Traveling with children dramatically changes the idea of what travel means. I have friends who are “backpacking” mothers. Or so they say… although I don’t really believe it. Or maybe they have the wrong concept of what a backpacker is… The first principle of every backpacker is freedom, uncertainty, the ability to improvise… concepts that clash head-on with the condition of being parents and, therefore, with the fact of traveling with children.
If I look back and remember my backpacking days, I realize that traveling with children is a total fantasy. Backpacking trips are journeys without preparation, without direction. You see an offer for a flight, you call your friend who always agrees with you, you put your old clothes in the backpack… and within hours you’re in the middle of the Serengeti trying to negotiate with a lion in Swahili.
When travelling with children, things change: you have to adapt to the school calendar – that corresponds to the high season, opt for expensive flights, assume that the cost is multiplied by two, three or four, choose a “safe” destination and comfortable accommodation and resign yourself to the fact that the only lions you will see will be inside a zoo or a postcard… and they will not speak Swahili.
When you’re backpacking, you don’t care where you sleep, even if you get eaten by fleas! It’s all part of the adventure and, of course, part of the story for posterity. If it has to be on the floor… On the floor it is! If you end up in a hut hanging from a hammock, you’re going to be the most outsider on Instagram! Buuuuut, my dears… when you travel with children things change. You even feel bad if you get them a sad supplementary bed! (Without realizing, on the other hand, that the kid would be HAPPY to sleep in a hammock hanging between two palm trees). But no, your mentality has changed. Overnight, you’ve gone from being a fearless, adventurous traveler to a dull textbook tourist!
For example, just look at that adventurous spirit that heads the 10 Commandments of the Backpacker… who “adventures” with children? Just thinking about it, inevitably leads you to fall into a pit of trouble. No, when you travel with children you don’t improvise. You need a plan A, a plan B and a plan C. In addition to a health insurance of “ultracoverage”, a safe route verified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hacking the communications of the rebel factions (if applicable) and, most importantly, patience. A lot of patience.
Diametrically opposed to the desire of venturing into remote, unexplored places, lacking any civilization or human trace, without comforts or basic services… No schedules! Where patience ceases to exist, basically because you stop waiting for nothing to happen.
-Well, at some point this week, a bus will have to stop by, right, Mohammed?
-Only Allah knows! -Hurry kills. Me go comb camel.
Normally, the condition of a backpacker has a lot to do with youth too. When you are young, you have been idle almost all year and you travel to get tired. When you travel with children, it seems that 100 years fall on you at once: the tables turn: now what you expect from the holidays is to rest. Rest? How naive!
“Yes, hello? Royal Fashion Family-friendly Hotel? Look, I wanted to ask you if the all-inclusive bracelet also includes an anesthetic and a 24-hour babysitter.”
In short, I don’t believe those who say they’re backpacking with their kids. That’s just pretending. When traveling with children it is impossible not to attend to schedules, days, or places, it is no longer worth getting lost… in case they never find you again! You become more afraid of exotic bugs. Moreover, everything exotic acquires another meaning for you, more negative, because of the lack of control. But, my friends, if there is a real reason not to backpack with children is this: all the luggage you need to carry so that children do not lack anything does not even fit in a hundred backpacks.
I’m a mother, but I keep a lot of that intrepid backpacker I once was – I’ll be a retired hand luggage carrier! And that’s it.