I think most parents would say that travelling with their kids opens up their eyes to people and places in a whole, new, incredible way. People extend the hand of kindness to kids so readily. Our girls could have eaten their way through Iran for free, they got given so much food – including lots of fruit which was very refreshing as one of the challenges on the road is staying healthy.
People want to show kids the best of their country so you get unique insights and shown hidden gems. It also forces you to slow down and soak the experiences up. Kids can be overwhelmed easily by new experiences so travelling at a more leisurely pace is a great way to see the world – no one wants to visit a museum every day or in every city so you become a little choosier about how you spend your precious travel time. Free time needs to be taken advantage of – be that running up and down mountains, taking regular driving breaks so little legs can be stretched or finding a park somewhere.
Taking a big overland journey with your kids definitely presents some challenges that are different to throwing a backpack over your shoulder and setting off by yourself! Firstly, you need to be a lot more prepared and organised – often when you need something, you need it NOW! And you don’t have time to wait till you can find a shop. You need to think seriously about any health risks, how you’ll handle them and prepare accordingly. Schooling is another challenge and parents need to decide if they will want their kids to go back into the school system after their travels, and if so how they get through that – if an unschooling approach works for them, or maybe more formalised homeschooling following a set curriculum.
Travelling without a large amount of toys and gadgets means children’s minds are free to make things up as they go along. Children can become so much more creative with unstructured time – a stick on a beach creates an art project, flowers are arranged and the car decorated. Constantly moving can be unsettling, or used as an opportunity to learn to embrace change and accept new challenges, and we all learn important life skills like compromise and team work when living in such a confined space. Hopefully this adaptability will hold them in good stead as they progress through life.
Kirsty Larmour is a wife and mum based out of Abu Dhabi. In 2014 she and her family packed up their home and set off on a one year, 60,000km overland adventure that took them from their UAE home through Iran, across Europe, down to Morocco and eventually back to Abu Dhabi via Russia and Central Asia. They drove in an old Nissan Patrol, so old it still had a tape deck! She and her husband travelled with their two daughters who were 8 and 6 years old at the start of their journey. Kirsty talks to us about the unique perspectives taking this kind of trip with your kids.
You can follow the travels of the Larmour family on Facebook (facebook.com/LettersfromtheLarmours) and their blog (www.lettersfromthelarmours.com), and their more recent adventures on their Instagram handle @kirstylarmour
Words + Photos by: Kirsty Larmour