What travelling alone with kids taught me

For the last two years the world has been our oyster but what many people don’t realise is that I’ve done it mostly alone and with our three kids.

You see, just over two years ago Richard got a new job and after lots of faffing around being told he could live in Malaysia or Thailand and commute to Signapore, that fell through.  We had to make a decision about a job which involved weeks of him working away but us being based out of London.

travelling alone

Cambodia. Angkor Watt

London?

Now, I love London. I love its energy and commitment to after work  gin cocktails. I love the pop-up street entertainers, the new cafes and the theatre is amazing but did I want to live there and go back to the rat race? Hadn’t we left Hampshire (for Australia) because we were so sick of the awful pay, the never-ending bills, the materialism, the terrible politics, the constant pressure of work and now add in weeks of Rich being away with work and the kids and I being stuck somewhere we didn’t really want to be.

By this stage we’d already given up our house rental in Lyon and were location independent so putting the final touches to travelling the globe for a while wasn’t so difficult but it did mean that we’d have to spend lots of time apart from Richard. Although he would be having his own fun working away lol.

Cao Dai

Cao Dai Temple

Travelling alone

Never once did it cross my mind that I couldn’t travel with the kids but it was daunting getting on a plane for the first time & realising we wouldn’t see Rich for five weeks and that I was the most adult of adults in our group.

Travelling with two adults always means you can bounce ideas off one another, you are jointly responsible, you don’t always have to adult or be the most adult of adults but travelling alone means it’s just you! You have to adult whether you feel like it or not.

About

About Us: Costa Rica

So here’s some things I’ve learned from travelling alone with my three kids:

  • I learned that you could survive with very few clothes. Kids don’t need clean or new clothes. They don’t need to look like they’ve been dressed out of a CK magazine. Kids need the clothes they wear and the ability to go and get dirty. This is from spending nearly four months living out of two 40l back-packs.
  • Makeup is totally unessential. Your kids don’t give a shit if you’ve got mascara on or if your eyeliner has smudged. Kids need you to just be there and not give a crap about what you look like. My kids will remembered I laughed and hugged them and told them I loved them. Not that I had perfect hair.
  • Sleeping in airports will always suck and the memories of sleeping on a disgustingly dirty floor with winds howling round you (in Mexico City), wrapped in a towel, will one day be funny.
  • Toilet douches in south-east Asia and Africa are awesome! Toilet paper is such a non-essential item.
  • I learned how not freak out about boarding times and seriously late flights. There’s nothing you can do so just go with it. Flights in south-east Asia can be diabolical. Make sure you leave plenty of time in between connecting flights.
  • The vast majority of people in this world are good people and should not be feared.
  • Memories are way better than days at the mall shopping or watching TV. You never remember your best day of watching TV but you’ll remember the day you almost fell off the back of a motorcycle in Indonesia or the day you swam with sea lions in Mexico.
  • Friends are all over the world. They’re just waiting to meet you. We have an amazing set of global friends, we might not see them every year but we message and email frequently.
  • My inner voice is strong and I should listen to it more often. If anything, travel has taught me to not second guess the decisions I make. My only problems come from when I ignore my inner voice because somebody has persuaded me it’s wrong.
  • Travel gives you the freedom to learn how to be the very best you there can be. Travel lifts constraints and boundaries and rules and gives you a sense that you really can achieve anything.
  • Social media can be pointless, unnecessary, very addictive and a negative force. I am a lot happier when I’m living in the present moment and not posting and liking and replying to comments. It surprises me how in-tune with this my kids are and there have been times when they’ve asked me to put my phone away!
  • I learned to trust myself. I am the most adult person when we travel and I am capable of adult decisions and I did not get my children killed! Nor did they starve or get injured. Sure we went really hungry in Sumatra but we survived with smiles and an appreciation of how much we eat.
  • Kids just want to have fun and want to see you have fun too. They want you to be part of their fun! It’s so important we let our hair down and be silly and have fun.
turtle

Zach cleaning a baby turtle

  • Being alone is good. It teaches you self-reliance and really boosts your self-esteem. If you can repeatedly tell yourself that you have got this and believe it, then you’re doing well!
  • I have had to learn patience to accept the world does not run according to the westernised clock. This still frustrates me and I’m always improving this. It doesn’t come naturally to me but I’m working on it.
  • Learning to appreciate what you have is crucial to being happy now.
  • The majority of people in this world have far less than we do. This was a real eye-opener for our kids when they saw people living in wooden shacks with dirt floors. It enabled them to practice gratitude for what we have.
  • I learned to be grateful for the things that really matter and for the things you don’t need. So often life is materialistic and we’re weighed down with the burden of ‘things’. We don’t need things to be happy.
  • In order to enjoy travel, you must learn to relax and go with the flow. Your plans may go to pot. It really doesn’t matter. Great things come from just going with it, like the time I booked one way tickets to Vietnam.
  • Everybody you meet can teach you something you don’t know. Take that opportunity to learn new skills or perspectives.
  • You don’t always need language to communicate. My smile is often enough.
  • Kids need to be challenged. They need to have an element of fear and accomplishment in their lives. When they asked me if they could jump from a 10m waterfall, my heart screamed no but my head said yes. Of course, they did it. They did it twice! They jumped off our balcony later on into a fast flowing river. They need to be able to take measured risks. Risk is positive.
  • Nature is priceless and spending time in it with my kids has been the best thing we’ve ever done. From climbing volcanoes in Guatemala to island hopping in The Philippines, nature is the most important thing we have around us and it should be cherished and respected.
  • There are three things we can count on every day; sunrise, sunset and death. None should be taken for granted. Get out of bed at least once a week to see the sun rise. It’s magical.
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and a better, more rounded character. Like the time we got into a car with a drunk tour guide in Indonesia and I was trying not to freak about having no seat belts!
  • The funny memories we have from our travels will live on forever and they give us so many giggles at the most inane times. Recently we were stuck in a traffic jam when our youngest said ‘Do you remember the time we crashed into the tree and ran over your foot with the bike lol. That was so funny’.
travelling alone

Zach releasing a butterfly

  • Confidence can be a killer but I’ve learned that I am strong and I am capable and I can deal with any shit that’s thrown at me. For example when we got to the airport 24 hours late in Serbia for our plane to Athens so we just hopped on a plane that was leaving 45 minutes later for Thessaloniki. We arrived in Thessaloniki at 3am and caught a train down to Athens. It’s the only time I’ve ever travelled 1st class lol.
  • The media is a big load of bullshit that shouldn’t be trusted.
  • Emotions do not make you who you are: sadness, anger, homesickness, they all pass. You are not your emotions.
  • Life should be enjoyed. We’re only on this planet for such a short amount of time; Chill out, slow down, take your time and enjoy the moment.
  • The world is not a dangerous place. It is just different and that should be embraced. Embrace difference and enjoy it for what it is.
  • People’s needs across the globe are all the same. Whether it be shelter, food, love & warmth or pleasure. Our fundamental needs do not change.
  • Now is the best time to travel. Don’t wait for some non-existent time that may never appear, travel now. Kids, regardless of age, will always benefit from travel.
  • If the internet goes down we’re doomed. It’s why I still rely on pen and paper!
  • The ocean is our special place but we still have a very healthy respect of it. Whether it be learning to snorkel, dive, surf or swim, the ocean will always be our happy place.
  • Embrace the unexpected. I was gutted when I realised we couldn’t go to the Grand Canyon but instead we went to The Valley of Fire and it was better than I could have imagined. We had a fantastic time.
  • Children respond really well to (age-appropriate) responsibility. It’s gives them purpose and a sense of contribution and worthiness. Do not deny them the chance to work on those skills.
  • The world is a magical place and kids learn so much from seeing and experiencing it. I could write a thesis on what travel has taught my kids, although I’ll save you from reading it!
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Trying chocolate in Costa Rica

  • Life should not be meaningless. Don’t get sucked into bad jobs, boring lives and thinking you have to stick it out. Just don’t.
  • I have the power to change anything within my life. I am in control of the path I take. Somebody once said to me that I’m the type of person who always gets everything they want. That’s true. That’s because I work really hard to make things happen.
  • Taking time out from my kids is not selfish, it’s a self-preservation necessity. I will not feel guilty for looking after myself.
  • We will never have enough money to do what we really want to. It doesn’t suck. We do other things instead and we’re really grateful for the opportunities we have made.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy. I no longer compare myself to anybody other than the person I was yesterday.
  • You don’t need school if you have the world and access to books. World-schooling is an amazing experience for kids to see how real life actually works.
  • Experiences beat possessions every single time. We swapped presents for experiences and will never regret it. We’ve been zip-lining in Guatemala, camel riding in Morocco, island hopping in Australia.
  • It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to fuck up. It’s ok to make mistakes. In fact not only is it ok, it’s GOOD to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and we learn more about ourselves in times of adversity than in good times.
  • We are so indulged it’s untrue. We have visited many places that still do not have access to clean drinking water or a safe place to sleep, yet we seem preoccupied with how many bathrooms our mansions have.
  • Your comfort zone will not protect you. It will destroy you. Strive deeper and you will learn so much more about yourself and your capabilities.
  • Travelling is not about numbers. There are two types of traveller; those that count countries like they’re tokens and those that appreciate and look deeper. Travel for meaning.
  • Our media, our government, our education system, our financial system seek to control and divide us mere mortals. In order for them to survive, they must create fear through hatred. Open-mindedness is the key to a happier life.
  • Map reading is a critical skill that I am teaching all of my kids.
  • Independence is crucial for our children if we want them to be successful in life.
  • Your only obstacle in life is yourself. Far too many people say to me ‘I haven’t got the balls to do what you do…’. The only thing standing in our way, is the limitations we place upon ourselves.
  • There is nothing I cannot do or cannot learn to do.
  • Nerves are a healthy sign of respect. Acknowledge them, invite them in and see what they can teach you about yourself.
  • Bargaining is a skill I need to improve.
  • I cannot please everyone; some people will never understand why we travel. Those are not my type of people.
  • I cannot live without travel. It is the essence of who I am and who I want to be.
  • Travelling has enabled my kids to be adventurous and to grasp new opportunities with relish rather than fear. They are not frightened of change or difference and for that I will be eternally grateful.
travelling alone

Travelling alone to Panama with kids

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Over 50 things I learned from travelling alone with kids

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3 comments
  • RaiyaAugust 1, 2018 - 6:51 am

    Really admire you Emma, I hope we meet again one day.  Big hugs. X

  • RaiyaAugust 1, 2018 - 7:01 am

    ps. welcome to Bucharest .. I’ll feed you and show you all my city.  It’s time we had a chance to chat, as we never have had so before .   Wishing you the best.

  • EmmaAugust 1, 2018 - 3:33 pm

    Thank you Raiya 🙂

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