Guest Feature: Pip Williams on Travelling With Children
Travelling with children requires an adjustment or two
When I think about travelling I think about freedom, abandon, the thrill of looking at the departure board in Amsterdam Centraal and tossing up between Prague and Bruges (I chose Prague, by the way, not realising it was a fourteen-hour train trip, or that Bruges was no more than an hour away).
But that was then. Before I had children.
Some adjustments need to made, in thought and behaviour, when children are in tow.
Adjustments to behaviour are obvious. Eating regularly and getting eight hours sleep will reduce tantrums in parent and child; booking accommodation in advance will avoid the inevitable whining associated with an uncomfortable night on a park bench; budgeting for at least two treats (bribes) per child, per day will ensure they walk further and you are protected against low level museum fatigue; electronic devices, no matter what your attitude towards them in the real world, will keep you all sane on long journeys and in small hotel rooms during unseasonal thunderstorms.
Adjustments to thought are altogether more difficult.
According to the travel writer Pico Iyer, ‘We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.’ I have been travelling with this philosophy in mind since I was seventeen. In my experience it is much easier to lose yourself (and subsequently find yourself) if you are alone. When we travel alone, we are unencumbered by others’ expectations. We can go where we please, eat what we like, make friends with the unlikeliest people and be whoever we want to be. We are set adrift and it can be exhilarating or terrifying, but when we come to shore it is under our own steam and into a harbour of our choosing.
Losing yourself is difficult when you travel with children. You are tethered to them; to their expectations of you, to their need for you to guide them, show them, warn them when to be careful and encourage them to be brave. You cannot stop parenting them and so freedom, abandon and the thrill of making decisions on the spur of the moment are curtailed.
When travelling with children you must find yourself in the strangeness of everything around you, in rare moments of solitude, and in your imagination. But most importantly, you must find yourself in relation to your kids – in your ability to walk past the Uffizi and settle for gelato on the banks of the Arno, in your tolerance for Eye-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye, in the way you encourage them to play with another language by looking up rude words in the English-Italian dictionary.
Do this, and one day they might take off on their own – lose themselves a little, and find out who they are, without you.
Content supplied by Affirm Press