This week for Book Club Tuesday, I looked at the book “We’re Going On Bear Hunt” and this got me thinking about going on adventures.
I have always loved travelling and exploring new countries. The stretch of time between my second baby being born 2 years ago and now, is the longest part of time where I haven't gone on holiday. My passion for travelling started young, I visited America when I was 3 and I am lucky in that I very rarely haven't not holidayed abroad since. As like how a book can take you on a journey, experiencing life in another country can broaden your mind. Both of these things I love to do, read and explore. And I hope to inspire my children to enjoy both.
If we were to call children adventures, then of course, both my children are the biggest and best adventures. But if we are talking actual holidays, my biggest and longest holiday would be the one I went on with my best friend when I was 21. (Again, I'm discounting the 5 years I spent living in the Middle East.....that wasn't a holiday, I worked there!)
Fresh out of university, I had secured my first full time job. It was an admin job where I had previously done some temp work. It was a good job, a very lucky break on my part and I was taken under the wing of my boss. But I was 21! I wasn’t quite ready for the steady 9-5 job yet. I made plans with my friend to go travelling around Thailand and it would be for a whole month. I told my boss with the expectation that she would ask me to resign my position, but she actually said she would keep my job open for me. I had gone straight from school to university to this job. I think she realised I needed to explore the world before I could settle properly.
So plans were made and we flew early November. Looking back now, I was so brave. Just two girls all alone in such a far away country. I trained for months at the gym to have enough strength to carry my old massive backpack - containing my whole belongings for a whole month. We traveled all the way around, by bus mostly. So I had to be adept at carrying my heavy load.
Even though it was such a long time ago now (!) there are moments I remember with such clarity. And once again I find myself in awe of the guts of that 21 year old me.
A few highlights...
1. My friend and I arranged a 3 day trek in an isolated mountain region of north Thailand. It was the most strenuous activity of the whole adventure where I soon realised I wasn't very good at mountain hiking. I am usually fine with heights, but I was taken aback at the slippery path coming down the side of an enormous mountain. In fact, at one point I almost slipped off the path, and if it weren’t for me quickly using my walking stick (an actual long stick by the way) to hook myself to a passing tree and one of our guides catching me, I daren’t think what would have happened. I spent the rest of that long walk down the mountainside pretty much holding my breath and walking extremely cautiously. This is a feeling I haven't ever forgotten actually and I often feel a little nervous when walking up and down mountains these days!
2. On the same trek, once down that massive mountain side, we spent a day and night in a local village. Another experience I'll never forget. When I say village, I don’t mean like the villages in the UK with stone houses, thatched roofs and small local pubs. I mean, huts made of sticks and straw on stills, toilets which were holes in the ground away from the houses with makeshift walls around them. The whole village would gather round, we all break bread together and follow the guidance of the village “grandfather”. To this day I have no real clue how we properly communicated as only one of our guides spoke a little English and we spoke no Thai at all (although we did try!)! And yet, we stayed up long into the night, sampling their home made (quite strong!) rice wine and swapped a variety of stories! A key moment for me was waking up in the dead of night to scramble to find the toilet, and looking up in amazement to a star filled sky. Where there were more stars than black sky. The sky was completely untarnished because there was absolutely no light pollution. I have never seen a sky like it before, and not since. I wish I could have taken a picture because it was just so unbelievable. Then again even if I did, my camera then was not the best so no doubt the photo wouldn't have done it justice. Even now I can close my eyes and recall that image of brilliant shining stars in a dark sky. Unforgettable.
3. Bungee jumping. Yep. Over a lake. Back then we communicated with people at home via email (Facebook was extremely new and not everyone we knew was on it!). We used to come across internet cafes every so often on our journey (again, no smart phones!) so we would report back when we could that we were OK. But when we decided to bungee jump, I deliberately didn’t tell my parents. I knew they were already worried about me being so young and so far away, I didn’t want to add to their concerns. I’ve talked to them about this since and my mum agrees it was better she didn’t know!!
It was my friend’s turn first. Up she went on the long ascend to the platform above a wide lake. Amazingly her blood curdling scream as she descended springily over the lake didn’t put me off my turn (honestly, I think I was another person back then!). When it was my turn, it wasn’t until I was sat in the little lift on the way up to the platform with my guide that the nerves set in. My feet were already tied together so I had to hop to the little bench inside the lift. I remember watching the ground slip away from me as we got higher and higher, I do think I stopped watching after a little while. And when I hobbled to the edge of the platform, that is when I questioned what it was I was really doing. The guy asked me if I was ready to jump. I said, no!! I didn’t look down, but across at the horizon. The view was amazing, Thailand is honestly the most beautiful place. The guy asked me again if I was ready…. I said no!! And then I realised I couldn’t stand there all day. I had paid my money and I wasn’t going to waste it or, more’s the point, chicken out after all the preparation I had done in order to get to this far!
So I stepped off the platform….. And my whole body did something I never experienced before, I felt like it was screaming at me “why are you doing this?!”, and my stomach flipped but it was too late, I was spiraling down towards the lake. When the bungee cord stopped springing (you do bob up and down quite a few times) I had to grab hold of a stick to be brought back onto land. Of course, I had been thrown up and down (I don’t know how long it was, probably only a few minutes but it felt longer) so I struggled to focus to grab hold of the stick! In the end I did. I laid on the ground whilst I was untied. I was shaking so badly, I had to be helped up. They pushed a certificate into my hand and told me to smile for the camera. But I couldn’t hold the certificate still because I couldn’t stop shaking. This was clearly due to the rush of adrenaline my body produced in order to cope with the event that had just occurred. And what did I say to my friend when I saw her directly after the bungee jump?..… “Sign me up for a skydive next!”
I have so many fond memories of my time in Thailand. I could write a whole lot more about the different and amazing events that happened there. Overall I loved my experience. Thailand is such an amazing place to visit. You don’t have to do the trek and bungee jump if you don’t want to ! One thing that really struck me when visiting were the people. Even though we were 2 young girls alone, we never felt like we were in any danger. Of course we were careful, and you do have to be. Like all places, nowhere is 100% safe. But in my experience, Thai people are among the friendly I have ever met. The majority of people there are not wealthy by any means but they seem to be almost more happy for that reason. They have an appreciation for things, the earth and other people.
Writing about my time in Thailand is making me very nostalgic for the days when I would book a holiday on a whim and spend a week or two exploring a new country. Of course this is pre-children time I’m referring to. I know it is more than possible to travel with children however I don’t really have much experience of this. It does feel me with a little bit of anxiety about how it would be. When we only had one baby, and living in Dubai at the time, we would travel to the local cities of the United Arab Emirates. We ventured as far as Abu Dhabi or Fujairah staying a couple of nights in a hotel.
But since moving home and having Baby 2, we haven’t really been anywhere. We traveled down south when Baby was 2 weeks old because my friend (the same friend who I went to Thailand with!) asked me to be godmother to her little girl (and I was determined to be there!) and then we moved house. There has always something to put us off going away. Then of course Coronavirus happened and any thoughts of a holiday - at least abroad - have gone out of the window. And Baby is now 2!! I realised the other day we have completely missed the window of opportunity for the free baby ticket on the plane! From now on, we will always have to pay for 4 full tickets. A prospect that doesn't thrill me to be honest. (I know baby tickets only give you a bassinet - which he would have been too big for even if we could have flown before he was 2!)
What were your biggest adventures? Have you ever been to Thailand? Do you have any big adventures lined up for the future? Will you be travelling with your little ones in tow (and do you have any tips for me?!)
So many questions this week, I hope they prompt you to get in touch. I would love to hear your experiences.