Have Kids Will Travel


There’s a hundred things I should be doing.  I have a list that’s up to number seventy seven and however many things I tick off it doesn’t seem to be diminishing.  I should be packing up my house; wrestling with sticky tape and cramming things into cardboard boxes.  I should be doing this year‘s tax return, this quarter‘s VAT return.  I should be researching the places my children and I are planning to travel to and booking places we’re going to stay because in two weeks time we’re moving out of the rented house where we’ve been living for the past two years; a white hilltop cottage with panoramic views of the sea and the South Downs, and setting off to the Far East on a year long trip that will take us across Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Fiji and finally Australia.      However I’m not doing any of the things I’m supposed to be doing.  Instead I’m floundering around in the waves on a rare warm October morning, floating back and forth like a piece of flotsam, beneath the towering white cliffs of the Seven Sisters.  For the first time in the past month my list-filled brain is still and for the past hour it’s as if the boys and I have already embarked upon our adventure.  As if already that trick that comes with traveling has occurred, where the past and the future diminish and the present sharpens in perspective and outshines everything else.  The boys are on the beach, immersed in collecting a barrel load of rusted wrought iron that has washed up onto the shore; bits of machinery, old bolts, cogs and cranks, hoarding them as if they were pieces of pirate’s silver. 

    It has been a stressful morning.  My five year old, Orly, awoke at five convinced that the R2D2 fridge magnet he’d mistaken for a piece of popcorn and eaten last night was asking him to join the dark side.  I’d mumbled something about using the force to combat the problem, fallen back to sleep only to be woken again at six by our next door neighbors crowing cockerel, a doodle of which he’s lost from his “cock a doodle doo”. Meanwhile we could hear mooing and discovered that a cow had got into the garden through the gap in the fence and trampled over the lawn. 

    In the midst of all of this Pete the postman arrived with a large box.  Finally, our backpack.   It’s a forty five litre backpack with wheels from The North Face, small enough to be a carry-on, light enough for me to carry, big enough I hope to fit all the things we’ll need for the next year. 

    “This is going to be our home,” I told the boys, smacking the rucksack as the cow strolled nonchalantly past the kitchen window chewing a mouthful of grass.

    “Will we live in it?” Orly asks.

    “Our things will live in it.  We’ll live beside it.”

    Pete the postman had looked at its size and shaken his head doubtfully.   So had Steve the shepherd who arrived on his quad bike to capture the cow. As our hot bagels were burning under the grill, accompanied by the sound of a shrieking fire alarm, a cow’s mooing, a sheep dog’s furious bark,  we somehow managed to catch the cow and return him to green pastures.   It was still only eight o’clock and now Orly had disappeared.  He does this.  Hides somewhere obscure and it can take a long time to find him, usually when there isn’t time to find him because we have to be somewhere else.  Eventually Dow found him in the backpack, squashed in a fetal curl and half asleep.

    At the doctor’s surgery the nurse, who was giving us our inoculations, assured Orly that R2D2 would come out naturally.  The inoculations themselves went surprisingly well.  We needed Typhoid and Hep A.  I bribed the boys with promises of hot chocolate and an hour off school.  Dow said he’d have an operation for an hour off school.  Orly said he’d die for an hour off school.  I pointed out that then he wouldn’t be able to enjoy much if he was dead, so he compromised and settled for a filling instead.   The boys were brave and stoic.  My own injections were carried out from a reclining position on the surgery bed, “just in case,” the nurse said looking at my green complexion. 

    So why are we going?  Why are we setting off for one year of boundless vagabonding.  Certainly it would be easier to stay settled, to keep the life we’ve built around us;  the structure, the friendships, the support which have been my mainstay since the painful separation from my husband.  But maybe some people are more prone to bouts of wanderlust than others.  I have always travelled.  I make my living from it.  But for the past five years I’ve been a stay at home single mother working in the evenings to bring the income in.  Mine has been a small and intimate world.    It feels time to open it up again.  This time however, I have two children in tow, and though I long to show them the big wide world, though it’s the perfect time before school and stability become the thing they most need, the ache of protective motherhood that never ceases to diminish, is all the more poignant with the expectations of what we are about to embark upon. I hope my courage will hold up.  Sometimes at night I can feel it slipping away.  I fear us getting ill.  Worse still, I fear loosing them.  One begins a trip like this brimming with courage, full of naive dreams based on glamourised accounts that trick one into believing a place is familiar.  But it’s not at all.  Not when you get there.  When you get there everything’s different, and the smallest incident can break your courage in an instance.

After inoculations I dropped the boys off at school, arrived home to make a much needed coffee, only for the phone to ring.

“Have you seen the news?” It was my mother. “There’s flooding in Thailand, Bangkok’s barriers are breaking and people are dying.” 

“I see,” I said spying the R2D2 fridge magnet on the fridge.

“But you’ve still two weeks, so maybe they’ll subside by then.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” she said sympathetically.

I spent the rest of the day in a rush of list ticking achievements.  The list however was not diminishing.  Instead I kept adding to it.  By school pick up the sun was out and the sea too inviting to ignore.  I picked the boys up and we headed down to the shore.  And here we are still, an hour later, the sun getting lower in the sky.

For now, just for a little longer, I’m floating back and forth on the shore in the shallows of the great ocean we are soon to cross.  Up above the moon is high in the pale sky, reminding me of the mystery in the world and I can’t help thinking that there must at times arise in us all a longing for something more than the ordinariness of everyday life.  For we all cling to the hope that, when old and grey, the story we will have to pass on will be both extraordinary and unique.   So out of the water....it’s time to say goodbye to our hilltop home, to bid fond farewells to dear friends, to pack our bags and head out into the blue yonder, the three of us, together. 

Follow on Twitter: @lindsayhawdon


First Blog:  Getting Ready

...Of The Week:


Mum: The City

By Joe Purdy

Boys:  Monty Python: Eric the Half a Bee

Book for Mum:

Outer Dark

By Cormac McCarthy

Book for boys:

Elephant Ben

By Geoffry Malone


Caramalized Cicadas 

Best Experience:

Last swim in icy Sussex sea.

Worst Experience:

Tearful Goodbyes.

Row:  (Discussion between Mum and Orly following a negative response for ice-cream)

    Orly:  “I hate you.”

    Mum: “I love you.”

    Orly:  “Hate you.”

    Mum: “Love you.”

    Orly:  “Hate.”

    Mum: “Love.”

    Orly:  “Hate.”

    Mum: “Love.”

    After a long silence.  

    Orly:  “So, can I have an ice cream?”