I am hoping that this journey will sort of force me to confront this very issue. It gets in the way of life and I need some help in changing that. After this month I can see the importance of resolving this imbalance. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work on it.
1 month in we are enjoying ourselves immensely, yet at the same time there are some real challenges to living on the road and traveling with 3 children.
When we were still in Costa Rica I had this picture in my head and it was basically that we would all be walking around enjoying the many temples one day. The next day we would be chattering in Thai with locals and the next off to a new tourist mainstay, perhaps the Grand Palace type of attraction. We would all be laughing together at travel difficulties, while eating yummy food or travelling on a train, tuk-tuk, or bus. Playing cards perhaps, or elaborately discussing the next venue. Yeah, yeah, I can already see the rolling eyes or the "what was she thinking" comments swirling around in your heads. Honestly I just do this no matter what I know of reality and no matter what people tell me to the contrary. What can I say, I have a detailed imagination.
The reality is, as you might guess, slightly different. For starters, my husband needs to work. I am not sure where the making money part came into my dream world, but we need money to do these things. He has been working less than he was when we were in Costa Rica, but he simply does not have the time, nor the desire to walk around town for the umpteenth time looking at a random Wat. His passion and mine for travel and experience are really quite different. Dream world had that on the same level, and it is just not the case. So that sort of shoots down the "all of us together" for every attraction component right out of the gate. Of course, he comes out with us plenty, eats meals out, enjoys the bigger attractions but everyday outings are just not possible. There would not even be a partial dream fulfillment for me if he wasn't at home working! Thanks babe, in case I haven't said that enough.
The speaking Thai with locals is just downright absurd. We are thrilled that we can say hello and thank you and order a few things on the menu. This is a tough language with foreign symbols in place of the letters we are all accustomed to. We all try our hardest, but at the end of the day this one falls on the "fail" side of the dream list. Wild child, our 4 year old, has the best tone in his Thai and the locals adore when he speaks a word of it. The rest of us, yeah, not so cute! He has his talents and we are grateful for them.
Food, ahh the food. Thai food is some of the best in the world, right?? Hmm, well, what do you think an 8-year-old or a 4-year-old American would think of that? I can't complain too much here as all my boys are doing really well with the food but we have certainly had our share of dishes that were lost to 1 bite and no more. Spicy where we aren't used to it (even things like pizza and broccoli soup), and all around new flavors have challenged even my husband and I.
I also thought we would be spending $1 a meal EVERYDAY, and that hasn't worked out at all (but it's still always far cheaper than eating in the U.S. or even Costa Rica). Mu Gatium (garlic pork with rice), Pad Thai (stir fried noodles), and fried rice with chicken or veggies are hits and can be found almost everywhere. For the most part, the food really is unique and oh so yummy! We do pretty well most days, and eating out seems to be cheaper then eating in most meals, but it's all a learning curve and we are still curving!
Transportation has been all in all pretty enjoyable. Even the long distance flight, one thing I hadn't romanticized, went pretty well (note to keep expectations in check). The train trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was great and we have found tuk-tuks, taxis, and song thaews to be quite pleasant.
I had envisioned many bus trips, but for 5 people they are actually more expensive in most cases, and I would imagine less comfortable. This one isn't too far off the fantasy, as long as you do not factor in the reality that is my wild man. He is talented at charming the locals but he also has a penchant for screaming, practicing karate on his brothers, and tearing through just about anything he can, even in a small tuk-tuk. Thankfully the Thai people are patient and adore him!
Then there is the hotel situation. We have lucked out and gotten some nice places but that is sort of the thing that is off from the expectations. I had pictured us really sucking it up, cramped in a one room place with a shared bathroom and paying $5 a night. The reality is that we are a pretty big family and it's just bursting at the seams with rambunctious boys. 1 room is just not something we can handle, especially when said room is equipped with one double bed. One of the biggest things I have learned this month is that we are not exactly dirt-floor budget travelers -- we want a private bathroom and do not sleep on floors (most of the time). We need wifi and some space for working. We certainly are capable of living with way less then the average person, and we do our best to stay thrifty, but certain things are just worth it to pay extra for. Luckily, in Thailand, we can still do this for under $30 a night, but it is a far cry from the budget $5-$10 a night places I had been envisioning.
Day to day I have gotten better at accepting that this is not the typical tourist adventure. We are not really on a permanent vacation since my husband has to work. Who could afford such a thing? Not us, but I am so fortunate to be closer then most to this type of dream. Some days we stay at the hotel, swim in the pool, or watch TV. Believe it or not, the kids are no longer impressed with the numerous Wats, or temples. They do not want to walk everyday and they can voice that quite loudly. I realize that I do not have the energy to make each and every thing a learning event and some times I beg them to play the Ipad or a video game so I can blog or just catch up with email and Facebook! The dream in my head, it seems, takes nonstop energy, a huge amount of money, and not enough time to fulfill parts of the dream like working to make money or blogging which I love. Family slow travel takes a lot out of you. Maybe even slower would work better?? Nah, not me, too much to see and too little time!
So what does the next month look like?
For starters I am starting this month with a renewed sense of reality. When I romanticize things, those high expectations tend to lead to frustration and disappointment. I have been hoping to learn this lesson for years, but I feel reflecting on this past month has been a huge leap forward! I want to focus on blogging and just enjoying everyday with my boys rather then obsessing about the next adventure. Well, maybe I'll keep one eye open for the next adventure! I can't change over night people! I know, I am halfway around the world, the whole damn thing is the adventure! I'll make that my mantra.
I need to do some research about our next stop. This is another component that I hadn't counted on; the amount of time and energy it takes to get the best deals and see some neat things along the way. I plan to spend the days exploring what feels right for everyone. This has been an incredible journey already but it has its pitfalls. Knowing and accepting that this won't be perfect is the first step to really enjoying it all. Every part of the journey is important, good AND bad. I know we will gain our footing more and more each day!