I’m very proud of my parents who travelled to India – RURAL India – to visit and catch up with us during our year-long travel journey away from home. They have had a culturally enriching and diverse experience here on the ground in Buldana for the past two weeks. As you have previously read from my blog posts, living here is tough work and when no tourist industry exists (perhaps except for the unofficial Dr Moses Tours!) it makes it an even tougher life. But what better way to try and understand a different society and way of life to our own than to immerse yourself into it. Rather than avoid the unknown my parents Rob and Pete have fully embraced what is quintessential rural India and taken the good with the bad and experienced that people are kind, thoughtful, and loving. Of course there are also people who are abrupt, challenging, and ignorant. It is the state of human nature in any country. There are many lessons learnt on the road and that’s the uniqueness of long term travel. I’m all for more people stepping outside and beyond the comfort of themselves, and be the kind of people who challenge themselves to live outside, for a period of time at least, the relative comfort of their homes. It’s also a lesson to stop listening and watching too much of the news broadcasts and get out into the world.
I think the highlight of my parents stay here has been meeting the young 12-year old orphan-shoe shiner Master A. I think they’ve caught up with him nearly every day this week, down at the local law courts where he works polishing shoes, and although they don’t share a common language or live in the same neighbourhood or eat the same foods as Master A, they connected to this boy on a level that we as humans underestimate greatly most of the time: a level of humanity. Of course they have also enjoyed visiting numerous villages and seeing how village life actually occurs, and the various local labour intensive industries of brick making, farming, roadside working and so on.
When people opt for a life of travel, they are prepared to some extent to come out of their shell, for us out of our predominantly western influenced fear mongering media feed bubble, and experience what life is like for millions of people on the outside of that paradigm. And as day by day goes by we discover it’s all okay – the world is actually a place to explore and appreciate and learn from. We start challenging our priorities: Do we need to work zillions of hours in an office, do we need to buy that new red sofa or embark on that huge home renovation, do we need to stay inside a classroom for 12 years to learn about the world and ourselves? It might not be an easy process adjusting to a new world view, change is hard for human beings, but it’s overwhelmingly rewarding.
This is what our family felt like when we first travelled to Vietnam in 2012 on our maiden Sixbackpacks journey from Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam. We met so many people doing so many amazing things outside of their bubble that it became a beating mantra for us when we returned home and went back to work, school and normal life – we are travellers. And that mantra has stayed with us since then, taking us to Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia, Thailand and now finally across the world throughout 2017.
And it certainly is no easy or simple task travelling with children. I read many travel blogs by individuals and couples and lament what they see and how they get about. So much easier. Of course travelling anywhere on your own or with a partner is more straightforward and less cumbersome. Our travel is one that has slowed down considerably with four children, even standard sightseeing is harder as we deal with and manage six different personalities, perspectives, and priorities. But that is the reality of family travel – it’s slower and it’s more intentional. I like the fact that we may not get to visit the centuries old Buddhist caves that are four hour’s drive away, but we have managed to save a two-week old pup Roadie from death on the harsh streets of Buldana and bring it back to health. Travel is about learning to accept that what we experience on our travels is our journey and no one else’s. It is what it is and it is what it isn’t.
As we said farewell to my parents this morning we know we have something special shared between all of us – a shared experience and an understanding of what that experience felt like, looked like, smelt like. We were here together and can now fully appreciate a place where we lived and the experiences occurred. And as time passes and we all grow older, we will always have these travel memories. They may become fragments of memories about a person or a place or a feeling, but this is what makes family travel so wonderfully powerful – the shared ownership of stories and reflections on time spent together outside the bubble.
PS Mum and dad are currently in New Delhi exploring the great wonders of India’s capital and northern Indian Golden Triangle area where they will visit the Taj Mahal and stay at Jaipur.