Tag Archives: travelling with kids

Packing Practice

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I’ve been rather anxious about our packing plan… we intend only to take two bags for the five of us. The reason for the minimalism is because of the lack of hands:children ratio. Our children are of an age where we need to hold their hands while manoeuvring through busy airports, on buses and so on. It’s tricky trying to look for signs of where to go, keeping an eye on the baggage for safety and watching the children all at once. In fact, as we recently discovered in Gatwick, it’s near on impossible.

So for that reason we are limiting ourselves to two bags. With Orla in the ergo on my back that leaves one hand per boy. Trolleys don’t help much as they still take up two hands and are only effective inside the Airport.

Some friends came over on Sunday and I showed them the two bags we were taking… I saw them wince. “For all five of you?” they tentatively questioned. “Yes, that’s it for all five of us” I confidently chimed. Inside my confidence was slipping, it had reached my knees…

So the afternoon was spent packing. A trial run. Into one bag went all the kit, binoculars, scope, camera (with new super zoom lens), animal and bird id books, tracking book, map of America, laptops with power leads, bat detector, bushcraft and camping items, first aid kit and head torches. Into the other went the five stuff sacks with the clothes. Rob’s is biggest, then mine and the three kids have smaller ones, one wash bag for us all and our travel towels. Into our various little hand luggage bags went the activity books and cards, iPods, and other little items of amusement for the car and plane. Nappies and wipes will have to go in there too.

My confidence is happily reinstated as we comfortably fit everything we need into our two bags and actually had quite a lot of room for all sorts of extra last minute essentials. They even came in just under the allowed weight.

It’s one month today until we flight to New York but it’s less than three weeks until we leave our rooted home here in Cornwall and begin our adventure… travelling light!

The sound of silence

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Orla is noisy! To be honest, as a family we are all pretty loud but Orla is particularly into yelling and shouting at the moment. On a Wednesday she goes to a child minder so I can work more effectively (I do work Mondays and Tuesdays but I’m never quite sure how I have managed to get stuff done by the end of the day, it just sort of happens). I drop her off before dropping the kids to school.

On a Monday and Tuesday she shouts at me the whole way home from school because she wants to stay and play. I open the windows and turn the volume up on the stereo. This morning after I dropped the boys off the car was silent – I had never before fully appreciated that moment of clam and actual excitement about the day ahead knowing I could achieve so much without interruption. Then it dawned on me – From February 12th I shall not experience that sound of silence and anticipation of achievement for a whole year.

Reality hitting!

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Well the cows passed their TB test and early tomorrow morning will be loaded in a lorry and taken to Exeter market to be sold. Suddenly it all feels a bit more real! Yesterday I read a blog by a woman, Kate Hand, who has recently relocated her family from Ireland to Spain and although on the whole it’s amazing, but the kids are struggling at times – naturally. Since reading her post, A Heavy Heart I’ve been pondering just how I will cope with all the “I hate travelling, I want to go home” ‘s I’m going to hear. And I’m sure I will hear a lot of them.

Alfie came in a few mornings ago from playing outside, kicking his feet about and looking sad. “What’s up Alf?” I asked with concern. “When we go travelling I won’t see Rosa for a whole year” and with that he burst into tears. Rosa is his best friend who lives with her mum in a caravan on our farm. Alfie adores her and she him.

And so a conversation was had about all the things we will miss when we are away and about the friends old and new that we will be seeing around the world. I’m going to miss Ethel our dog… BIG TIME! She’s old now and the reality is that there is a chance she may not be around when we get back. I’ll miss our house too as I love it here. Alfie wished we could take Ethel and Rosa with us and I explained over his sobs that we couldn’t. Missing things isn’t a good reason not to go. Over coming the fear of missing things is a great skill which can set them up for a lifetime of adventure.

And so with the sale of our cows, some of which we love like pets, the reality, both the good and bad is setting in. Their sale equals freedom to travel but I will miss them.

Fitting in the Appalachians

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The USA is vast. Just getting across it will take so much of our time. We only get 3 months on a standard visa.

I’ve been listening to an audio book by Bill Bryson in which he describes the Appalachian Mountain range and an email this morning from a fellow blogger who lives in those parts has left me thinking perhaps we should cut out the south and explore the central mountain region between Virginia and Kentucky more. The history of the region is fascinating, shrouded in mystery and intrigue and has played a key role in American history as a barrier to East to West travel. In 1999 a BBC correspondent Richard Lister talks about his journey to Sneedsville and the history of the Melungeon people of the region… I wonder if much has changed in the last 14 years – if the town is any easier to reach and if the knowledge of the first settlers to America is any further forward, perhaps having empowered the people as he suggests? I’m intrigued! The idea of such independent people living self sufficiently in the mountains commands huge respect. Yet their reasons for developing such self reliance is down to persecution and prejudice.

During our journey I am hoping to learn far more about the history of racial clashes from both long ago to present day and it’s something we hope to teach our children about. Knowledge and understanding of conflict from both sides are the tools we need to arm our children with so as to prevent perpetuating the ignorance which is the ultimate cause of most prejudice. But this can’t be done through education alone… diversity must be experienced.

Living in ethnically diverse England, albeit in one of the least ethnically diverse and more racially prejudice regions (possibly the only thing I don’t like about Cornwall), I am somewhat sheltered from the racism in the rest of the world and our children are thoroughly under exposed to alternative live styles and cultures (except perhaps of the hippy variety). Yet to move forward as a united race of people we must teach our children to respect and indeed welcome diversity and allow them to experience as many races and cultures as possible in a positive and enjoyable way.

The geology of the mountain range is fascinating too, having been born 480 million years ago, they were then almost entirely eroded to flat plains before being up lifted again. The second uplift rejuvenated the springs which had caused the erosion and are now, again, following ancient folds and faults or carving out new canyons through layers of hard ancient rock, exposing the layers and features.

In addition to a rich human history and stunning geological features it is also an area rich in diverse wildlife. The southern stretch of the Appalachian Mountains was never touched by glaciers and therefore is home to a range of “slow growing” species such as salamanders and interesting snails. The Ice Age induced extinctions in the north of the mountain range didn’t occur in the south and therefore the rivers in the region are rich with crayfish and mussels. There is also incredible bird life there from bald eagles to the scarlet tanager. And as for mammals… well, as the boys keep reminding me… “mummy, you’re scared of bears!”

So the question is… do we cut out Memphis and the Mississippi in lieu of the mountain trails, wildlife and people of the Appalachian Mountains – Or do we wizz through them to reach to south, to the culture, music and cuisine, to join poor boys and pilgrims with families, down the highway, through the cradle of the civil war, to bounce on in to Graceland?

Make hay while the sun shines!

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We are being asked a lot about our motivation for heading off around the world with three such small children and although I gave a brief explanation in my initial post I though I would take the time to give a bit more detail.

Rob and I didn’t really travel much in our youth. Although I had been on some amazing family holidays, the idea of back packing never really appealed. I didn’t have specific interests enough to have gone to particular places, it would have been aimless and wasted in hindsight. Our early twenties were spend studying for our degrees – Rob’s in Environmental Conservation and Countryside Management and mine in Nursing. After that we got married and had kids. Due to a pregnancy related condition I suffered with, the 6 years it took to have our 3 children resulted in a total of 27 months of bed bound misery for me and a housebound prison for Rob, my nursemaid and in pregnancies #2 and #3 a single dad.

Now that our youngest is walking and nearly talking and we certainly aren’t having any more, the world seems our oyster! Getting out and going places with three kids is positively easy when you’ve had 27 months of barely getting down the stairs or out of the front door.

As is the natural way of getting older and growing up, the last few years has seen us honing our interests and hobbies. Luckily for our marriage our interests have grown and developed together and so our aims for what we want to get out of our travelling experience are mutual.

Although we have long been into bird and nature watching we have both become fascinated by geology and natural history in just the last couple of years, along with a developing passion for science and astronomy. Britain is lucky enough to be host to an incredible array of birds and wildlife but lets get real… to really experience the natural world we need to pack up and move on.

But what about the children? Why don’t you wait until they are older and can remember it?

Well, what if we wait a few years until Orla is old enough to remember it and something happens and we can’t do it? Not wanting to sound morbid but who knows what is around the corner – from cancer to car crashes, childhood illnesses and mental breakdowns. Right now we have our health, we can afford to do it so why wait! Yes I know Orla won’t remember much of it, but it will help to shape who she is and you know what… when she is my age and has a family of her own she could take off and see the world with them and learn about the things that interest her.

The kids are young enough for me to home school them – it’s just a bit of reading and writing and their maths will soon sharpen up with a bit of pocket money. They aren’t overly fussed about friendships, their own space, fashionable clothes and so on. They eat what they’re given and don’t require vast amounts… They’re pretty portable really!

And so there you have it. That, in a nutshell, is it. When asked why? my answer is why not? The sun is shining right now… so lets make out hay now and it will feed us for the winters ahead.

Finding the time.

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Plans for our big trip have largely been on hold throughout August as I’ve been struggling to keep up with the day job whilst the kids have been on school holidays… best get used to it though as there won’t be school hours 9-3 while we’re on the road!

I’ve been preparing for a conference in London for the Charity I work for, which is on Thursday. After that we’ll be getting down to the serious business of getting rid of stuff and preparing for the trip. In particular we have an awful lot of Cows to sell!

Another task I took on over August is the involvement of the ninemonthsof.com campaign in which I am blogging weekly recipes to raise money and awareness for Pregnancy Sickness Support. Given that we are going to be leaving in just over 5 months and the campaign lasts nine months (clue in the name) I will obviously be continuing the recipe blog whilst on the road around the States and Canada. So expect a lot of one pot campervan wonders as well as a vegetarian Hari Krishna dish or two and a prehistoric cave man style dish…

Which brings me onto the news that we have managed to get a wwoof placement at a stone age living skills centre in the Colorado Rockies! To say we are excited would be a major understatement!

This summer has seen vast amounts of outdoor cooking for us and the wonderful Daddy Dean bought me a pair of fantastic dutch ovens (yes, ha ha) for our 7th wedding anniversary. In case you’re not quite sure what a dutch oven is (the cooking type not the smell trap type) then let me enlighten you… A large case iron pot with a well fitting lid which you use on a campfire to create an oven environment for cooking everything from stews to cakes and bread. The lid is designed so you can put hot coals on the top too in order to control the temperature inside. This weeks recipe will be a new campfire dish I made specifically for my new ovens but can obviously also be cooked indoors so go on and have a gander at the nine months of team page.