Written By: Brenda Pomponio
Ok – so it may or may not come as a surprise, but I am not a natural travelling parent.
I don’t have that innate ability to just feel completely at ease with travelling with my children (especially long distances or abroad) and at times all the qualities that I do possess that should help me overcome this seem to disappear just when I need them the most.
I remember our first big overseas trip with our two children then aged 4 and 2. We had done quite a bit of domestic travel but this was a our first overseas holiday and most of the time I felt overwhelmed and underprepared. I desperately wanted to it to be a success but my own inhibitions almost was a self sabotaging force propelling me in the opposite direction.
We were in Italy, with my husbands family and by that grace, I should have felt more relaxed that we were not alone, in the comfort of relatives that were hospitable, nurturing and a practical support.
I worried over most things any parent does. I remember arriving in the small village after a ridiculous 36 hours of travel time feeling a horrible sense of dread. We were all heavily jet lagged, and I can look back now and know that it was the lack of sleep making me feel this way, but at that moment, I just wanted to put my hand up and say “take us back home”. Take us back to our routine, to our beds and to our normal. I will give up the beaches of Italy and the chance to introduce our children to their cousins and great-grandmother right now, if we can undo all of this.
Obviously, and thankfully I didn’t get my wish and we remained where we were for our planned duration. What was strikingly obvious to me was that adapting and being a travelling parent was not an easy transition for me.
So, I endeavoured to become better at it. I took a lot of time out in those first few days we were in Italy. It was easy, as the language barrier meant I was often an observer of the conversation and not a participant. I spent time watching and nurturing my two children (perhaps seeking confirmation that I had not damaged them beyond redemption for my decision to fly them across the other side of the world). I sat with my own inner thoughts and allowed all those emotions to wash over me. Let’s be honest, a few good nights sleep and some Italian sunshine did help me feel a lot better.
To my surprise my answer came in my children’s resilience. They adapted quickly, they found interest in their new surrounding and they bonded with their new family with joy and abandon. I felt my apprehension slip away and soon become comfortable in our new normal. Our travel normal. I was able to change my parenting to adapt to our new surrounding and our new experiences. We stayed up late, we ate different food, we travelled to incredible places and whilst it wasn’t all smooth and without challenges it really came down to a mindset.
I could adapt or I could stay the same. I chose to adapt.
So, with each time we travel, I remember that time of feeling so overwhelmed and out of control. A time when I believed that back home where the predictable safe harbour were calling was ideal. Thankfully, I ignored that to step out of the comfort zone and propel my family into a new and exciting environment that meant less control, spontaneity, daily challenges but also new places exciting cultures and a time to bond and enrich our lives.
Years on from that trip I can happily say I’m not that parent I was back then. I still worry, I probably stress unnecessarily about certain aspects and often have to keep an eye out for that black cloud that wants to loom over my head from time to time. I just don’t fight it anymore. I can accept some level of concern or discomfort, some yearning for a safe haven, but now the lure and pleasure of travel far out ways these emotions easily. I still worry. After all I am a parent and any parent will know its their badge of honour to worry incessantly about their children. Now however, I can look back and know that I worked hard to be a better travelling parent and how that makes each and every one our adventures just that little more rewarding.
For more articles about parenting and travel read – why you should change your parenting style ,