I have always traveled. And by the time I came “of age,” nothing could stop me. Whenever I had any money set aside, it would go for a plane ticket somewhere – the more exotic the better. When I was five or six years old, I went sobbing to my mother that I had never been to Paris! Soon after my boyfriend (later to be my husband) and I met, we boarded a plane for a six-month European adventure. Over the years, when we changed or quit jobs, we hopped on a plane and traveled until the money ran out.
Well, then we grew up, became responsible adults, and started taking “vacations.” But we still continued to see as much of the world as possible. When we decided to add to our family, we wondered whether you could be responsible parents and still take a baby to Malaysia. Or Qatar. Or Mozambique. Or Gozo. Or Pantelleria. Or . . . Of course, the answer turned out to be a resounding yes! And if you are really lucky – and if you work at it a bit – your child can catch the travel bug early, the way our daughter, Yao Yao, has.
After bringing her home, we started out by taking her on an easy trip to Harbour Island in the Bahamas, and it was a big success. We have since taken her back there four times. Five or six months later, we rented a house in Umbria with another family. From there on out, we felt like the world was our oyster – and her oyster as well.
Yao Yao has been everywhere – Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Guatemala, Belize, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, Croatia, Egypt, Mozambique, South Africa, Qatar, Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts, Mexico . . . whew! And that’s just for starters. Some of these countries she has been to several times. Well, you get the picture. We travel a lot. And we do it together.
I will never forget when the mother of one of Yao Yao’s schoolmates was appalled that we were taking her to Egypt. I reminded her there were other children in Egypt and that Yao Yao wouldn’t be the only one! I realized then that not everyone is aware how wonderful it can be to travel as a family. It doesn’t have to be scary, and there is a lot you can do and see and still keep your child safe. As a child, Yao Yao sees the world through a different lens than we do, and sometimes seeing it through her eyes is eye-opening for us, too. Because she’s seen so much of the world, she’s become a better citizen of it. She has seen abject poverty and unbelievable wealth, and her experiences have made her a more empathetic child. She has swum in the ocean with giant turtles, sat with a balian (spiritual healer) in Bali, saw me run with the bulls in Pamplona (okay, not my best move), flown over African plains with a sea of animals below her, and gone whitewater rafting in Argentina. And she is only 12!
My desire is simple: to share some of the experiences that can be had traveling with children, the good, the bad and the down right fantastic. And to share Yao Yao’s view and tips for kids having a great time, no matter where they are! I hope you enjoy the voyage half as much as we do!