Written by: Kate Ware
It had been a tough couple of months for our family. In all honesty, some of the most gruelling in more recent times. The Melbourne winter, combined with some challenging personal stuff had led to me booking a last-minute tropical family getaway in a moment of ‘I don’t think I can take this anymore’. With the help of Sara from Make It Travel (not sponsored: just an awesome service for busy families who don’t have the luxury of time to plan their own travel), we headed off to Thailand with only relaxation and rejuvenation in mind.
I knew before leaving that I’d be writing a story on the realities of travelling with two young children. I’d imagined reciting tales of tantrums on planes, on ridiculously early morning wake times due to little bodies suffering from jetlag, and feeling prisoner to the hotel room to accommodate for daytime naps. Not to say I wasn’t looking forward to the trip, rather, as any parent knows, travelling with kids is not quite the same ‘holiday’ as when you travel without them.
But those things I thought would happen? Well, they didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong… We spent countless hours accompanying children to toilets (have you ever wondered how much cumulative time you’ve spent inside a cubicle with your kids? Hours? Days? Months, even!). There was the mother of all meltdowns over a crab hole (yes, you read that correctly, a crab hole) at an off-the-beaten-track beach we’d spent a fair amount of time researching and then getting to. And as far as getting a family photo in our matching “Happy Traveller” t-shirts – HA! You’ve got to be joking!
The unexpected moments of wonder
This was our first solo trip overseas as a family of four. Many of our recent travelling experiences have been with friends and family and I’d forgotten about the bonding that happens when it’s just ‘you’. With no other adults or children to distract, we were able to solely focus on each other and the moment.
In the lead up to our escape, I was so busy thinking of all the challenges that lay ahead that I hadn’t taken the time to consider all of the unexpected moments of wonder that were to come.
Space for self-discovery
One particular humid night, we set off to explore the local night market. While some tourists were in attendance, the majority of people visiting were Thai and so the food stalls were not dumbed down to meet western expectations. Our 2yo daughter comfortably strolled through the crowded and noisy aisles, as naturally as she would through an Australian shopping centre, not batting an eyelid at the hustle and bustle.
When we discovered the stall selling insects (the edible variety), she indulged on crickets and silkworms without batting an eyelid – much to the surprise of her brother, parents and delighted locals who looked on with impressed respect.
She knew this was a new experience; something out of the ordinary, and yet it was something she took on with confidence and without prejudice. At this moment, she thrived.
Time to indulge in each other
Our family leads a busy life – I mean, who’s doesn’t? I run my own business, my husband travels a lot for work and as much as we prioritise family time at home, I never feel as though it’s enough.
When the kids would ask to explore the ponds outside our room in Thailand, our answer was always, ‘yes’. There was no ‘hurry up and get your shoes on’, or ‘come onnnnnn, we really have to go now’, because all that lay before us was a day of doing whatever we chose.
And so every morning, we’d stroll past the pond, marvelling at how the overnight rains had formed magical glass-like droplets on top of the lily pads. We’d visit later in the day, perhaps to scout for a tadpole or two, and then, when the sun went down and the night turned balmy, we’d go back to the ponds because that’s when the frogs would come out. The children would gasp and giggle as they hopped from lily pad to lily pad, sometimes missing and falling into the water. All the while, we stood and marvelled at their joy.
Opportunities for self-belief
After selecting a resort with a pretty spectacular pool and direct beach access, I had suspected we might have some progress on this trip with swimming abilities. I mean, can you even imagine telling two pre-schoolers to stay out of a pool in the tropics? Impossible.
Day one started tentatively, with floaties secured, but by day two, the 4yo had torn off his floats and was swimming unaided across the pool. This was all thanks to his newly discovered mantra, “I can do it”. Sure, there’s many examples of being able to apply this at home, but in the daily grind of daycare and work, routine and schedules, the ability to focus solely on your kids and dedicate yourself as a parent to help your child master just one task can often fall somewhat down the list of priorities.
Perfect is how you define it
The truth about family travel is that it can be as wonderful and as perfect as you want it to be. My previous anxieties of all the things that might happen simply didn’t and as previously mentioned, we set low expectations on what we wanted to get out of the trip – rest and relaxation foremost!
Because of this, we were able to create experiences based solely around how we felt in the moment. Did we want to do some sightseeing? Don’t really feel up to it today, maybe tomorrow. Kids had an extra-long sleep that day? Well, they’ll probably cope better going out later tonight. We created the perfect experience for our family, as it came, at that exact time. Had we been busy trying to tick off ‘must see or do’ items, we wouldn’t have been as focused on ‘us’ and how we all felt and it wouldn’t have worked.
For our family, travelling is not just about exploring the world but about discovering it together. The memories we make through these shared experiences are what we seek and value the most. It’s not about ticking destinations off a bucket list, or collecting souvenirs it’s about making time for each other. The only things I hope to take from our travels are photographs and stronger relationships with my husband and children. So, on that note, if anyone has any tips on how I can actually get my kids to take a decent photo so we can capture the moment, I’d be eternally grateful.
Kate Ware is the social media and brand strategist for Our Family Travels and runs her own business, BuzzPop Brands. She travelled to Koh Samui, Thailand with her husband, son (4) and daughter (almost 3) in September.
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