We like drinking good coffee and there are exceptional coffee joints in Cape Town. In fact, the best coffee shop in the world (and the coolest) is located around the corner from our apartment. It’s called Truth.
We’re starting to think about our eventual integration back into Toronto, reflecting on our trip and planning our future. There’s no better place to do this than at Truth. The cafe’s unique decor is steampunk. The coffee is superior. The staff is super friendly.
Our trip has been about realizing dreams. We dreamed about exploring the world as a family and we dreamed about reclaiming our time so that we could use it to learn and grow together. Our blog has documented a lot of the day to day, the ups and downs, the places we’ve seen, the people we’ve been lucky enough to meet. The biggest highlight has been seeing the girls’ growth and development over the last six months. We’ve also learned a lot along the way about how to structure the trip and that structuring has been very important. We have a lot of time. How we allocate and use that time hugely influences how much we enjoy the trip. This is how we allocate our time – in a day we typically do three things: we read, we play, we explore.
We’ve been to some unbelievable places: Halong Bay, Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang, Central Hanoi, Old Fort Kochi. Many of these are beautiful UNESCO Heritage sites. We’ve also spent extended periods of time staying in apartments in big cities: Da Nang, Ernakulam, Kampot, Jaipur, Cape Town. The latter experiences have afforded us a glimpse into what living is like in communities very different from our own. We’ve gotten to know vendors at the market. We’ve befriended local families. We became friends with the creative class of Ernakulum. We feel greatly enriched by this experience.
As we’re traveling with kids, we quickly learned that regular playtime is very important. Kids notice everything around them. For example, we passed some elephants on the street in Kerala that Louise and I barely noticed (we had gotten so used to seeing them around). The girls, however, not only saw the elephants, they also saw the texture of the animals’ skin, the seats that the elephant handlers used, the painting on the pachyderms. The girls took in everything about the animals, just as they take in everything about everything else they see. All of their observations can lead to a sensory saturation; the girls reach a point where they simply don’t want to look anymore at temples, animals, other beautiful sights. That’s when regular play comes in: we visit a park, throw a frisbee, read a book or colour. Regular, fun downtime (a lot of it) is necessary for traveling with kids. It sounds like a truism (and it is), but it’s a truism that is easy to lose sight of when everything around us is different and exciting and worth visiting. Often it’s been better to visit a playground or stay in and colour, rather than go out and visit more new sights.
If we accomplish anything from this trip, we’d like our family to have an awareness of how big and varied and diverse the world is. Over the last six months the girls have seen and thought about issues like poverty, pollution, inequality and politics. We’ve had many conversations based on their real time observations; conversations that we’ve only been able to have because we’ve had the luxury of being able to make time for them. The girls understand these issues and have formed their own opinions about them.
We also have a commitment to teach the Toronto District School Board’s grade three curriculum. We brought workbooks with us that cover the Ontario grade three math curriculum. We’ve had terrific support from the girls’ teachers to support the girls’ participation in class projects. The teachers have made some great online learning resources available to us. We’ve had French conversationalists support the girls in Da Nang and Cape Town. In Jaipur, the girls had a math tutor. The girls read voraciously and for that, the Toronto Public Library has been indispensable. All of these pieces, taken together, have taken care of grade three. This reading, or learning component of our travels has enhanced our overall experience by balancing out the exploration and play components.
Our travels haven’t been without their difficulties. We talked about the obvious ones in an earlier post: Shigella, drunk taxi drivers, Shingles. A more interesting challenge of this trip, however, has been learning how to manage all the time that we reclaimed. Now that we have all this time, how do we use it? To be sure, we read, play and explore, but we also have “open time” and there are moments when boredom sets in. To manage boredom, we made it clear that each of us is responsible for her or his own contentedness. We each need to find the things that engross us. The girls latched onto this and have really creative ideas for how to spend their time – of course they do, they’re 8 year-old kids. Saga and Ida’s creative ideas for how to spend their open time have been exciting to witness.
We wanted, from the very beginning, for this journey to be an adventure. That’s why we bought one-way tickets to Cambodia with nothing planned beyond a two month reservation of a house along the Kampot River. After all, if we had planned everything before we left, we wouldn’t be on an adventure. We adopted a practice of, as much as possible, just saying “yes” to new opportunities as they presented themselves. In Jaipur, a friend invited us to feed a sacred cow. Of course we said yes! The practice of saying yes as much as possible has enriched the spontaneous, unplanned aspect of our travels.
When we return to Toronto, we want to retain some of the time and flexibility that we’ve reclaimed on this journey. Entrepreneurship is one great way of doing this. We’ll set up an importing enterprise when we get back. We decided to do this early on in our travels and have devoted part of the trip to developing different aspects of the business. This has been fun, exciting and engrossing. It will be the subject of another blog post. Stay tuned.