Just finished reading “Four Around the World”, a story of a family who traveled for 5 months with a four-year-old and a baby. They visited Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. A few things struck me as I was reading: I am deeply grateful to be beyond the stage of diapers, baby beds, baby food prep, midnight feedings, etc! as well as the extremely short attention span and swift mood changes of a very young child. The family managed exceptionally well with their little ones, proving that extended travel with young children is possible. But what is ideal? Nearly every traveling family I’ve spoken with has told me that ten-years-old is the ideal age for a child to experience long-term, round-the-world travel. Not only are they very open to new experiences (teen indifference is still a few years away), but they will retain their memories of the trip, which makes for more meaningful travel. (Elise turns 10 this summer, joy!) But in terms of the story, although I appreciated the author’s tenacity and the great efforts she made to get her kids to experience a variety of exotic animals (a priority for Elise), this book left me wanting. I would have gladly given up some childcare detail in exchange for deeper musings on travel as a transformative experience.
In “The Book of Wanderings”, Kimberly Meyer captures the story of her journey with her college-age daughter, Ellie, that retraces the steps of a medieval Dominican friar across the Mediterranean and around the Holy Land and through the Sinai Desert. Their modern-day experiences are neatly framed by flashbacks to the 15th century. The writing is rich with detail that brings far-away places to life, as well as the author’s own palpable longing for the road not taken. For me, it was heartening to learn of another mother-daughter duo successfully navigating so many different countries, including some frequently on travel advisories, and that the journey was deeply – albeit differently – meaningful to both of them. I appreciated her warning that one’s genuine desire to connect with others from different cultures will not always be reciprocated. Travelers are, after all, also customers with money to spend on goods and services – and that money can mean the difference between having meal or not to someone living on the edge. And Americans traveling abroad – regardless of our personal views – carry with them enormous geopolitical baggage that can, unfortunately, overshadow even the greatest goodwill towards others.
Oh joy! My travel books have arrived. I immediately tore into “The Rough Guide to First-Time Aournd the World” by Doug Lanksy. Most of the book is solidly practical information on transport, budgeting and safety, but he also provides some inspired ideas, such as take a cookery course to learn to make one great dish from each country; travel by freighter, which rent out cabins larger than cruise ships’, and stay somewhere unusual like a cave hotel in Turkey or ice hotel in Sweden. He’s also quite funny, sharing embarrasing stories, such as the time he broke his ankle in Bangkok while he had amebic dysentery, which he describes as “a tragic combination of constantly having to go to the loo, and never being able to get there quickly enough.”