The adventure officially began today–although Ana and I landed in Asia yesterday, we slept for hours on end to combat the jetlag and the 35+ hours of plane rides, layovers, questionably tasty airplane food, and well, more layovers. Her jaw was permanently stuck in the open position once we left the airport in Chiang Mai, Thailand and our fairly large taxi SUV threaded through the humming traffic like a tiny sharp needle making quick work of a sewing project–in short, in zipped through the lanes like a go-cart even though it dominated nearly every other car on the road! She was amazed at the traffic, the motorbikes, and the fact that we’re on the opposite side of the road and noted it in hushed tones from the backseat as she plastered her face to the car window.
Ana’s own blog officially launched; I’ll be frank, it definitely made me smile when she noted that she wanted to share her own travel stories at A Little Adrift Jr (and those stories of other traveling kids, so she says); I swear I didn’t put her up to it, but I think it’s super cute :)
I’m not sure what the next six months will hold, but I know we will learn so much more about each other and ourselves on the journey. There so many character traits easily learned and honed while traveling; so, while it’s a tall order to expect all of these traits to manifest immediately, there are pieces and behaviors inherent to the process if you’re traveling slowly and these are a few I highly value. For myself, in the past three years on the road I watched each of these grow in myself, so I am hoping to plant the seeds within her for each of these traits, to aim for a deeper understanding of the different cultures, ideas, and people on the road.
Ana and I have so many privileges and opportunities by virtue of birth in the United States– and while this has it’s own drawbacks at times to be sure, she has never known hunger and was born with the right to a free education. Living on the road has taught me just how little I need to be happy, that although my smartphone and fancy shoes are certainly handy (and I like them a whole lot), they are not necessary. I hope she learns to be thankful for the things she has and the kindnesses shown to her by others wherever she may travel now and later in life because gratitude is one of those rare qualities that is never in surplus no matter how much you have flowing from you!
I highly value education, and not just learning for learning’s sake, but rather learning out of a deep-seated curiosity about the world. When my niece returns to public school, she will have so many “other” things vying for her attention and trying to take her focus, I hope this jaunt through Asia ignites her curiosity in the world, her wonder at the differences and similarities between cultures, and her thirst to always ask questions and figure things out–children grow wonder inside of them, it erupts naturally in a way adults somehow lose with age. In fact, I know having her by my side will reignite some of my own wonder that was too quickly replaced with an alarming nonchalance over the years. In just two days, she has already made me grin at the pieces of life in Thailand I forget to properly appreciate and notice.
At 11 years old, Ana is truly just beginning to fully learn the meaning of being considerate — children can be delightfully self-involved when they are young, but as they get older that shifts into a larger awareness in the world around them. In seeing the people and cultures so different from our own, I hope she learns empathy for the people around her and manifest that empathy in kindness and compassion toward everyone she meets. Throughout our time here in Asia we will seek out volunteering projects and ways to give back to the communities we meet and find some perspective; something I have always done on my trips but that I hope we can continue together.
Again, this is a tall order for an 11 year old, but a dash of humility and humbleness can go a long way. Who knows though, she occasionally wants to be a pop-star at this point so, in that pursuit, humility might not serve her. But, in all things non-pop-star related, having concerns and awareness outside of her own bubble of life has no choice but to give way to the consideration and gratitude.
Live From a Place of Possibilities
I tell her daily that her dreams are only limited by her imagination, that children can change the world and many do change the world. That she can live any lifestyle she chooses, pick her own priorities, become a teacher, an explorer, an entrepreneur–that the world is full of possibilities and in actually looking around and taking in the information around us so many new avenues and paths open up. For Ana, this means sharing with me the fun and quirky ideas she has, training her brain that there is no single “correct” answer to questions and ideas (which is what we teach in school). I love Asia for the many, many quirky, wacky, nonsensical “sense” this place makes every time I visit, so if she can wrap her brain around this place, then she’s doing pretty well in my book!
Flat out truth: I want her to have such an amazing time that it lights her flame of wanderlust. I know there are some (gasp) non-travelers in the world content to build a home-base, a family unit, and a steady career. All wonderful, and I salute you, no doubt one day a piece of that dream will be hers no matter what we do. But for now, Ana and I have adventures to find, elephants to hug, temples to photograph, mountains to climb and food to eat; it’s gonna be great and my chief goal through all of this is to make sure she has a really great time wherever we may roam :-)