I love to travel with my kids.
I also hate traveling with my kids.
It can be crazy and stressful, but my kids add a new perspective to the experience. We learn to be more patient and to observe things we might not have noticed...like all the dangerous cliffs my baby could fall from, that sort of thing. We take things a lot slower and we more easily connect with new friends around the world. Traveling with a baby has it's unique challenges (seriously, we have changed nappies on rocks, next to castle walls, on our knees, on the beach...you name it!), and traveling with older children also has it's unique joys and challenges.
One way that we developed to further connect with our older children while traveling was to take them out one by one on Mummy/Daddy dates. This has provided some of our favourite memories around the world!
Launching out to a foreign city on my own took quite a bit of bravery from me. I am so used to traveling with Ross and he is the one who is good at all the practical, useful stuff - like directions and following a map. I am good at finding delicious food, discovering hidden markets or choosing fabulous souvenirs, but I'm kinda terrible with directions. Going out alone with my 12 year old to a new city was an out-of-my comfort-zone thing to try, but Levi and I were excited and up for the adventure!
My son and I decided to explore Prague together. This magical city from my dreams was so fabulous that I just couldn't get enough of it! We were living an hour and a half away from Prague in the small town of Budikov. As an Australian, I had never driven on the right side of the road and was too terrified to try it in a big city, so Levi and I caught a bus to the central station in Prague, we listened to an audio-book together for the bus ride, and it was so fun to hang out just the two of us!
The day was crisp and cold and as we walked into the centre of town, we passed a small market with a few stalls and we were able to watch a weaving demonstration and buy a few trinkets.
We had booked a tour of Prague, but before it began, I proudly treated my child to a sample of the best hot-chocolate in the world! Ross and I had made the discovery during our sneaky date a few weeks earlier, that yes, Prague was not only mystical and magical, but it is home to the creamiest and most delicious hot chocolate on the planet!! Levi was impressed.
We had seen the Astronomical Clock before, but we took the time to climb up to the clock tower and look over the city roof-tops. The people looked like tiny ants and we searched for landmarks that we knew and giggled about how Levi is scared of heights and that I accidentally walked around the tower in the wrong direction and annoyed all the other visitors.
I let Levi choose what to eat for lunch, and we gobbled down an enormous sausage from a street vendor before we ran off to the meeting spot for our tour.
We had chosen to see the city in a way that would not be possible for our family of 7 - by bike. Our last hilarious family activity on bicycle was at the Kinderdijk windmills in the Netherlands. Although fun, it had all gone awry and I knew we weren't ready as a family to bike ride through a city!
I had never been on a bike tour, and I can now say that it was fabulous, although it was slightly terrifying watching my 12 year old zoom ahead with the tour guide through busy city intersections. I tried to tell him to stay back with me but he was enjoying a bit of independence and having the time of his life!
Prague really is magical! Levi and I discovered quirky new parts of the city landscape and it's fascinating history. We learnt about the Charles bridge, Cerny's creepy baby statues and the John Lennon Wall.
For more on the creepy babies - check out this blog post about some fun and crazy experiences in Prague!
After the tour we spent ages hunting around the city for the perfect place to eat dinner, and we tried Trdelnik (a delicious traditional pastry) before then we caught the bus home.
We had misunderstood the process to secure a seat on the bus and it was sheer luck that we were able to get our bums on a seat for the way home. After all the seats were full, the bus continued to cram with passengers! People were standing and holding onto nearby seats or the overhead rail. I was surprised at this as it was a 2 hour trip, and in Australia it would never be allowed. I asked the guy next to me what was going on. He had a little smile on his face as he explained to me that even if you are standing, you will still get where you want to go, you just won't be as comfortable. Makes sense.
Taking my son out to explore the world was such a wonderful experience! It was such a fun feeling to be adventurous with my child. We had relied on each other to find our way around and to make the day a success, it was just the two of us, learning and exploring together. Truly, it is those kinds of special memories that made all of our travel trials worth it.
Our trip was such a success that the next week Ross took our 10 year old daughter out for a special Prague trip all of her own. She got to be the only star in all the city photos and they explored Prague castle. She read every. single. plaque. in the museum, and her Dad thus discovered her love of history.
This is the daughter that Ross often clashes with, but when they went out exploring together they had such a bonding and memorable time, they had created a shared memory for just the two of them.
I know that in order to create these kinds of memories you don't need to be a world traveler, of course you can go out and have an adventure close to home. I guess the thing that really drew us together was a combination of;
1. being thrown out of our comfort zones,
2. having the time and space to focus on each other.
These two elements can be created in all kinds of settings. I look forward to continuing this tradition of connection, whether it be in a new foreign city, or a fun place close to home. Because even with all of my flaws and imperfections, connecting with my kids is what parenting is all about!