For the past few weeks I’ve been an imposter, of the blogging kind. Steve and I have been holidaying in Malaysia (hello, if you’ve been following!), tripping about with our four-year-old-twins. It seemed like a good time to turn Raising Explorers into a travel blog, just for a while, to try to pass myself off as a travel blogger. My posts have been filled with the usual travel blog trimmings: beautiful places, smiling faces, sunshine, and, in our case, Tiger beer. “Top five” this. “Things to do with kids” that. Blue seas, green forests, white beaches, shining cities, orange sunsets. Did I mention pictures of our kids?
We travelled light and backpacked about. You can read about our Malaysian adventures in Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park, KL Chinatown, Batu Caves, our time relaxing in the rainforest on the Santubong Peninsular in Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo, our wildlife-spotting boat trip in Santubong, things to do in Kuching, and our exploits in Borneo, visiting orang-utans and a fairy cave, if you’re interested.
I have to say, travel blogging is fun! Mostly because it means you have to go on holidays, first. I’ve been totally self-indulgent, of course, raving about our adventures, and I have to apologise… just a bit. I mean, I think there are (possibly) a couple of you out there who have enjoyed reading about our travels (Hi, Mum!), but I’m also sure there were some of you at home thinking, “Just shut up, already. People here have to go to WORK tomorrow! No one wants to have that rubbed in their face by someone sitting on a beach in the tropics, drinking beer. At lunch time!”
To balance things out, I thought I’d pause this week and talk about the reality of travelling with two four-year-olds, warts and all, because, in all honesty, it wasn’t always a party.
So what was the reality of backpacking with preschool-aged kids? Well, in addition to all the amazing experiences that we had (PLEASE read my other posts – we really did have a blast, most of the time), there were times when things weren’t quite so amazing. And here they are…
Captain Sleepy and General Crankypants
Kids get tired when you’re travelling. Alright, we were gone for four weeks, which is not exactly an epic journey, but when you’re constantly on the go, kids get tired. As every parent knows, tired kids are cranky kids. And cranky kids are not good travellers. Blake and Phoebe weren’t tired and cranky all the time, but we certainly had our moments.
I am in awe of some family bloggers who I have encountered in cyberspace, who are scooting around the globe on indefinite world travels with their kids, for months, or even years. Check out Travel with Bender – the Benders have been away for 465 days – with two toddlers! Somehow the kids must get used to being on the road. Perhaps, for them, it’s not as tiring, as they move more slowly, with time to relax and take a breather at each stop. Or their kids have just become more adaptable. For us, four weeks was probably enough. Although I would have loved more time away, the kids were ready to get back to the sanctuary of home. Dorothy wasn’t wrong when she said, “There’s no place like home.” Adventures are fun, but it’s always nice to go home, especially for our kids.
On the road, we zipped about Malaysia, spending three days here, four days there, trying to see as much as we could in the time we had. It wasn’t always relaxing. But then, we didn’t go for a relaxing holiday; we went to see Malaysia.
As for Sleepy and Crankypants… when Miss Phoebs was tired and cranky, we had moments like this… A delightful family photo!
It is actually my favourite family photo. EVER. Phoebe is hilarious. Bring on the 21sts!
Hmmmmm. I’m going to call this pensive.
Sleepy boy is a little more subdued. I think the thumb helps. And Mumble:
Mixing up a few days on the beach, with a few days in the city, then a few days relaxing on the beach, helped break up the trip and alleviate the tiredness.
That’s car-less-ness, not care-less-ness. Don’t get me wrong, the kids LOVE public transport… Almost as much as they love EACH OTHER on public transport. This was in KL:
It is super dooper awesome fun to travel on different modes of transport, but it’s not very conducive to napping. As such travelling around on trains, and buses, and ferries all day long, day after day, can lead to tiredness, and out come Captain Sleepy and General Crankypants. Here we are on the Penang Hill cable car. Things are awesome. We are having a ball whizzing downhill!
Little did we know that at the bottom of the hill, only moments later, following three days without a nap, Cyclone Phoebe was about to make landfall, leaving mass destruction in her wake. I don’t want to go into the gory details, but let’s just say we had to be moved on by a security guard… Yep.
We also did a fair amount of walking. Phoebe and Blake were PHENOMENAL with the amount of walking they did, for four-year-olds. They scaled the stairs at Batu Caves without complaint, AND at the Fairy Cave, outside Kuching in Borneo. They traipsed about KL, Kuching and Penang. Sometimes they were full of beans. At other times they were less enthusiastic. All of this is tiring. It’s no wonder they were buggered after a couple of weeks on the road.
Travelling Malaysia was a VERY different experience to our Californian road trip last year. In the US, we hired a car. The kids slept as we drove, and seemed to be less affected by the movement from place to place. Backpacking, without a car, was a lot tougher. Check out how they crashed when we eventually hired a car on Pulau Langkawi, at the end of our trip. Poor munchkins.
Let’s end with a laugh. Let’s talk spicy food. My children don’t like it. When I cook it, they won’t eat it, so I generally give them something else. The loud complaining about burning tongues is just not worth the effort. That said, it’s probably my lack of talent in the kitchen that has dulled their senses to what food is supposed to taste like, so let’s not blame them.
Going to Malaysia, I had the slightly unrealistic hope that they would jump on board the food tour, and have a bite of char kway teow, or tiny taste of laksa… at least give satay chicken on a stick a go! But in the words of Darryl Kerrigan, I was “dreamin'”. Noodles and rice were pretty much the only Malaysian foods they would eat, and even then, Blake wasn’t too impressed, so he conducted his own Italian food tour of Malaysia.
He had spaghetti bolognese in KL, and Kuching, and on the Santubong Peninsular. He had pizza in the Red Garden hawker’s centre in Penang, and spaghetti and meatballs on Pulau Langkawi. Don’t ask me why spaghetti is preferable to noodles. I have no idea. Actually, I lie. The kid is a tomato sauce demon. That’s why.
Oh, and check out that pool in the background. We went a bit crazy at the end and splurged at a resort.
It’s always hilarious turning up at a fancy joint with your backpacks!
So that’s it… warts and all. There was pain. There were tears. There were tantrums, and brushes with the law. There were puffy eyes. There was screaming. There were times (many) when we all needed to hold hands in a circle to get into and out of the lift, because Phoebe was scared that someone was going to be left behind. We were quite an attraction ourselves, on occasion, and not always a pretty one.
That said, travelling in Malaysia was also a wonderful experience that our children never would have had, had we not ventured offshore: monkeys, orang-utans, caves, rainforests, starfish, headhunters, bats, beaches, new cultures, boats, bikes, spaghetti. Was it worth the effort in the end? Of course it was. After all, travel is as much about overcoming the challenges that the journey throws at us, as enjoying the sights along the way, isn’t it?
What are your experiences of travelling with kids? Backpacking or road tripping? Camping or resorts? Tell me how you do it!
- Santubong, Sarawak: Where the rainforest meets the sea (raisingexplorers.net)
- Ka-Ching? Ka-Chow! Top 5 things to do in Kuching, Sarawak (raisingexplorers.net)
- Orang-utans, Headhunters, and a Fairy Cave: Day Trips Around Kuching (raisingexplorers.net)