01 May 2006

Adventuring with Children

I've always had trouble finding travel books that really fit our family (no, we're not looking for a list of amusement parks and McDonalds in every city in Europe). Traveling just isn't the same if you're doing the same things you could do in the US for a lot less money. But I think this could be our kind of travel book. This one looks good too, although it's harder to tell since I can't search inside. And I'm not keen on the word "exotic." I don't care to visit exotic places.

While I can understand that a lot of people aren't interested in going to unusual destinations, there really seems to be a general aversion to it- you're not supposed to take your children in vacations like this. (I even have to admit that the idea scares me to death, but when we're finally there it works out wonderfully). Even the trusty and adventurous Lonely Planet for Central Asia almost completely dismisses bringing children to any part of Central Asia. If you do, you're in for a miserable time. Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai were about the only cities that the China guidebook thought were suitable for children.

One of my favorite things about traveling with children is that people love to see foreigners with children. People all over the world love children and you are treated very differently when you travel as a family. But cities with lots of tourists aren't as impressed when you travel with children. There was a huge difference between Xi'an and Beijing.

There are lots of websites for traveling with children, but they just have endless lists of things to bring (as a general rule, it's a lot more pleasant to bring less) and suggestions of "kid-friendly" things to do in a few capital cities. Things that only a rather well-off family could afford.

So what would I love to do as a family? Cycle the Karakorum Highway from Kashgar. Spend a week or two along the Pamir highway in Tajikistan. Go rafting on just about any river in the world. Backpack in Yunnan. Rent an apartment for 2-3 months in various cities. Sail around Indonesia and snorkel in the coral reefs. And homeschool while we're at it.

We could never afford to go to Europe, staying in the types of kid-friendly hotels the books suggest and eating at fast food places. But we can afford to spend a month or two taking buses around Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan seeing some of the most amazing places in the world that most children don't even get to dream about. And we're seriously considering doing just that this summer.

Of course, I'd hate this to sound like I think parents should just do what they want despite their children. You're going to have to make concessions when your children are with you. You probably can't travel as far in a day. You won't be able to visit as many sites. You may have to take a break and play in a park. But you can make sure those breaks aren't always taken at Pizza Hut or at an amusement park. Bring a soccer ball to play with the kids following you around. Budget extra time. You're there as a family, not a couple with "kids in tow."

But just don't think you shouldn't do it.

1 comment:

  1. Even in America, the travel books are impractical to the average family. I can't afford the hotels, restaurants, and large-scale things they recommend. We're trying to put together a trip to Chicago, and the things they suggest, the 'deals' they have - they'd break the bank!

    We have been trying to take one small adventure every weekend, even if it's just a bike ride someplace we've never been. There are so many things that can be done, I wish the books had more of those things in them.