Are we really ready to do this?

So far, it seems that all the travelers we’ve seen ­– and we’ve seen many – are in in their twenties: Aussies, Japanese, Germans, Americans, Colombians, Brits, Brazilians, all of them young. Okay, we did meet some retired Canadians (from Comox and Port Alberni, no less!), but we have most certainly not met anyone else with kids. This is not terribly surprising, since this is not exactly a mainstream destination (though a week in Orlando would probably cost as much as 10 weeks here). But we’re also not the most intrepid people we know.  We figure there are quite a few families who would like to do something a bit more “off the beaten path”.  With them in mind, we have created a self-test, which we hope will be useful to friends, family and acquaintances who might be considering third-world travel with children, but want to think the whole thing through a bit first. So sharpen your pencil and try the test. (This is not a fillable pdf; that would be too easy.)

Extended travel with your family: Are you ready?

  1. Getting There

Scenario: After five connecting flights (the first a red-eye), it is now 3 am and you are finally approaching your destination. Midway through the descent, as the plane’s landing gear is coming out, your youngest suddenly throws up all over himself. As you will soon discover, this is not due to turbulence, or the airplane food, but to the classic and extremely contagious 24-hour flu. Though you don’t know it yet, your luggage missed the third connection and will not catch up with you for another 48 hours. How do you react?

A)     Using your child’s home-made biological weapon, you hijack the plane and demand to be flown immediately back to your point of departure.

B)      You throw up too.

C)      Gathering all the sick bags from all the seats within reach, and handing each family member a bottle of hand sanitizer, you stagger off the plane toward Customs and hope that the smell of vomit will not stand in the way of you getting your entrance visas.

  1. Hygiene & Health

Scenario: Your three-year-old drops her saltena on the sidewalk of a busy “developing world” city. Following the 5-second rule, she quickly picks it up and with an impish smile, pops the remainder into her mouth. What do you do?

A)     Immediately administer the Heimlich maneouvre on her.

B)      Shrug your shoulders – it will just strengthen her immune system, won’t it? (Tip: Avoid reading up on the under-five mortality rate in said country.)

C)      Look imploringly heavenward and verify that you still have a sizeable stash of ciproflaxin and oral rehydration tablets on hand.

  1. Sleeping

Scenario: You have been staying in a hostel for 12 days now, sharing a bedroom with your entire family. Somehow, the reality of sharing a bedroom was not something you had given much thought to before leaving. In the middle of the night, it becomes glaringly apparent that someone you love is a Very Noisy Breather, and the young person with whom you are sharing a bed has developed a knack for rolling over repeatedly in the same direction, taking a snatch of covers with him every time and leaving you cold. Suddenly, he rolls back towards you, slamming his right knee into your kidney.

What do you do?

A)     Taking the covers with you, you move to the corner of the room and try to sleep standing up, like an Incan statue. After all, the walls aren’t much harder than the mattress.

B)      Fed up, you march yourself down to the front desk, wake up the poor teenage oaf who has to sleep there, and demand a room of your own. This is what lines of credit are for, isn’t it?

C)      Rummage around in your pack in the dark until you find one of those lovely little blue pills you brought for just such an occasion. Be sure to remember to make a ritual sacrifice* as soon as you get a chance, to appease the sleep gods and hope for better nights to come. (*We recommend you sacrifice something other than your child, as only he will be able to help you when you can’t find the @ sign on the foreign computer keyboards you have to learn to use.)

  1. Eating

Scenario:  Your limited Spanish is not enough to enable you to recognize a single item on the menu. Everyone is tired and cranky and no one wants to walk any further looking for somewhere else to eat. What do you do?

A)     You order one of everything and hope that they like something.

B)      You order the same thing for everyone, in the hopes that if someone doesn’t like his food, at least he won’t feel his brother got a better deal.

C)      You muster up the energy to try to ask for explanations. Stringing together a bunch of raw infinitives, a few large hand gestures, some French spoken with a Spanish accent, and a rather pathetic facial expression or two, you manage to inquire about the food. The answer is just as indecipherable as the menu, so you close your eyes and choose four items at random. With a practiced glare, you communicate to your offspring that they will eat – and enjoy – whatever is put in front of them.

  1. Boredom

Scenario:  Road blockades, taxi strikes, continuing illness, and a very low appetite for museums among the more juvenile members of the family have confined you all to your windowless hostel room for the better part of three days. On the plus side, the children are great independent readers. On the minus side, the batteries in the Kindles have run down and the laptop you need to recharge them has mysteriously died. What do you do?

A)     Digging deep in your mental archives, you recall every camp song and every ghost story you ever knew and entertain the young ‘uns in a way they’ll never forget. What a mom.

B)      Stuffing the airplane ear plugs into your ears, you pull the covers over your head, and let them suffer. It builds character.

C)      Picking up the grimy, smoky-smelling remote control from the bedside table, you turn on the TV and surf the six-channel universe. Lucky for you and them, you stumble across back- to-back episodes of Los Simpsons, which you all watch happily, earning bonus points for teaching the kids Spanish at the same time (Homer-style).

In case it wasn’t obvious, the right answer is always C. C stands for Cope, which one has little choice but to do. It also stands for Creativity and Compromise and Caring (and careful) and Cooperation and Civility, which ought to be on any list of things to bring. So far, I think we’re passing the test.  Eight weeks to go, and lots of fun to be had, as long as we keep our C’s about us…

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