Can you backpack with your kids?
The road to reaching your epiphany moment – when you decide to eschew the conventions of a practical, typical life, and follow your dreams – has many different routes. Life-altering changes such as personal health scares, the death of a loved one, redundancy or some other moment of crisis are often cited as the trigger for people to take destiny by the horns and pursue the life they long for. Luckily for me though, I arrived at this point without any life-shattering event.
The tipping point, if you can call it that, for my husband and I was simply seeing our two small children grow and realising how time spent as a family is never wasted time. All too soon they would be sucked up into the system of school, college, job, so taking the bold step of world travel with our young brood felt like the right thing to do, right now. First thing I had to do was negotiate my way around my own procrastination tendencies and leap straight in, as we needed to remain focused on what we wanted to do and why we wanted to do it. The plan was to maximize the time we get as a family and the money we had to spend while we were away.
The biggest part of our decision-making time was spent deciding where to go. Our wish list specified places that could offer warmth and beauty within a chilled out and safe environment, so we decided to travel to Laos. We wanted to travel slow and not feel we had to rush from one destination to the next, as we knew that would be (a) expensive and (b) stressful for the kids and us.
Travel with young ones can be unsettling, even when you are just taking a short trip, and repeatedly worrying about packing up and hauling everyone off to the next destination would have been exhausting. Laos was a great choice as we were able to take things at our own pace and not get caught up in the whirling rush of thrill-seeking back packers. When we did choose to travel, like when we took a boat trip down the Mekong to see the magical Irrawaddy dolphins at Si Phan Don, we were able to relax and enjoy it and went at a pace that we felt comfortable with.
One of the greatest advantages of travelling with children is that people are generally sympathetic to your needs as family, particularly if they have children of their own. Kids have a fantastic ability to immerse themselves in whatever situation they find themselves in, and easily started conversations with people we met along the way. Although we didn’t do any hiking tours through the jungle or venture too far off the beaten track, we didn’t feel like we missed out on anything because of travelling with little ones. The laidback atmosphere, mesmerising beauty and exotic peacefulness of Laos has a dramatic effect and enriched all of our lives, both as individuals and as a family.
—By Abby Wilkinson. She is a freelance writer and mother of three exuberant children. Born and bred in the UK, she has spent time living in the US and regularly travels to Africa and around Europe. She loves to draw upon her experiences and observations of travel and motherhood in her writing.