending a cleaner to clean the place prior to the arrival of the next guests. When I next had wifi access (this evening), there was a polite yet aggressive message from the host, followed by another when I explained the situation. I feel terrible about it…
A parent’s responsibility can be onerous:
I know that parents are responsible for their children so it’s pretty stressful traveling with children in traditional societies. We are forever trying to curb our children’s natural impulses, like to make noise, run, jump and play but in Japan with high density living and a culture of being essentially silent, this is very difficult. We are now staying in a gorgeous traditional house in Kyoto and have been given strict instructions to be very quiet at all times, not only in our house but also in the lane outside, meaning that our children have no respite from the shushing. When our children are tired, over stimulated, in crowded places, bored or uncertain (which describes most aspects of travel), they become whirling dervishes of stupid behaviour like banging into people on the train, running in front of commuters in the station, making nonsense loud noises, bickering, hurting each other and us and generally annoying the bejesus out of everyone. We try to mitigate this by minimizing sugar from their diets, minimizing time spent in stimulating environments, long night sleeps in quiet and dark environments, and when none of that can be controlled by playing word games etc that can be done quietly and while standing endlessly in tight queues like at immigration. Sometimes however we are completely engaged in the challenges of travel, like reading signs in railway stations or completing forms, asking for information etc and that’s when the worst behaviour comes through.