Before we left the UK last year, we created an ‘About me’ page, which gave visitors to our blog an introduction and insight to our family.
Fast forward 10 months of world travel.
People ask, ‘How has this trip changed you?’, ‘After such an adventure, what is different about you all now?’.
The answer is lots of things.
We put our heads together whilst eating dinner the other night and had a think about the main things in our lives that have changed, been improved or are simply a great memory from such an epic journey. Here are each person’s Top 5, plus their trip high and low points…
Rosie (age 7)
- Before we left the UK, I couldn’t really swim very well. I can now swim really far, through big waves and underwater too! And Ruben taught me to dive this week as well! I love being in the water and even if the water is cold, I’m always the first person to jump straight in!
- I finally tried other flavours of ice-cream other than plain vanilla and my new favourite flavour is raspberry! I also now love eating rice!
- My favourite country we visited was Australia. It was so brilliant to have Christmas Day ‘in the hot’! We went to the beach, swam in the sea, and ate our Christmas dinner outside in the garden- wow! I won’t ever forget that.
- I’ve learnt that I’m good at making people laugh and when they laugh, they’re laughing with me, not at me; so I’m not as shy around new people as I was before.
- I now know what an elephant feels like to touch. They feel warm, dry and bristly! Elephants are amazing and they are now my favourite animals.
High point of the trip: Definitely Christmas day in Sydney! Santa even remembered where we were and left stockings for us!
Low point of the trip: Saying goodbye to Grandma at Bali airport when she had to go home after visiting us for a holiday.
Favourite food: Fish and chips on the beach in Kaikoura, New Zealand!
Ruben (age 11)
- I am now so much more confident and will happily speak to other people, even if they speak a different language. I always ask for the bill in restaurants, negotiate prices of things at the market and say hello and chat to people that come and talk to us in the street.
- Having avoided a haircut the entire time we have been away, I have decided I like my hair longer and plan to keep it this way!
- I am willing to try almost any new food, and have discovered that I really quite like spicy things!
- In Thailand and Bali I learnt how to drive a motorbike! I can’t wait until I’m old enough to have my own.
- I get along better with my sister now. She can still be pretty annoying, but we have a better relationship after keeping each other company for so long. I hope we continue to be good friends when we get home!
High point of the trip: Walking across Koh Tao island in Thailand with Dad. It was really hot, but fun. I can’t believe I walked across a whole island!
Low point of the trip: Knowing our trip has to come to an end! I’m looking forward to seeing our family and friends but…
Favourite food: Nasi goring ayam (chicken fried rice) from the little local place near where we stayed in Bali. Yum!
- Listening to the kids: Spending 24/7 with the same 3 people for 10 months in the same rooms etc could ended in disaster. What has come out of it is a larger appreciation for each member of my family. I’ve seen how Ruben is growing up and having his own valid ideas which I’ve learnt to listen to and respect. The path that I want for him might not be what he wants. I can only advise and encourage. I still subtly discourage some of his crazy career ideas, “Hmmm, that’s a great idea, however you could easily do that job in your spare time!”. Rosie being the youngest often can be overruled because I’ve always tended to make decisions for her. Stepping back and listening to what she really wants has been refreshing and it’s great watching how brave she actually is: she is the first to jump off/into something and loves to open the moped throttle fully to go faster and faster (I did have to overrule her when we hit 90kph- “That’s fast enough, Rosie!”, “Haha, sorry dad!”). From this experience I’ve got to know my kids better and what they really want, instead of what I think they want. Wow, it all sounds a bit deep.
- Nervous flyer: I can’t really put my finger on when this came about, but somewhere along the many flights we’ve taken on the trip, I became a bit nervous of flying. It’s odd. I know it’s safer than any of the bus journeys we’ve taken, however in the last year there have been many unfortunate air accidents in and around Asia. It’s ridiculous because these things can happen anywhere in the world. All our flights have been fine except landing in Bali during a lightning storm, where literally the whole sky outside was pink and purple, with lightning crawling across the darkness as far as I could see. Now my ears prick up at the moment the engines throttle back for decent; or when the flaps are retracted, and the plane drops slightly before accelerating further. I love flying and everything about it. I know the pilots are exceptional and the aircraft are fully maintained. There is just something about it now that makes my stomach flip (and not in a good way). Crazy.
- Decision time: In the past, I’ve often been one to think more about other people’s feeling and perhaps not say what I really thought. I’m not saying I’ve turned into a bit of an idiot now, but I will say if I’m bothered about something. Sitting on the fence doesn’t really get you anywhere, especially when you’re tired, hungry and everyone is feeling stressed. My decisions don’t always pan out and we’ve eaten in pretty crappy places and stayed in some right holes in the ground, but overall it’s worked out. It’s OK to get it wrong sometimes, that is life. It seems pretty obvious to make decisions about these kind of things, but April used to take the lead on this and it was almost as if I didn’t have to worry about it. But it’s actually about having confidence in yourself. Prior to this adventure I didn’t make enough decisions. It’s refreshing! I’m not talking about being bossy, just not being a fence-sitter any more. I’ll no doubt continue to make a few dodgy choices along the way, but at least I’m involved and not just sat watching.
- Pigeon boy: Leading on from being more assertive and making some hard decisions has meant I’ve had to navigate the family anti-clockwise around Asia. On occasions I’ve got spectacularly wrong: what might look like a short distance on a phone map, somehow turned into a 7 mile walk across Hanoi, in close to 40°c heat. Sorry kids! (See! I also learnt to apologise). I blame the corrupt taxis (I can still shift blame though!). I have learnt about how far my family will walk if required and I’ve always said the best way to get to know a city is to walk. By riding in taxis and tuktuks, etc, you miss the smells, people, rats and snakes, that exist just metres away in the backstreets, plus the small independent shops and stalls selling anything you can imagine. Some of our city walks have taken us though some run down areas that we’d had never seen is we had travelled any other way than by foot. Notably the metalwork street in Bangkok when looking for the Chinese market. There was grinding, welding and fabricating on the pavements and the street, with old car engines and gearboxes as far as you could see. Also, on the second visit to Bangkok, when taking a wrong turn looking for the BTS (sky train), we ended up literally walking on the tracks of the main train line in/out of city. During these little ‘escapades’ the looks we receive are often those of confusion, because why would a white western family be walking around here? Plus, the noise of us arguing within the family, about the heat and distance left to walk, seems to get more locals scratching their heads as to what they’re actually looking at? If I’m caught in eye contact, I’ll often throw out an absurdly British sounding, “Hello. Good afternoon!”, as if I’m wearing a bowler hat and spinning an umbrella.
- Getting out comfort zones: People will always say that something in your childhood will scar you for life. For me, this came in the form of a Christmas show when I was aged about four years old. The details are fuzzy, but I remember freezing on stage and my dad picking me up, taking me off the stage and eating mince pies whilst the rest of my class finished. I think from this I don’t like being in front of people like on a stage. Something just tells me, run away and get a mince pie! So when April signed us up to help teach at a school in Cambodia, I went shopping for pies. Not only would this be standing up I front of people, it would be kids (the worst audience, in my opinion) and ones who probably wouldn’t understand me (gulp). Feeling anxious when we turned up to the school, no sooner had we signed the important child protection documents, I was introduced to a class and told to get stuck in teaching them! In at the deep end wasn’t even close. Oddly, this was a good thing. Over the course the next few days, I learnt to control the urge to run and really enjoyed it. I’m not saying I’m happy to stand on a stage any time soon, but I now definitely feel more comfortable in front people after this experience. Pass the pies.
So what have I learnt? Well. I listen to my kids before I say, no we can’t afford it. I’ll decide a route for us to get home, that sometimes is not a short walk; and I’ll stand up in front of anyone to explain my worries with the aeroplane.
High point of the trip: Driving the camper van for 10 hours from Melbourne to Adelaide. Made me appreciate the sheer size of Australia and it was a bit of a race against time, which added to the excitement!
Low point of the trip: Having money stolen out of my wallet by the taxi driver in HCMC, Vietnam. Felt absolutely gutted.
Favourite food: Cooking and eating a steak the size of a dinner plate in New Zealand. It was absolutely delicious! I had to put the salad on another plate…
- I can now drive a car with an automatic gearbox and a motorbike; neither of which I had ever done previously in the UK.
- Despite being scared to death of moving spiders, I now know that I can eat a cooked tarantula, hold a giant stick insect, and I don’t even blink an eye at ant infestations, cockroaches, a snake on the path, bats, giant centipedes, and most other creepy crawlies…
- On this trip I have spent far too much time in some of the worst and most horrible, disgusting toilets in the world. Having been public-toilet-phobic for most of my life, I now consider myself cured.
- Before we left the UK, I will fully admit that I was never the most patient of people. However, it is true that a leopard can change its spots; I am now in no hurry to let life pass me by. This is the most important thing I hope keep from this experience. I want to stay this way.
- After all this adventure, chaos and excitement, and unable to express the planner in me, I can’t help but think: Whats next…?!
High point of the trip: Spending time with the amazing elephants at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Incredible experience.
Low point of the trip: Discovering I had intestinal worms in Cambodia. [No further details given].
Favourite food: Trying Phó Bo (beef noodle-soup) for the first time at Phó Lee in HCMC, Vietnam. One of the best things I have ever eaten!