Two Months And Counting…
We’ve been away for two months now, which seems an appropriate time for a bit of reflection. In the time we’ve been away, we’ve climbed high into the Himalayas, rafted down rivers of glacial meltwater and slept under the stars in a desert with a flatulent camel named (by the children) Hindenberg. It’s been pretty full on so far, and in need of a break, we’ve parked ourselves on what could well be the best beach in the world. We’ve got ourselves a bit of an apartment type affair, with enough beds for one each (which is a real luxury), a big living area and an amazing view over the beach. Killer sunsets every night are included in the price. But best of all, it’s got a fridge! I certainly wouldn’t have guessed before we left that a fridge is possibly the biggest luxury in the world. Fair enough, we haven’t got anything to cook on, but we’re all happy with a range of plastic cheese, salty crackers and nutella for breakfast and lunch, and it means that we only have to eat out once a day. This should be saving us a stack of cash, but the rate at which the kids are getting through the nutella, I’m not entirely convinced about the finances. On the subject of money, I think that we’re generally managing to get close to sticking to the budget some days. India is much more expensive than we were expecting, but we were basing our estimates on what we spent thirteen years ago, so that’s not particularly surprising – I think that it’s called inflation, or something.
Apart from being savaged by mozzies and leeches, we’ve generally faired pretty well health wise. The kids have had one tummy bug each, and I’ve been knocked out for two days with a nasty dose of Delhi Belly. Floss’s rock solid constitution was looking to be invincible until this morning when grumblings started. We’ll see what happens there.
We’ve adjusted into the travelling lifestyle remarkably easily. The first few days in Kathmandu were a bit of a blur, but they were really exciting. The kids didn’t seem phased by anything they saw, but I was just buzzing about being away and discovering the city with the kids, showing them stuff we’d seen before and exploring places that were new to all of us. Since then, it’s all been very full-on. Our good intentions of travelling slowing haven’t really worked out, as we’ve been like kids in a sweet shop, rushing from one adventure to the next. I think that the thing that I’ve found most surprising is that none of the travelling stuff has proven to be difficult or stressful. Busses eventually turn up, trains stick to the spirit of a timetable and taxi drivers get you to where you want to go. There’s a fair bit of self-induced stress around the cost of stuff, but on more than one occasion Sam has reminded me that I’m squabbling over 10p, so I’m trying to stop.
One major thing that I’ve learned is that most of the stress in the family is actually created by me, either as a result of me being tired and grumpy, or because we’ve got a schedule, and we’re running late. I’m also much more of a control freak than I’d realised. Quite rightly, the world doesn’t jump to attention when I snap my fingers. It’s something that I need to look out for, especially in India – you can’t fight it, you can’t change it, you just have to roll with it.
The best bit of the last couple of months has to be having the luxury of time, and being able to spend all of that time together as a family. The way our lives worked at home meant that we only got to spend a couple of hours together at the start and the end of each day, and this was inevitably rushed due to the stresses of school and work. Even the weekends were invariably filled with the pressure to “make the most” of them. These days, we’re in control of the schedule. Time whizzes by, doing stuff that we want to do at a pace that we want to do it. As an example, the 36 hours that we spent on a train travelling from Delhi to Goa flashed by in the blink of an eye. We had the adventure of the kids (and us grown-ups to be honest) discovering the train and making the beds, books were read, audio books were listened to, schoolwork was done, the kids tried more food that they didn’t recognise for breakfast, and we made friends with lots of new people. Travelling the 150 miles from Portsmouth to Plymouth is generally an exhausting and frustrating trip, but the 1200 miles to Goa left us excited and invigorated.
I wanted to get to know the kids better and that’s certainly working. Sam is growing up way too fast, and is developing a wicked sense of humour. His confidence grows every day, and now happily tries out new jokes on anyone he can get to listen. I think that he’s maturing and getting to know us better too – he’s much better at recognising how far he can push his luck, and spotting when he needs to back down. As is to be expected though, he doesn’t always get it right. He gave us a bit of a surprise on the rafting adventure when he asked for permission to swear after a particularly brilliant set of rapids. We were expecting a “that was bloody brilliant” moment, but instead got a “that was f***ing fantastic.” I think that he was hoping to win some points for using alliteration! Sam’s growing maturity is exaggerating the age difference between him and Evan. Evan is much more cuddly, much less confident with strangers and much happier having role-playing adventures with Sam in his imaginative worlds. Evan and I had a perfect hour in the sea together yesterday, doing nothing in particular, just mucking about. I don’t think that I’ve been able to spend time like that with him for years at home.
To sum up then. This travelling lark is utterly brilliant. I started out with some doubts about whether or not this was the right thing to do, and exactly who it was going to be right for. But after two months, I can honestly say that I’ve no regrets at all. The kids have completely adjusted and accepted everything that we’ve thrown at them, and are having an absolute ball. I’m so proud of how they deal with each and every situation and massively excited to find out where the next eight months or so will take us. It’s going to be epic.