Notes from the Road

We are having the trip of a lifetime.  In little ways, Paul and I have been planning for this trip for years — we knew we would visit India as a family and know now that we will definitely be back many times in the future.  We love India and we love our friends and extended family here.  We love the country and its challenges, triumphs, and spirit.  That said, it is easy to romanticize this type of travel.  The sites, the people, the learning opportunities: these are most definitely unparalleled.  However, each of those amazing experiences are met with equally stupendous challenges.

We have frankly been blown away by how good our kids have been.  We’ve had many accidents (including Kate’s diarrhea episodes which, in one day, took out every pair of pants she had plus another pair I went to the market to buy).  Will fell down a series of stairs in the middle of Diwali festivities, scratching himself up (we’re concerned now that a puncture wound on his bottom is getting infected), and injuring his arm.  (Luckily, two Italian physicians were at the party and told us we could wait until the morning for an x-ray if we were able to keep his pain in control.)  Driving can be terrifying (the traffic, the style of passing, the stop-and-go) and is always on our minds as a risk (we all have frayed nerves after a few hours of road travel).   We’ve had a few melt-downs because the kids get beyond the point of exhaustion, so tired that they can’t calm themselves to sleep.  And still, they amaze us with their resiliency and ability to step up when we need them to.

For the sake of documentation, here is a bullet list of things we’ve learned and particular challenges we’ve had:

— With kids, we can travel half as fast and half as far as we thought we could.  In the future, we will add at least one  “down” day to every side-trip, every special event, and every long-day of sight-seeing.

— Travel outside of the U.S. in a country with infrastructure struggles, widespread poverty, and problematic development is very challenging with children.  Everything you take for granted in the U.S. becomes a major factor for planning and worry: water, hand-washing, bathrooms (oh, the bathrooms!), food, accidents, and more and more.

— The kids tire and want to be carried.  This is tough on us physically!  It means a lot more taxis, a lot less exploration in the ways we’d typically want to (walking through city streets, taking the long walk home in the mountains, etc.)

— A “normal” schedule is difficult.  Our kids are up early, have dinner early, and go to bed early.  In India, this is basically impossible at every juncture for a myriad of reasons… the country sleeps late, is up late, and eats late.

— Pollution is terrible in cities, so beyond the tummy issues (everyone but me has had diarrhea, though Paul has been by far the most ill), everyone gets coughs, itchy eyes, and respiratory problems.  Driving through dusty streets with the windows down (or in an open vehicle — which is sometimes a must so that engines don’t overheat in traffic) can be difficult on breathing, but with the windows up, you miss a lot.

— There is constant challenge in balancing the kids needs, people’s expectations and schedules, and our own plans.

— We did not prepare enough memory space for our photographs!  This will take some additional planning in future travel.

— Foreigners who travel to India seeking some sort of Eastern knowledge for personal enlightenment are seriously annoying.  This has very little to do with the kids; it just needed to be said.

Even with all the challenges, we are eager to take on more trips in the future.  We have learned a lot about how we function on the road and the kinds of things we need to support us along the way… hopefully we can take on more adventures without risk of mutiny!

UPDATE: Illness has struck hard-core!  Will started vomiting and diarrhea in terrible amounts today.  We hope we can get him to Delhi tomorrow.