So Hans Christian Andersen once said, “To travel is to live”, a quote which still rings true today, and one I take my mind to often.
It was my plan this year when making my resolutions (most of which are either already out or on their third attempt) to travel more and tick some new countries off my ‘living bucket list’, you know, the one you do when you’re alive and not on your way out!
Having done a fair amount of travelling and backpacking in the pre-kids life, we’ve both always had wandering souls. Then when the little one’s arrived, several ‘sit by the pool with the kids all day’ trips prevailed, but a couple of years back we decided to give the traditional Mediterranean holidays a miss, and try something a little more adventurous, something that would enlighten us, surprise us, and ultimately teach us.
I’m a strong believer in travel being good for the soul, and for me it’s more of an escape. An escape into another country yes, one with more sun is always nice, but also an escape away from the norm, from work, from chores, and into the lives of others, to see where and how they live, to learn their cultures, to speak their language, to recognise that the world is a big place, and to immerse myself in the unknown. Having said that, I also feel that travelling is a way to ensure life doesn’t escape us, that we make the most of every minute with those we love.
So we’ve recently returned from this years first trip, a lovely week on the French Riviera. Quick flights from Bristol to Nice made it easy and our apartment, booked via AirBNB was just perfect, in a prime location overlooking Nice’s Port, amongst beautiful coffee shops, French restaurants and super yachts!
The children were a little apprehensive when they learned there wasn’t a pool joined to the accommodation, and also when they found out I had made a huge, detailed plan of all the sights I wanted to see, which included miles of walking. But to be fair, they were good as gold and relished the opportunity to explore, which they thoroughly enjoyed, as did us older kids.
A whole, unexpected day of thunder and lightning storms and torrential rain, which you could see rolling across the sky above the sea, meant we got drenched walking the Promenade de Anglais the first day, but we laughed the whole time, jumped in puddles, and went in the sea in our clothes, as we were already completely soaked through!
The sun did appear for a day trip to Antibes and Cannes, and a second to Monaco and Monte Carlo, both of which were just breathtaking, certainly the world renowned coastline journey we took.
Being in these particular destinations certainly opened our eyes to how the other half live, with the affluent houses, cars, shops, but I loved that the kids took it very much in their stride. Our Son is almost 12, so he recognised the likes of the Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and all the other supercars casually driving the streets, but I don’t think either of them realised the significance of being in these cities and the reputation that proceeds them.
I loved the fact that they casually soaked it all up but also that they questioned lots of things, like why there was a mini Statue of Liberty on the beachfront in Nice, why Monaco was a different country that we didn’t need our passports for and only 3 miles long, and why they didn’t sell Cadbury’s chocolate!
Ultimately, we all learned a lot that week. Yes we learnt about the areas we visited and the history of their infrastructure, that Monaco Pizza’a are amazing, Cannes has the best McDonalds, and Monte Carlo is somewhere we could never afford to live (or eat!), but we also learned, or at least reminded ourselves that the Danish author was spot on, that travelling really is living.
Travelling for children certainly broadens their perspectives on life, gives them confidence and gets them excited to adventure. Smells, tastes, sights all teach them the differences from around the world, as it does us, and our little ones are always so grateful for the opportunity to travel, and they appreciate that others may not be so fortunate, which melts my heart. We laughed, we learnt, and we saw new sights we may never see again, and got our passports stamped in Monaco! We had just the best time, all of us, together.
Coming back was difficult. Arriving home to a rainy UK, missing the French coastline wasn’t great but we’ve made more memories. Teddies bought at Monaco’s Palace Square, about a thousand photographs taken and the compulsory magnets collected means this trip will stay with us forever, which we’ll talk about, reminisce about and hold deep in our hearts.
It’s amazing how in different countries some things are exactly the same, and how other things are completely different, and this really is an eye-opener for children and a great way to teach them that we don’t all live the same, that people are individual, that cultures are different, and that that’s ok, that’s the world we live in… and what better way to teach your children, and yourself about the world than to see it first hand.
Next stop, Holland!