Travels with a child – five years on
Five years is something of a milestone – half-way to 10 after all. I’m sure the incredulity that another year has passed won’t wear off any time soon. Nor will the amazement at how much my daughter has grown and changed over the past year.
When I wrote last July about our four years of travels together, it was our last few months before school. I remember thinking how grown-up she had started to seem. That, though, was just the beginning – now reading, more imaginative than ever, braver, and asking ever more complex questions (‘When will the sun die mummy?’ ‘In 10 billion years (thanks Google)’), it’s also showing as we prepare for this year’s big trip to Cambodia.
For starters, she can remember that we’re going to Cambodia, rather than forgetting the country name every two minutes. We’ve got an activity book/journal for her to fill in, and this time she can read much of it independently and has taken great pride in starting to answer the questions.
She still has her determined (stubborn) moments but it feels like some of the trickiest obstinacy of past trips might be over (who knows, maybe that’s optimistic!) and I’m looking forward to an adventure with my lovely girl even more than ever.
Even school hasn’t slowed us down (yet), persuading them to let us have an authorised absence to go to the Turks & Caicos islands to practise phonics on the sand and learn the letter of the day with Elmo, not to mention seeing that schools the world over aren’t so different with a Reading Road trip.
We’ve had a few other sunshine adventures, mixing exploring in the Cape Verde islands on her first visit to Africa with some much-needed downtime, and again on our Greek island hop where we chilled out on Symi and discovered ancient ruins and a mix of cultures on Kos. And more beaches, obviously.
But it’s some of the trips closer to home which have really brought home to me how much she has grown and changed. Back to the Isle of Wight, just over two years after our first visit, this time she was hunting for dinosaur fossils on the sand rather than nervously eyeing up dino models, hopping into boats and chair lifts at the Needles rather than needing a midday nap.
And if the decisions still (mostly) get made by me, it’s wonderful to see her own interests developing – a growing love of books, especially Roald Dahl’s classic tales and an ongoing love of animals, especially on our trip to Port Lympne in Kent.
Plus an increasing fascination with knights, castles, dragons and princesses, whether she is learning blood-thirstily to disembowel a barbarian at Warwick Castle, charging round fortress walls on our 48 hour quest to Lincoln, or exploring castles from Ludlow to Powderham Castle in Devon and Bodiam Castle in Sussex. Not to mention legendary tales of King Arthur and Merlin in Wales.
This time last year, I’d wondered if this growing independence, along with school might mean more solo trips for me too – well, I did manage two, to the Costa Barcelona and then back to Barcelona itself.
And while it’s fun to enjoy a few adrenaline thrills like cableskiing, walking for miles around a city without wondering about small tired legs or chilling out over a long lazy lunch by the sea, I realised how much I miss my Minnie, my mini traveller, when she’s not there.
Her curiosity, the things she notices – so different to me – even the endless requests for a story along the way. The chance to spend so much time together, hopefully uninterrupted by the day-to-day distractions, is very special too (although the demands of blogging plus the lure of stickers/colouring is something we can definitely work on!)
She might still get grumpy when she’s tired (some things are hereditary) and she might not be the world’s most adventurous gourmet, but I wouldn’t swap the hardest moments for the memories we make together. The memories which she is now remembering more and more.
So, what will next year bring? For once, I’m not sure – we’ll have the challenge of school still, but so far, term-time restrictions aren’t stopping us. We’ve survived those first first flights and long-haul flights, we’ve tried a cruise and a road trip, we’ve coped with illness abroad and become more adventurous with our trips to Burma and now Cambodia.
She’s already announced that when she’s grown up, she wants to go to Japan. And the Antarctic. We might need to put the latter off for a while, but one thing is for sure: the adventures are still only just beginning.
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