Ever since I was a kid I loved writing in journals. I still have those ratty exercise books from my primary school days, now packed away somewhere in storage… I especially like writing when I’m travelling because I have the time and because of the new experiences and emotions that come with travel, meeting new people, visiting new countries, places and seeing new cultures.
These days a lot of what I write about, when I get the chance, relates to the kids. After a year or two away, a lot can change…unlike when you travel as an adult. After a year away, you might have gotten a tan, piled on the kilos from eating a mainly carb (bread and pasta) diet, or maybe lost a few pounds from all the walking and sightseeing. Physically you probably still look the same. That’s not to say, travelling doesn’t affect you – or change your perspective on life. Maybe you’ll have a career change, work less or more, have learnt another language, mastered another skill/hobby, made new friends, discovered or adopted a new belief system, developed a social conscience, decided to become a city/country/of no permanent address person, a UN ambassador, a philanthropist whatever…
What you realise with kids though, is that so much can change in only a few months. I figure instead of buying lots of souvenir travel books I’ll make them their own individual “ travel adventure books” full of personal recordings and photos. My one year old left Australia crawling…. he took his first steps unaided in Santiago as well as got his first scar. It is during these travels that he has uttered his first words, learnt to run, climb and become a toddler (although he still calls himself a bubba!).
I look at photos of my eldest son when we left and then 6 months later, and he looks like a different boy – so grown up. How to remember all the learning and experiences that takes place?? At the time, it feels like they will forever be etched in your memory…maybe they will but there will be so many others competing for space!! So what better way, than to record them!
On the flip side, “home” can change a lot for kids too, especially little ones. Before leaving Australia I made a calendar filled with photos of family and friends. It’s been useful in keeping track of what day it is and to record family/friends b’days. For a little while, my youngest son would look at the photos and insist that pictures of other family members holding him as a baby was either me or his dad.. So, it’s important to not only record life overseas but to remember to bring reminders of life at home, especially of family and friends. My eldest son has adapated quite well to the notion of skyping friends or family, writing letters and sending drawings.
Before leaving the country, my maternal health nurse gave me a great idea. She suggested I help my son write in his own travel journal. I bought a book which we use regularly but instead of writing the conventional stuff like what we saw or did, my son prefers to draw or tell me stories that I could write for him. We do this whenever we feel like it. I look back on the stories and I find that they are a reflection of what he is seeing or experiencing at the time e.g. dinosaurs living amongst volcanoes, reptiles/fish exploring rivers, boys camping in tents, knights and towers, scorpions in the sahara etc. I have recorded other bits and pieces like favourite things/places/food/words etc. Its no surprise that fish n chips was his favourite food while in London or dulce du leche his favourite ice cream flavour when in Chile/Argentina.
I also started a “souvenir” box, a simple tin box where I keep ticket stubs, coins, whatever really. It wasn’t long before my son started a few collections of his own! A coin tin of different coins from our travels, and treasures that he has collected…anything from pine cones, shells, sticks, bottle tops, leaves, feathers etc…..unfortunately, none of this will ever make it back into Australia, but its fun in the making! There are many free museums in London and you can spend the 5GBP, you would normally spend on the entry fee on buying a souvenir book instead (and still support the museum) if you have the extra cash….
Of course the simplest way to record their travel experiences is to take endless photos/videos, enough to fill a computer hard drive!! Even better, give your kid the camera and see what happens! My son has gone through stages where he is happy to take over the picture snapping (means I get to be in some photos!) and we were amazed at some of the photos he has taken. Kids will have their own perspective and view of the world, let them show you!!