Take Your Kid To Work Day is this week (April 28th to be exact). My blogger-buddy, Mummy-T (from TravelsWithANineYearOld) suggested that some of us traveling parents join in with the fun – even though many of us aren’t currently working – and write about traveling full-time with our kids instead. (Links to posts by the writers contributing to this project are at the end of this post).
My boys are 10 and 14 respectively. You couldn’t pick two more radically different personalities if you tried. It never ceases to amaze me that two such different people came from the same parents. Our year-long, 24×7, all-together, all the time experiment is as much about the dynamics of four people traveling together as it is about traveling with a 10-year-old who is still mostly a child and a just-about-an-adult 14-year-old.
10 is the perfect age to do a long trip with a child. Your child is young enough to get child discounts and likely small enough to share a bed with Mom or Dad if necessary but old enough to understand, appreciate and remember what he learns about other countries and cultures on your travels. He’s young enough to be happy with a playground stop every so often but starting to pay attention to the wider world and open and eager to learn all he can.
Practically, a 10-year-old can carry his own pack, self-entertain (mostly) on buses and trains and doesn’t need any special equipment or considerations. If he’s fit and healthy, he’s more than able to lead your way on long, steep trails and bike rides. Our BigB does not like the attention we get from friendly mothers and grand-mothers as we travel about but I like the way this opens the door for me to be able to talk to them about their kids. The only challenge we’ve had with him on our trip has been keeping him in reading material, for which the Kindle has been an invaluable resource.
The photo on the left above of CAM, my 14-year-old and me, was taken last October. The one on the right was taken yesterday. In six months he’s grown almost six inches and changed from a child into a young man. Although we didn’t plan it this way (who would?) we’ve spent the last six months in the eye of his adolescent storm as all of the physical and emotional changes associated with this important time in a child’s life hit in full force. Given that, if I say that 14 is a very tough age to travel with, you can appreciate that I’m speaking from a fairly extreme experience. Take a minute and think about what you were like at 14. Now think about what you would have been like, at 14, if you’d been spending all day every day with your Mom, Dad and brother. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further.
That said, traveling with a teen does have some great benefits: we can go out in the evenings leaving our kids safe and happy in our hostel; CAM’s pack is bigger than mine and he’s able to carry more than me. He’s not so much learning direct facts about the places we’ve been as synthesizing information about world history, events and personalities and developing his own theories. We recently spent a couple of hours on a train discussing the motivations behind the U.S. involvement in South-East Asia in the 60s and 70s, the Cold War and the Vietnam War. I have to work to keep up with such conversations.
Speaking of work…
If you have more than one child – or can remember your own relationship with a brother or sister – you know that siblings fight. Sometimes the fights are genuine “I hate my brother” fights but more often it’s a constant hum of bicker, bicker, bicker. It’s enough to drive anyone nuts. There are times when they’re both happy but only because they’re both fighting with us and then times when one is happy but the other isn’t. The saving grace about all of this is that even at 10 and 14, they’re still kids and so have a kid-timeline on almost everything. A grumpy morning doesn’t necessarily mean a grumpy afternoon and vice versa. And kids are silly. We were sitting in a cafe the other day, all four of us laughing ourselves silly over I don’t know what and I found myself thinking “this is just so much fun”.
Murph and I are already scheming about how to fit longer vacations into our lives after we return to the normal work-school routine. CAM, our very reluctant traveler, has started talking about “doing a trip like this with some of my buddies when I’m older” and “when I’m telling my kids stories about this trip, I’ll tell them about …”. BigB is a little more reserved in this enthusiasm, but even he says that “being together as a family is pretty cool”.
You can read about extended travel with kids of all ages from toddlers to teens by clicking through the links below. Happy reading!
Take Your Child To Work by globetrottingmama.com
The Best Age for Traveling With Children by snapsandblabs.com
Travels With A 10-year-old by travelswithanineyearold.com
Long Term Travel With Young Kids Under 6 by ourtravellifestyle.com
The Age of Perfection by aroundtheworldineasyways.com
What’s Like To Travel With a 3-year-old by trippingmom.com
The World Is Our Playground by gotpassport.org
Attack of the Asian Baby Snatchers by thedropoutdiaries.com
The Amazing Adventures of Baby Cole by almostfearless.com (and this babe’s got his own travel blog here too).