There is an age-old saying – to travel is to educate thyself. I truly feel we need it now more than ever. Travel, not to fancy places but places that open our heart and mind. Experiences that help us rise above the limitations of our own understanding. Moments that give us a new perspective of our own life.
I thought I would share some big questions from my little people.
I could watch my daughter observing people intently on the underground metro. I could almost read the silent question on her little face. As soon as we stepped out she said, “Mamma! Did you notice that girl’s hair? It was so different! Why do some people have golden hair while some have curly black hair?" It was a question that I expected.
So, I gave her my understanding. Different people come from different places and belong to different families. What we look like is dependent on where we come from and who we are born to. If the sun shines a lot in your country God gives us extra protection so your skin won't burn. If you stay in a country where it’s mostly cold, your skin is suited to that climate. Do you realise how each face is different yet beautiful? “Yes!” she said enthusiastically, “So many different people, different clothes, it's so cool!” I could see the little nuts and bolts processing new information. I smiled in my heart, hoping we have sowed a seed of acceptance for who we are, irrespective of where we come from.
After an all-day city bus tour, my son says “even Mumbai is a mega city, but how come everything here is so clean and green?”
This is how we explained it to him. “That is the charm of travelling. You get to experience new climates, regions and temperatures. Huge green spaces keep the air clean and add to the beauty of the city. There are also strict laws and fines imposed that help maintain the hygiene and cleanliness in this city.”
Just as I thought I had answered the question, he had more to ask!
“So people keep it clean because they don’t want to pay money for the fine or because they want to keep it clean?” Now he got me thinking. Is it the will to keep it clean or the skill of better equipment and facilities that maintain the city? Or is it simply the fear of a fat fine that helps people behave better? I rolled my eyes and replied that it was probably a bit of both. When we have something beautiful and we respect it, we naturally care for it. The surveillance, fine and the strict rules help maintain the place better.
On day 3, I was telling my son that his trip had just started and not to do all his shopping in one go. You may like something else further on. But he disagreed.
“No! I am clear about what I want and I wish for these things only!” Well, we gave in and he spent his part of the toy allowance in a giant toy store.
Cut to day 5 and on our way out their eyes popped out at the shopping section at the transport museum. I suddenly heard ‘I want this and that and please some of this too’. I took a deep breath and reminded my son that he had spent his part of the allowance. It broke my heart but I had to repeat a firm NO!
He noticed that the same toy was far cheaper at the museum and that he could have bought more things with the same money. It was a meltdown moment but we learnt an important lesson collectively- to respect and value our money.
“I don’t want to wear a jacket!” squealed my 4-year-old daughter. “No one else is wearing one!" "Well, I am", I replied. “We are travelling in summers aren’t we?” said the defiant little voice. “Of course, but you are still cold, aren’t you?”
My daughter was choosing vanity over comfort and no one else seemed to need a jacket but us! It was tough to explain how someone’s summer can be colder than our winter. How the locals can wear tube tops while we feel the need for a jacket. Making a choice of comfort over vanity wasn’t easy for a little girl who loves curating her look each day.
So, one morning we chose to leave the jacket and pretend it wasn't that cold and breezy. Ten minutes into the street and the sneezing started. She looked around sheepishly and then swallowed her pride and asked for the jacket. Ha! The sweet smell of victory! I tried my best not to smile and handed it over quietly.
Choosing comfort over style is learning for women of all ages. It is always a tough choice on any given day.
Heading back home we disembarked from a long flight at an odd hour and were just dying to get home. We found ourselves in a kilometre-long queue at the immigration check counter. “Oh no!” screamed my little fellas, “This is not fair. We are tired and want to go home right now!"
I had to explain to my kids on the importance of immigration and registering one's passport. After some initial protests, they gave in. At the end of it, we collectively learnt that little hiccups and roadblocks are a part of the experience and how we respond to them all makes a big difference.
Travel blesses us with the gift of expanding our heart with something new. For me, it is the real school of life. Nothing beats the joy of learning more, meeting new people, seeing new places and embracing new cultures that help create great memories!