How travelling with my kids taught me to embrace adventure

By Shannon Elliot, CARE Canada’s Director, Brand and Marketing

The plane chugged through another 45 seconds of turbulence and I met my husband’s eyes from the row behind me. This wouldn’t be good.

The overnight flight was dark and the attendants had tucked themselves out of sight. I passed my last paper bag through the seats to my husband and he positioned it in front of our daughter. Her face was pale. Another 30 seconds went by before they both got up, looking hopefully at the sleepy woman in the aisle seat. My husband and daughter Ava (who we now know has a delicate stomach) were sandwiched into a row of five on a 13-hour flight to Tokyo.

The woman slowly stirred, displacing a blanket, a pillow, a book, a tissue, a set of headphones and finally herself, in accommodation. Our daughter shuffled across a few inches, whipped her hand to her mouth and promptly spewed vomit all over the woman’s seat.

Now.

I understand how this could serve as an illustration of how travelling with kids exhausts, dismays, likely infuriates and literally stinks. But the aftermath of the turbulence - a woefully embarrassed child and a new, empathetic aisle-seat friend - called to mind the old adage that life (and travel) really is about the journey, not the destination.

I had anticipated that my takeaways from the trip might comprise descriptions of ancient Japanese castles, the shapes and colours of the streets of Harajuku or photos of the all the food in Dotonbori.

Me and my girls trying new food with new friends in Bangkok

Instead, my scribbles call to mind how our younger daughter Edie had made two little friends in Yoyogi Park through just a series of high-fives; how Ava quickly concluded that sushi is nothing to be afraid of (but that sake is); how a kind stranger along with a patient taxi driver decoded our fumbling of the Japanese language.

Each summer since then, we’ve protected some family time for the unknown and unseen. Edie calls this adventurosity. Sometimes, adventurosity takes us to a creek in Algonquin Park with far too little water (and way too many mosquitos). At other times, it has spurred us to the organized chaos of Bangkok or the red heat of the Grand Canyon. As the girls grow older and they see more things, their adventurosity grows as does their comfort with all things different: food, people and places.

When they really wanted to visit the baby goats next door on a trip to the Austrian countryside, you can bet they used every bit of German they could muster to ask the farmer if they could open the gate. When they wanted to try the crazy Thai street dessert (pink noodles? shaved ice? kidney beans?), they weren’t too shy to smile and point right along with the friendly street vendor.

Ava and Edie washing elephants in Thailand

Of course, bouts of summer travel come with side effects. Dust accumulates under the bookshelf in the hallway, the siblings still needle and torment each other in the exact moment your brain demands quiet, and the retirement fund grows at a moderately slower pace.

Ever year as I unpack amidst the relieving comforts of home, I question our sanity in ever leaving and mutter several unrepeatable commitments to, um, do things differently in the future. That is, until I hear someone practice hello in Thai, or suggest that we name the cat Mozart (remember we went to that place he was born?), or ask if they can try to make curry from scratch again (the answer is still no). And I remember that for each travel day I end bone-tired from hauling backpacks, managing urgent needs for ice cream and trying to decode maps, their world grows ten times bigger than it was when they woke up.

One day, maybe I’ll travel alone to a quiet place where no one can vomit on your seat when you least expect it. Until then, my kids have taught me to embrace adventurosity, to breathe in the genuine wildness of the world, and to exhale with those you love most, close by.


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