Our daughters were not born amazing travellers. We have trained them. It has been a training that started at birth, as a way of life. It is their life and they don’t really know any other way. In essence, through their lifestyle we have taught them the ins and outs of HOW TO TRAVEL.
After numerous flights (7 so far), a couple subway trains, three boat rides, and a few hours in different taxis, I think I can agree that our daughters’ are becoming seasoned travellers.
At the ages of 6 and 3 they both have their “childish” moments, or moments of impatience, or overexcitement where we have to tame them down, but for the most part I am very proud of how they manage to move around and adapt.
Constantly in new places, new beds, new temporary homes, new foods, new languages, and new ways of doing things, and still they manage to behave appropriately.
These are some of the things we believe contributed to how well our girls travel now.
By traveling since they were born, by raising them in a home (boat) that is constantly moving to new locations, the girls have adapted to having new surroundings on a regular basis. Often they wake up to it, since we have started planning most of our sailing or flights in the night hours!
What has helped them with this regular displacement is keeping some sort of “regular”. We have our bedtime routines that look the same no matter where we are, a bedtime story, some songs on the ukulele, and a safe place to lay down with Mama or Papa nearby.
The girls also get to travel with some of their choice toys (the smaller the better
) this way they carry a little something special, something that is solely theirs, where ever they land. We have found that blankies and teddies are just too large and cumbersome to travel with, so the girls gravitate more towards little dolls
from shows they like to watch.
Keeping some sort of semblance where ever we go also helps to calm our girls.
Traveling can be stressful, even for adults, so bringing things that they are used to, no matter how small helps balance them.
On this trip to Tanzania I brought the girls’ school books
, not just for the obvious purpose that they need to keep studying, but also for the routine and the pastime that they provide. We also brought a hard drive
full of the girls shows and movies, that way if we are all exhausted from a day full of activities we can veg out in the evening.
The boat definitely got our girls used to living in smaller spaces
than most people are comfortable with. And so living out of a hotel room for a week is nothing but extravagant for them. Even before we were on the boat, we traveled around for Eben’s work and lived out of hotels with Arias as an infant, for months on end.
We are ok with small, we are comfortable in small. We like the proximity we have to one another, and the extra family time it gives us.
|The girls sat and told eachother stories for about an hour at the rooftop restaurant.
Mainly, the regular living space of the boat has taught our girls how to entertain themselves while being able to sit still. This has proven extremely helpful when we are at restaurants, or sitting down for meetings with other adults, or stuck on an airplane for several hours. In those moments the girls are usually pretty content singing songs, telling each other stories, and playing with those mini toys that they get to carry around.
|While Eben and I finished eating Ellia found ways to quietly entertain herself, no toys needed.
We taught our girls that as long as they are in a safe environment and with someone they trust, there is no reason to be afraid of “the new”. Because of this mentality our girls can often be found attempting things that not many kids their age do, like scuba diving, or zip-lining, or swimming with whale sharks. Of course, we as parents get to first deem whether it is safe or not, and then they get the green or red light.
|Arias tried scuba diving for the first time a couple of days ago.
We encourage our girls to be adventurous with food as well. As a rule, they must try something at least once. If they do not like it we won’t force them to eat it, but they must try.
I think we would lose our minds if our girls were difficult eaters, and have a really hard time traveling around like we do. But because they were raised this way both girls will eat pretty much anything we put on their plate (of course sometimes there is a little fuss, but in the end it ends up in their mouths!) On this trip Ellia has come to realize she really enjoys squid and octopus.
|The Nungwi catch of the day.
This one we are still working on with them, but confidence is important for everything in life. Especially when meeting new people.
We try and show the girls that with confidence you get to meet many new and interesting people, and that some unexpected doors may open up thanks to it. Arias, who has never been a shy child, is regressing a bit in this department and for some reason is finding comfort in cuddling our legs while strangers approach and greet her. But Ellia is thriving right now, letting strangers come up to her, hold her hand, pick her up, and touch her blond hair. She is also showing a huge amount of pride when she can respond to the regular Kiswahili greetings with “Poa”.
|The Maasai are quite intrigued by our girls. They are the ones that seem to stop and stare the most.
Bag of tricks
So there is the way we raised our girls that has helped in how they behave while we whisk them around the world, but there is also our bag of tricks. Every parent should be prepared to entertain a child during numerous hours of travel, no matter how well behaved the kids usually are.
Right now our bag of tricks spans over three bags actually, because we are doing many hours of travelling, and need many tools for entertainment.
My purse (Sailorbags tote) looks like it belongs to a 4 year old!
Inside you will find:
-one large ziplock bag full of snacks, both healthy and not so healthy. These are to be used when meals are too far apart, when excursions go longer than expected, when we need an energy boost, when we need to pass time, to help “pop” ears on the ways up and down in the planes, etc.
-one box of Crayola crayons
. Colouring is always a good pastime, whether its in an actual book, or on the back of a placemat, receipt, or napkin. Crayons give us a few minutes of silence and entertainment.
-Two activity books
that the girls had never seen before our first flight. Having games/toys for longer journeys will keep the kids busy for a while. Throw in the “NEW
” factor and you can easily add an extra 15minutes of distraction!
The second bag has the girls toys in it, and it is their responsibility. They pack it, they carry it. They have already managed to loose 2 dolls that were their responsibility since we have been here, but luckily the hotel has found them. Now we just need to find a way to get them back to us since they are on a different island!
In this bag we have:
-toys. The girls were allowed to pack 2 small purses with as many of their little toys
that they could fit.
-Two sets of headphones
. For Arias’ birthday Ellia chose to buy her some My Little Pony headphones
. Because of the upcoming trip we thought it would be wise to buy Ellia a pair as well. The girls love putting these on, with old iPods we were no longer using, and retreating to their little musical worlds. This has proven to be our biggest “adult quiet time”, although it’s not always quiet with both girls belting out different songs. But at least when they have these on they are not bombarding me with questions!
Finally in our third bag we have:
-books, both school books
and reading books
. The girls both enjoy reading/learning to read, and so they are happy sitting quietly with a book and looking it over, with or without an adult.
which have several kids apps on them. Most are educational games, but some a just purely for play/pleasure. There are also a couple of short shows on them in case they just want to sit alone and watch a show. The iPads only come out in certain circumstances, like when the girls will be sitting still, where they can’t fall and break, where they won’t be distracting to others, and where they will not draw any unwanted attention.
|The girls having fun with each other.
I keep remarking how incredibly adaptable our two little girls are, how we they are doing given the fact that we brought them to a whole new continent. They are soaking it in and loving all of the new experiences. With all this travelling under their little belts, I SHOULD not be surprised when at 18 (or earlier) they spread their wings and go explore the world on their own.