01 Feb

Sam getting to know his neighbors on a short haul bus ride from Hanoi to Halong Bay. It was stressful at the time!

This crew of gnomes is pretty resilient.  I mean, they pack up and leave their Canadian friends and family on average, once every six months. They've been doing this for the last 12 years!  Some kids freak out at the slightest change in routine. Not my crew! They're as tough as nails, or so I thought.

 During this trip we've run a wide range of emotions. Exhileration, desperation, cockiness, fear, bliss, anxiety, laughter, tears. My kids joke about how we can go from bitter fist a cuffs fights to smiling for the camera in less than 10 seconds flat. When mom wants a family selfie, everyone knows to fall in line quickly. 

I've dragged them all over the world! They love the minimalist lifestyle! Living out of a suitcase is fun and games for my crew!

Now, wait a minute...

Yes I am painting a overly optimistic picture. Traveling with children is difficult. I have traveled with my kids at various stages of development. I have hauled my kids across the Yucatan when my youngest was 6 months old and still breastfeeding! Although that stage was easier than the next big trip, a few years later. We took our kids to Ecuador when they were 6, 4 and 2. 

By far, our trip to SE Asia this past winter (2018-19) had the highest highs and the lowest lows.

I thought traveling would get easier as the kids got older! In fact, it's become more challenging in some ways. Specifically, homesickness and a longing for stability and routine was most pronounced on our last big trip.

Looking back on our travels I would have changed a few things.

1. Have a home base and stay there longer. This tactic was fruitful for us. By staying in one place for at least a week, we got better rates through AirBnB.  We spent less money on transportation. We could go buy groceries and cook at home, which helped our pocketbooks and our sanity. We could enjoy the local culture and get to know our neighbors. Being tourists, we often drew the attention of locals just by virtue of the fact we spoke English! After a few days, those neighbors seemed to enjoy seeing me  as much as I enjoyed seeing them.  I felt like I was breaking through some kind of cultural/linguistic barrier! And sometimes, you just want to have a brief conversation with someone outside of your family, even if it is short, sweet and in broken English.

Being church going folk, if we stayed in one place for a while, we could go to church, meet some locals, and participate in church services, which was something familiar. My kids even attended youth groups in Thailand and Malaysia. It restored their sanity temporarily to not have to hang out with their parents for a few hours.

2. Pack light. Trust me on this. Most places in the world have what you need. There is no need to pack a case load of diapers from Costco in your suitcase. It really isn't necessary. 

I've got my kids trained to pack light. It was one of my criteria before we hit the road on our first big worldschooling trip, which was to the USA in 2014. Once they could haul their own luggage around, I knew they were ready. Or perhaps it was me being determined not to carry suitcases full of toys and craft supplies all over the planet! Once my kids realized they would need to carry their own suitcases, their choices got a lot simpler!

3. Plan for down days, especially if you plan to travel for longer than 2 weeks. It's exhausting living out of a suitcase! Allow for one day, every 2 or 3 days, minimum, for "vegging out". No point in spending time or energy, or money, on excursions when everyone is tired and grumpy.

This is an important point, in my view. Even if it means you see fewer venues, so be it. SCHEDULE IN THAT DOWNTIME! Focus on getting that high quality experience over tackling that list of 10 venues. 

4. Snacks and hydration. Common sense parenting! But if your kids are dehydrated, they will not enjoy the outing and may even spoil it for you. Nothing like whining and complaining when climbing the Great Wall of China. Just kidding. The Great Wall was whine free for us.

5.  Spend one on one time with each kid.  It will help fill their love tank.  Take them to the local McDonalds or Starbucks (yes, they are EVERYWHERE). And if you can't find a familiar eatery, just go somewhere that feels familiar to them.  Like a park, a pond, a mall, or a place where you can buy french fries.  Have a conversation with them and ask them how they are doing... and above all, listen.  It will help them to decompress and process everything they are feeling and experiencing.

6.  Plan for those Skype calls to friends and family back home.  Hearing a familiar voice or finding out about what's going on back home can be so comforting to the homesick gnome.

7.  Encourage those gnomes to be focused on the present.  Practice mindfulness and be in the moment.

8.  Eat lots of dessert!

Very fluffy and decadent dessert called Pavlova.  We enjoyed this at a mall in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, while Zoe and I were enjoying one on one time. You can see Zoe journaling in the background.This unique dessert, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, is a crispy crepe with drizzled honey and a light sprinkle of salt.  It was called "Tissue"... I don't know if that's how it is spelled, but that is how the word sounds.Coffee inspired cake, berry cheesecake and coffee at Central Market,  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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