I’m sure the travelling life conjures up all sorts of images in people’s minds. I know it did for me. I used to imagine slightly
grungy, sweaty, 20-somethings dressed in Thai trousers, styled with dreadlocks and carrying big backpacks; scuba-diving and sunbathing by day, drinking and partying by night.
I think we certainly have seen these types, mainly on the Khao San Road in Thailand (where else?!), but it’s not our experience: travelling with kids in tow is quite different. To answer the question of what do we do all day whilst being on this travelling lark, wonder no further and read my account of ‘A day in the life of a travelling mum‘.
We normally wake around 8.30am. The kids are usually up much earlier and they happily use their kindles and play together until we get up and start making breakfast. Ruben is the early riser of the family. He is often awake at 6am and I want to try and train him to sleep later. I’m told that we’ll have that pleasure in a few years time, once he’s a teenager? Apparently then I’ll be complaining that we can’t get him out of bed or to leave his room!
The kids love jam on brown bread toast, if we can find the bread. Asia isn’t really that big on western-style sliced bread, so usually all you can find is a small, starched, white loaf, usually with crusts already removed (!). I usually have a bowl of muesli and an Earl Grey tea – which is also pretty tricky to find in Asia, but it is one of my travelling luxuries if we can pick it up! If we’re eating brunch out, I usually go for the granola, yoghurt and fresh fruit option – yum! The kids and Aaron are looking forward to a full English on our return to the UK!
Whilst the kids get themselves up, dressed and set up their school work, I do a daily load of washing. Whilst in Bali, we have been hand-washing all our clothes. The good news is that in the beautiful Asian sunshine, washing dries quickly. However, I cannot wait to get access to a washing machine again. Another something totally taken for granted when we were back home!
We have two faculties: one side of the kitchen table is the maths department, run by dad, aka Mr. Brooks; the other side is the English department, run by me, aka Mrs. Brooks.
The kids usually choose what they want to work on for the first hour or so, and then we swap. Concentration and cooperation on the task in hand depends upon the heat in the ‘class room’ and the difficulty of the subjects presented. Sometimes it’s a good day and it’s us the teachers, telling the kids to take a break; but sometimes it’s a struggle to get anything done. Whatever the mood, we all fight to sit in the chair closest to the ceiling fan!
Snack time consists of fresh fruits, juice and usually more than the odd biscuit! The kids are also enjoying Milo hot chocolate drink (yes, even in this weather!). Us grown-ups do what the Brits do best, drink tea! We usually make lunch at home too. Either a tomato omelette, or some noodles from the Warung across the street, or even beans on toast!
Afternoon plans depend on whether the kids have pocket money to spend and whether they fancy jumping on the bike and going for a ride. We may head down to Sanur – a little touristy beach area nearby – for some food shopping, an ice-cream and a browse in the local market. Or we might go down to the local rice field, which is a popular meeting place for locals. There is a cafe there and an unofficial 2km loop running track around the rice paddies, which is always a challenge in the intense heat. Ruben and Rosie have also joined local kids by taking part on the ‘Flying Fox’ climbing frame and zip-wire, which costs just 20,000IR (£1) and lands just next to the grassland home to 50+ geese and ducks. In fact, this is the most challenging aspect of the course, making your way back through the birds to collect your shoes from the starting point!
Last week we paid 200,00IR (£10) / 150,00IR for kids, and spent the afternoon at a resort, enjoying all the amazing facilities such as the huge pool, sun loungers, fluffy towels and poolside waiter service. That was a real treat though!
When we get back later on to our home-stay accommodation, Aaron and I might do some research about our next destination. This week we have sorted out the visa letter required when we fly in to Vietnam at the end of the month. We have also booked our first week’s accommodation and planned our route of travel across that amazing country.
I have also arranged for us to do a two week volunteering placement at a school in rural Cambodia in May. As part of this, I got in contact with a few friends and colleagues back home to arrange references and gather some possible teaching materials. It was a good excuse to catch up and hear all the news happening at work.
For dinner, we do different things. Last week, the kids both took a turn in cooking the family evening meal. Ruben made a delicious spaghetti bolognese, with no help at all, apart from a quick demonstration how to skin and cut up an onion. Rosie made pasta fagioli with spinach – a family favourite, independently chopping ingredients and stirring the pan.
Unbelievably though, a takeaway is often cheaper than cooking at home! Our favourite is from Warung Made, a few minutes bike ride away. We have nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice), with cap cay (stir fried vegetables) and bistek babi (pork schnitzel). All this comes to just 100,00IR (£5), for the whole family! Wow!
Due to the time difference between Asia and the UK / Europe, after dinner is usually the best time to catch up with family and friends. We usually get to see our dog Domino and check she still recognises our voices (she does!); open any important mail with my mum and dad’s help; and see the kids talk Minecraft, Terraria and giggle with their friends!
We have enjoyed using this time away to re-establish the traditional bed time story. We all lie together, listening whilst we take it in turns to read aloud. So far, we’ve read the whole ‘Fudge” series by Judy Blume, which focusses mainly on the sibling relationship of two young brothers living in New York. We’ve also read ‘Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself’ by Judy Blume, which is about a girl who leaves behind everything she knows to move to a new area, and how it feels to be uprooted and to be the new girl somewhere new. ‘Then Again, Maybe I Won’t’, also by Judy Blume, told us the story of twelve year old Tony, who is busy navigating between friends, making decisions about what is right and wrong, and experiencing strange new feelings about girls. As we are about to travel through Vietnam and Cambodia and learn about the wars that happened in these beautiful countries, we have just started the Diary of Anne Frank.
Once the kids are in bed, Aaron and I crack open a DVD box-set and scoff some choc. You can’t buy wine easily or cheaply here, so we might have a bottle of the local Bintang beer. This isn’t all bad news though: the major lack of alcohol on this trip has made us feel much fitter and healthier!
As we close the mosquito nets around the bed, I hope we won’t have our night disturbed by mousy, ratty or Lionel the giant, noisy gecko! Sweet dreams!