I always wanted to travel. I didn't have any specific destination in mind; I just always wanted to be anywhere besides where I was. When I moved from Minnesota to Georgia I thought that urge to be still would settle in my soul but it didn’t. My life had become too routine, too mundane, and when my daughter agreed to travel the world with me I still didn't have a specific destination in mind.
A year before, when my daughter was six, I asked her how she'd feel living in Korea for a year while I pursued a teaching opportunity I had been offered. She declined, so I declined. A year later we are doing short term stays all over the world. I’m a big planner and before we set off on our adventure I made sure my daughter had a say in where we would go. I also learned that no amount of planning can be done when someone is missing home. After the first few days of being away my daughter started telling me she was homesick. I didn’t know how to respond because I didn’t feel like we had a permanent home but I had to do something to help her cope. Here are a few things that have worked:
1. Try to keep some semblance of normalcy.
One way I do this is by giving her an allowance. Before we left, my daughter could earn an allowance. Giving her allowance helps her learn about money management. It also helps with the, “Mommy can you…” moments, which is her asking me to buy her something. Since we are traveling on a budget, it also helps her make decisions about what she wants versus what she needs. I gave her a reloadable Visa gift card and when we go out, instead of having to ask me to buy her things, she can make the choice to purchase it herself.
2. Find a nearby playground or park.
Whenever we go somewhere, the first thing we search for is a playground. She needs to interact with children as much as I need adult time. Every park we have been to, my daughter has been able to find someone to play with, despite language barriers. I also get a chance to relax or strike up a conversation with a parent who can tell me more about free local family fun events. My favorite was a park in Spain that had several obstacle courses.
3. Museums and Amusement Parks.
Museum visits are a must on my list whenever I travel. I like to stop and read every placard and take in every artifact. My daughter likes to look and move on. I have to balance out what I find enjoyable with what she finds enjoyable. We have visited a zoo and went row boating in Spain, we go-karted in Barcelona, we fed monkeys and rode horses in Morocco, recently, we spent a day at an amusement park in Italy. We regularly went on family fun outings. It’s not the same as our weekly trip to the Waffle House after dance practice but it’s something we can both look forward to.
4. Get involved in the decision making.
Sometimes I want to do all of the planning, after all, I am the one paying for everything but I realized, just like any travel companion, if all parties aren’t in agreement about the day’s events, attitudes are bound to be displayed. I let my daughter be involved in all the decision making. Each week we plan where we will go and what we will see. I even let her chose her lessons for each day since she is being worldschooled. Sometimes she wants to do math beyond the 30 minutes of instruction so I let her do math. She’s learning so much every day without the structured lessons I’ve planned. I’m learning a lot too.
5. Keeping in touch.
My phone plan allows me to make free calls to the US and we use FaceTime and Skype to stay in touch with family and friends. Due to the time zone differences we've made the call and connect days on Sunday. We also buy postcards in every city we visit for her to send back to everyone. She even sends postcards to the new friends she has made along the way.
6. One thing in, one thing out.
Before our trip started we had to downsize. It took months of selling and taking things to the Goodwill but we eventually were able to get all we needed in two carry-ons and two backpacks (our personal carry-on items). My daughter wanted to keep all of her toys but that wasn’t feasible so I let her bring two things she thought she absolutely couldn’t live without. She decided on a blue cape, one item that wasn’t replaceable, and all of her mini My Little Ponies. Both my daughter and I love to create things so we also brought along some art supplies. We agreed to stick to the plan of one thing in, one thing out. Whenever we purchase something or make something, we have to get rid of one item in our luggage. This is somewhat difficulty because I never throw away artwork or anything we have created so we have a good friend that I send all of our masterpieces to hold on to until (if) we return. Being able to create and do art helps us with number one, maintaining normalcy.
We’ve ran into some stressful events during our travels. We’ve lost luggage, missed trains, walked in the wrong direction for hours in the heat, we even checked into a hotel that was surrounded by a highway and required either a taxi ride or a walk along the highway to get to the city. Being able to locate a place that is meant for fun and relaxation helps ease the stress. Whenever my daughter talks about missing home I can divert her to the great times she is having while we are traveling. We’ve both had experiences that were new to us. I’ve never rowed a boat or fed monkeys! Those stressful, “I wish I were home" days, absolutely don’t outweigh the “I’m living my dreams” days. We find fun and adventure around every corner. Despite the moments of missing home, we both can say it’s better than the daily routine we had.