Just landed in La Isla del Sol
Today we are on day 92 of our 184 day trip. Landing in Mexico seems like a lifetime ago now, as I’m sure landing in the Isla del Sol in lake Titicaca will seem when we arrive in Gatwick on 3rd Jan 2012. But as the halfway point, a quick opportunity to reflect on how it’s gone so far.
I am astounded by how much we’ve managed to do, and how relatively straightforward it has been so far. A couple of years back, this trip would not have seemed realistic to us at all. Maybe it was because my expectations were that it would be so much harder. Maybe it was also because everyone was telling us that it would be so much harder. In fact, stand up and confess those of you who said we couldn’t do it. And that includes you two in the Twickenham Tandoori who laughed outright at the concept of us even thinking we might be able to do some volunteering with the family as we travelled. Well, we managed to do a week more than we planned to, and I know the work we did was worthwhile. And Sean, get to booking your Rio trip now!
We know a lot more about travelling with the family than we did before, and 2 week holiday jaunts will be less stressful with the six of us now. We thought the big kids would miss home, but surprisingly it has been the younger ones who miss it more. Our two year old did wake up at 6 am one morning screaming that he wants to go back to London. A rare occurrence, but one we hadn’t expected. But I am beginning to think that maybe this excursion will end up building some flexibility and openness in our youngest even if the memories of the trip itself fade. For the eldest two, I suspect any excuse to be out of school is good. And getting them doing schoolwork while they feel that they are on a holiday has been no small task
We have also learned that we do every so often yearn for familiarity, be that to see our friends and family (which no amount of chats on Facebook can replicate), or knowing that there is a hot bath and our own bed waiting for us at the end of the day. We stayed in a decent hotel once so far (two nights in the Hacienda in Puno), with a fantastic room for the 6 of us setting us back £36 per night. I was surprised at how much we loved having a decent bath and bed to go to. There has been no loss of curiosity or excitement about the next place and what that brings, but every so often we also would like one week at home to chill out and relax in a known environment. I hasten to add that what we haven’t yet missed is the routine that comes with that environment.
We have entered a new and transient community on this trip, the community of travellers. The constant is that we know most connections we strike up will be temporary, but some will make it to friendship which will outlast this trip. We are different from most that we’ve come across as the vast majority have been individuals, couples or groups of friends. That said, they have been far more welcoming of our brood than I expected, and many have gone out of their way to be with us or to lend a hand on occasion. It has been repeatedly sad to leave some newly made friends behind, especially in Cusco, even though we know we will stay in touch, and that we will be making newer ones along the way.
One aspect of travelling as a family that we weren’t expecting and that we love is the reaction of the locals. At worst, we’ve been a novelty that they strike up a conversation with. At best, and this needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and reflects how little people do get to know us, but I write it as a few people travelling and local have flattered us with it, “an inspiration”. In Cuba, as I previously noted, 4 children was enough to have us stopped by locals every few metres with exclamations of “cuatro!”. But just as much of a conversation piece has been our trusty double pram! Everyone peeks around expecting to see twins and some have asked to buy the pram. I was not in any way anticipating that the pram would be the centre of so many of our brief conversations. The sight of our small tribe has been enough to bring a smile to many and spark up a very warm and friendly conversation, and for that we’re grateful. And as a proud mum and dad, it never hurts when you hear people tell you openly how beautiful or well-behaved they think your children are, even if you disagree fairly strongly with the second statement!
Glaringly obvious is how different we are from the locals on this trip. Not only in terms of (vastly) different cultures, but also in material wealth. We have been able to video more travellers for our happiness project (see earlier post
from Costa Rica) than the locals, and I suspect that has a lot to do with culture. But also, what allows us to spend less on a daily basis travelling than we did in London is the flip side of the coin that has people living on amounts here that we can scarcely conceive of. And that’s after taking into account the local cost of living. Some understandably try to abuse that differential, but most just ignore it (at least as far as we can see) and just strike up a conversation interested in who we are and what our world looks like.
To date, we’ve only met one other family
on a big trip, Marie, Patrice and their two young ones (big hello if you’re reading this!). I know we have been fortunate financially to be able to do this trip (which ironically is costing us less than living in London), but that on it’s own can’t explain how few families are doing this. Maybe we all get more risk averse and put up barriers to this kind of ambition when we ‘settle down’.
Most importantly, every day we think how lucky we are to be doing this. That it’s once in a lifetime so far, but having done it once, that it will not be once in a lifetime by the time we die. The barrier that has us thinking this is too difficult to do has been irreparably breached. And even if it’s just to make the most of school holiday time as a bare minimum, the years of 2 to 4 week per annum holiday thinking are over. And as much as I am grateful for what we are doing, and as much as we are fortunate to be doing this, I strongly believe a lot more families could be doing this than currently are.