The Reality Of Traveling With Kids: 24/7 Family Time

On the surface, traveling the world with your family sounds like a great thing -- and it is – but being together every second of the day for a year can be a challenge. When we describe our travels to our friends back home we get some interesting responses. When commenting that we are together around the clock for an entire year, we’ve heard, “Oh, we could not do that…we just couldn’t.” Another friend said, “No way. We’d all kill each other within the first couple weeks.”

We’ve previously done another long trip – six months backpacking through Central America and Spain back in 2005 -- so we had an idea what to expect. When a family of four travels on a budget, it’s tempting to save money by having everyone stay in one room. The incremental cost of a hotel manager adding a fourth bed to a triple room is often minimal and sometimes there’s no extra cost at all. Occasionally, when there's only a double room with two larger beds available, the only option is for the four of us to double up and share. The saved money adds up over 365 days but it does compound the “togetherness” factor.

A family member’s habits become magnified when you constantly observe them. My son’s frequent whistling isn’t so bad, but when four people are quietly reading in a 15’x15’ room it starts to get on everyone’s nerves. My daughter has a habit of borrowing my things and not putting them back. Whenever I’m packing up and I can’t find my iPod touch or my 21 function Swiss Army Knife, I head immediately for her. When Mom twists at the hair behind her ears or when Dad picks his nose, the others point it out; 24/7 family time means no privacy. Sometimes I like nothing better than to head out by myself to an internet café to check my email. I’m sure my wife and kids do as well.

While each of us have our own idiosyncrasies, we do share one unpleasant yet unavoidable trait. With all of us walking everywhere in hot weather, a wardrobe limited to what’s in our backpacks and no access to a washing machine, the smell of dirty socks is omnipresent. All four of us relaxing in our hotel room with our shoes off is enough to peel the paint off the walls. Not a day goes by without a comment on someone’s particular brand of stench.

Our kids are 14 and 13, respectively and I think that the constant family time must be hard on them. They’ve entered an age where they are increasingly peer-centered, but there are very few peers to interact with. We have to remember this when the “Got You Last” game turns into a slap fest. On the plus side, my wife and feel that being around them 24/7 at a very confusing and fast-changing time in their lives is a positive thing. We are there to discuss things with them that they might be struggling with on their own back home.

On the whole, the 24/7 thing has been an overwhelmingly positive thing for our family. We’ve grown extremely close and have hundreds of travel stories to tell for years in the future. Yes, it’s been great…except for the smelly socks.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Jason. I'm envious of your situation...smelly socks and all.