Richa S Mukherjee discusses the psychological challenges of Traveling With Children During the Pandemic.
A recent headline in the newspaper had me gobsmacked. It mentioned some emerging phenomenon titled ‘revenge tourism’. This is apparently the pandemic fatigued humanity’s return to the travel-for-leisure industry after months of incarceration. What strikes me as odd though, is the irony behind the entire concept. Here we are, approximately 9 months from the time the word that we shall never forget started. Its assault on the world, and possibly mid-way down the road we still assume that we have some notion of control over what’s happening. We are far from being in a position to exact any substantial revenge. If you are Traveling with Children during the Pandemic Situation, this blog is important for you, Let’s find out more details below:
The more disconcerting part of this write-up, were the photographs printed alongside, featuring hundreds of tourists. Many of them young children, holding on tight to their parents’ hands, expressions and emotions buried under masks. Were they ebullient with the expectation of finally going somewhere? Were they scared witless by the crowds after the single digit human interaction for months? I can only guess.
A Childhood of Yore
My childhood memories are entwined with the gentle shaking of long-distance trains, the roadside rattling of the world’s tiniest glasses of chai and coffee, dusty, nausea-inducing mountain roads that were made palatable with the lure of halwa and puri treats, holdalls that could carry the world, discovering the world’s worst toilets every few hours and endless chatter and chortles. It was a heady, intoxicating lure of experiences, sights, and sounds that made me a traveler for life.
A passion I found rather fortuitously in my husband and we have roamed the world hand in hand. Our daughter joining us on our adventures was a pleasure and never a hindrance because we had decided early on; that instead of chasing ‘child-friendly’ trips, we would just let her join in wherever we went and adapt. It all worked out till the pandemic hit. Now, even a trip to the grocer makes the nerves jangle like they would on a flight with 3 layovers across the world.
I marvel at the families that have made their way to the much sought-after destinations this year, such as Dubai or Maldives. In contrast, we invoke the gods even when traveling to Malad or Mulund, essentially the suburbs! Masks, sanitizers, anti-bacterial wipes, preventive medicines, the pandemic paraphernalia, especially while traveling with children could make the most seasoned travelers swoon. On a recent trip to Alibaug, where we merely had to drive our car on to a ferry to travel to our chosen homestay, the ‘hygiene theatre’ was laughable. First, we would sanitise the seats, then my daughter would either want to visit the washroom or accidentally drop something.
This led to re-sanitising the cups, the handles she touched, then the back of her jacket. Then the sanitiser itself, it was an endless loop that left us drained. Next came the wariness towards people without masks, the errant sneeze somewhere in our vicinity. Treating it like some nuclear missile. It saddened me to see how my overtly gregarious daughter was now eyeing smiling strangers and polite nods suspiciously, calculating how far was safe and far enough. This was of course grasp behavior and can we as parents really blame ourselves for being protective?
Traveling with Children: Adults Don’t Have It Easy
On one hand, is the pressure of dealing with our own mental demons and emotions while keeping some semblance of normalcy in the lives of our children. But If there’s one thing I’ve learned during these trying times, it’s that children are as tough as nails and more resilient than we give them credit for. My child and I have exchanged roles on the days I’ve found it hard to drag myself out of bed. At these times, conversations, hugs, and laughter are the greatest salve. You’ll surprise at how good it feels just to talk or listen. All the gadgets and distractions in the world aren’t a good enough substitute for that.
We can drone on and complain about how life has changed, but every difficult situation leaves some positives in its wake. Every time we are outdoors, my daughter now drinks in the trees. The birdsong, all of it, like never before. She notices the smallest of things and wants to learn more about the planet and how she can save it. This experience has made her more conscientious. More aware of the transience of life and the need to hold on to what we have. In fact I’ve noticed how the definition of travel itself has undergone a transformation. No longer does it mean taking long flights, spending crazy amounts of cash or standing in endless immigration or domestic queues.
For us, it means leaving the gates of our home and driving off for a few hours, sometimes venturing to empty gardens. Walking carefully by the seafront, counting seagulls. It’s as if the small joys we never considered, have now magnified and formed the central focus of our small flights of freedom. The way my daughter’s face lit up on a small drive to Lonavala and back. Where all we did was stop for a coffee, (yes the hygiene theatre was at play!) while munching on sandwiches made at home, parked next to a small lake, was the most memorable experience.
And that pretty much is a summary of what needs to fill our travel diaries in the coming year. Not the list of shopping bags that would inundate suitcases, or counting the number of stamps that adorn the passports. It’s about being mindful and pencilling in every small moment, and the little ones will follow suit. We stand with them at the threshold of an ever-changing world. One we can never predict or adequately protect them from. In such a scenario, it is my intention to let my daughter know that just like her mommy and daddy. She will travel the world one day.