10Jun2010

Global Time = Quality Time

Z holding wildflowers. Sapa, Vietnam.

My son and I set out to travel the world together in January. I’d imagined many wonderful things about the journey. What I hadn’t imagined is the sheer quality and quantity of time together.

Terraced hillside and paddy fields, Sapa, Vietnam.

Or, for that matter, the absolute, unalloyed luxury of starting every single day with a complete free rein.

Where shall we go today? What shall we do? What shall we see?

All, as it happens, for less than the rent or mortgage on a one-bedroom London flat.

I was self-employed, single and working from home when Z was born. On a Sunday. By Tuesday, I was back at the laptop, newborn at boob, hitting a deadline I’d hoped to get out of the way before he arrived.

Now, I’m aware that working from home is many mothers’ dream. But, like self-employment, it tends to spill. You cannot leave your work at the office, because your office is your home. When jobs for different clients collide, you work all the hours god sends, and then some.

Preparing for a holiday was a frantic scramble: endless late nights at the laptop, followed by a last-minute squash of possessions into backpack (usually sitting on it, by the end), check of passports, cards and tickets. Enough, in fact, to make you need a holiday in itself…

So… here we are. Our year out to travel the world has extended to a multi-year trip. My assumption that we would return to the London grind has been replaced with a desire for a 300-euro a month rental somewhere the boy can become bilingual in Spanish and I can work much, much less.

And what have we done with today’s time?

Water buffalo lazing in flooded rice terrace, Sapa, Vietnam.

Well, we caught the night train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, a highland town spitting distance from the Chinese border, and picked up a bus to Sapa.

It’s a slightly surreal place, Sapa. Tiny Hmong women in dark leggings and endless scarves and minuscule Wen Xai ladies in scarlet turbans wander amid French colonial buildings, fantasy Pyreneean mansions appear amid dramatic contours clad in oriental pines, while water buffalos laze on the endless rice terraces.

We had coffee. Z enjoying the foam from my latte. Sapa, Vietnam.

Breakfasted. Bought a penknife, with a compass. Chatted to a Vietnamese family at our guesthouse and two Hmong ladies in town.

And then we went for a walk, in the blissful, cloudy cool, four miles or so, to Cat Cat village down the valley, below the cloudy hills.
Clouds descending over hilltops, Sapa, Vietnam.

We looked at the wonderful landscape, the maize, young rice and paddy terraces, and the bamboo irrigation system. Played pooh sticks in an irrigation channel. Z built an archipelago out of mud, tried to catch a butterfly, and picked me a bunch of wildflowers.

And, yes, as they say on the postcards, we are having a lovely time. Thanks to Josie at Sleep is for the Weak for the writing prompt, time.

49 Comments

  1. itsasmallworldafterallfamily says:

    I can’t wait until this is us! Happy to see you joining in with the writing workshop. It’s lovely to see how you can fill a wonderful day with not very much.

    • MummyT says:

      Totally… I think it’s really something to bear in mind. When you start off with a year, you’re so focused on cramming in all the big stuff that you forget about the little stuff… I blame planes, myself. And, yes, I love the writing workshop. It’s actually really nice to write to a theme. Something I should have the discipline to do myself, but often don’t. It’s an odd medium, blogging…

  2. taylor says:

    what a lovely, challenging experience you two are having together. can’t wait to read more about it!

    • MummyT says:

      Why, thank you. I tend to focus on the challenges rather than the joys because I tend to feel more like ranting when something comic happens than when we just have a wonderful time… But I must put in more of the wonderful stuff, because there is an awful lot of it…

  3. JamesBrett says:

    have you seen the water puppets yet (in vietnam)?

  4. Raul says:

    What a wonderful experience to share with your son. Great idea!!

    http://www.wutevs.wordpress.com

  5. Todd Pack says:

    I think you’re giving your son a wonderful education. Safe travels!

    http://www.toddpack.com

  6. anna says:

    Lovely post! V jealous. Esp of finding an apartment & doing the semi-perm thing!

  7. Jealous, indeed! I did some travel as a single mom with two of my three children when they were growing up. So, I know what you mean about the unique style of quality time between mum and son or daughter. In my case it was one of each at different times, and the experience gave us a special bond. Wonderful post! Thanks.

    • MummyT says:

      It is very different, isn’t it, to travelling with a partner? Z’s an only child, so we’re a very streamlined family. Did you find you did different types of thing with each child? And the travel style varied?

  8. Lulu says:

    Nice view of the photo shots you showed on your blog
    I love traveling, it makes me learn something through experiences I gain for a period of time. Then you will be excited to finally be back home, and share your experiences with the ones you care about, and of course care about you just the same.

  9. Great read and lovely photos (I especially like the latte). :) It must be a fabulous opportunity to have as a kid – seeing the world. I admire your inspiration and energy to give your child such a unique experience. It’s something I wasn’t able to do myself (on a much smaller scale) until later in life and it truly does give you a much wider respective and perspective on the world around you. Is Z also getting a formal education (in school) as well during this trip?

    Best of luck and safe travels!

    Natina
    My Blog: http://crosswordcharlie.wordpress.com/

    • MummyT says:

      I loved the latte, too. He asked me to take it, so I did… An art director in the making, or summat.

      As regards education — I’m sitting on a post about this — we’re currently following a philosophy called unschooling, which is child-led learning: we’ve agreed that he has to do writing regularly as he’s a left-hander and he hates it. So he’s learnt a lot of stuff he wouldn’t otherwise learn at school, which he is interested in, such as particle physics and chemistry, and is now writing willingly and fluently. We’ll also be doing Spanish school next year in LatAm. He was performing towards the top of the year above him at school, on the standard UK metrics, when we left (he’s Year 4 / Grade 4), and has been reading since he was three (he’s confident with the Guardian, FT Weekend and Dickens, so I’m not worried there). Maths-wise, I made him do one of the tests they do at the end of Y6 (Grade 6) in the UK the other day, and he tested out at the top level (5) on that, too, so in theory he could learn nothing for two years and still perform well. And he’s a science geek so I would guess he’s doing fine there; when it comes to IT, likewise, he’s ahead of a lot of adults. The home-schooling coordinator at our LEA contacted me to touch base and I sent him some stuff he’d written and some art, which he was very happy with.

      So.. I’m sticking with the informal approach for the moment, as it seems to be working, and, even if it weren’t, he’d still be doing perfectly fine. But my ma, who’s a very-nearly-retired head, is going to bring out some Y6 test papers next month just so there’s a conventional metric on where he’s at academically (and I can see if there’s any howling gaps I need to fill). And I’m also going to look up some art/music activities, because there’s a real limit to what I can offer there… Handwriting’s an issue, cos he’s a leftie, and hates it, but, to be honest, by the time he does any exams he’ll be able to do them on a laptop, I would have thought.

      • Hey Mummy,

        Thanks for the reply! Unschooling is a new concept for me so I look forward to reading more about it in a future post!

        Also, in regards to the Spanish classes, I think that’s fantastic. You can never start languages too early. So many schools in the states don’t require a language to graduate, which is a real shame. Wish I’d taken up Spanish or Japanese sooner myself (as I’ve forgotten most of both!).

        Natina
        My Blog: http://crosswordcharlie.wordpress.com/

  10. What an amazing experience and was stunning pictures!

  11. I am so thrilled to have come across your adventure MummyT. My two children raised as a single parent are now 32 and 29. There fondest memories are of our camping trips, hikes and clambering about. We didn’t see the globe as in traveling the world. But we did see the world much like the day you described.

    As a leftie, I too do not enjoy pen and paper. My camera, a paint brush or the keyboard on the laptop give me full freedom of expression that a pen and paper just can’t seem to offer. So I have decided pen and paper are just one way to communicate… I do what is necessary and switch to my preferred methods of communication whenever the opportunity allows:)

    I think about the anchoring of the learning in experience you are doing regarding education… the best way to learn I think!

    Pleasant travels… Terrill Welch

  12. Anne-Marie says:

    Definitely right about the laptop – currently all exams at GCSE and above are marked on line, and they are just starting to have children (sorry, learners – I’m too old for this!) do them on line as well. Btw, lots of super comments, and the KS2 papers, including the now discontinued level 6 for juniors, are being put together more or less as I speak…
    I like the writing prompts, and might have a go myself.

  13. Is very important to spend time with family

  14. Sandrine says:

    Sounds like you and Z are having a wonderful time. And I imagine not many people could make this work – have the patience, the commitment and the passion of discovery. Also, it seems from your comments that you don’t need to worry much about his formal basic education and can afford to be creative and innovative! It all sounds so perfect. I’m utterly jealous of your experience. And those photos…Please tell me it’s not always easy…

  15. Wow! Fantastic post with your thoughts, goings on, and photos. I’m self-employed, and I’m with you on working long hours in scrambling to make deadlines. Wonderful for you and your son to travel around the world. Best wishes on your spectacular adventure — and congratulations on getting Freshly Pressed!

    • MummyT says:

      Yes! There’s also the complete impossibility of EVER turning down work. Thanks for the congrats. Never had so many comments (or spam, for that matter) in my life…

  16. How amazing! Just to think who that young man will be when he grows up knowing a world beyond what most ever dream of knowing. He will have the tools to become a compassionate educated leader.

    You are a wonderful mom for giving him the gift of his lifetime.

  17. oneretweet says:

    Thanks for sharing, I think you are going to have an amazing year. I hope to follow in your footsteps some day and see the world without an agenda. Beautiful Pictures. Most definitely going to start following your blog.

  18. Milena says:

    What a wonderful and enriching thing to do! I look forward to seeing more of your lovely photos and reading more about your trip. Happy Travels.

  19. identity? « Life is a journey says:

    [...] amazing post [...]

  20. afscience says:

    Your adventure seemed so fun. You are definitely giving your son the travel bug for life after this. Hope you enjoy many more!

    Thanks!
    http://afscience.wordpress.com

  21. squirrelsloveacorns says:

    I enjoyed reading this very much! Thank you so much for sharing!

  22. sannekurz says:

    I am a freelance cinematographer with two sons, 9 and 14. I so know what you are talking about and I decided four years ago to at least once a year take a three weeks break with my boys and DO NO-THING. Go where there is not cell phone reception and no internet. Cramping and stressing before as you say but from day three we are in the large big wonderful wilderness of freedom. Thx for sharing…curious how you will move on from there…

    • MummyT says:

      Totally with you on the phones switched off and no internet. And, it does take till day three to stop fretting about your emails and work and relax into things. Not sure what you mean by move on. Our next immediate stop is Dien Bien Phu, then Laos. Medium-term, I’m looking at getting a cheap base, travelling much more and working much less. Though, how one contains freelancing, I do not know.

  23. Amazing travel plans, wish I could do something like that. I’ve always wanted to Vietnam but never got the chance, maybe in a few years time. Have you been Ha Long Bay by any chance?

  24. What an absolute pleasure it is to find your blog and get treated to such a wonderful snap shot of your life.

    I am kicking myself I didn’t find you before, but hello, it is very good to meet you. Thank you for your workshop post. Your life is extraordinary – I can’t wait to read more.

  25. Songbird says:

    What an AMAZING experience for your 9 year old!!! Really enjoy reading your blog posts!

    • MummyT says:

      Thank you! We will see how he copes with today’s eight hour bus journey along winding highland roads. He travels really well normally but has, historically, got a bit queasy on windy roads. Fingers crossed…

  26. lainie says:

    Mummy T! I think I’ll stop working on my blog now, and just direct my visitors to your site instead! You speak for me, ever-so eloquently, I might add. Even though we’re in different bodies, different parts of the world, our attitudes and experiences seem to mirror each other in so many ways.

    My attitude with Miro’s schooling is the same. However, since we both decided to stay in Guatemala for longer period (6 months already) my first order of business was to find a school for him. I found the most liberal school I could (a bilingual school) and am grateful I did. He’s there for three reasons, language, contributing to the culture with his shining spirit and socializing with the children in Guatemala. In 5 short months, he’s close to being fluent in Spanish already (a huge benefit to us as we head into South America…at some point)

    I am so thrilled to read you are considering extending your trip indefinably. It really frees up the spirit! We know we’ll make it to Asia at some point, but we’re in no hurry, so that really takes off pressure to stay on the move. If there’s some place you both love, both resonate with, simply stay. When you are both ready to move, move. Simple.

    Also, selfishly, it gives me hope you and I will have the opportunity to meet and I am certain, the boys will become instant (nomadic) friends.

    Enjoy Vietnam. I can’t wait to experience it as well. Ah…. but there’s time.

    Sending you and Z many blessings!
    lainie + miro

    • MummyT says:

      Well, we are planning to be in South America next year, so hopefully we and the boys can physically meet… Plan is to start in Venezuela, do Spanish classes probably in Merida, but I need to look at my route and check the seasons. Wow! So you guys just fell in love with Guatemala? How very, very cool… Many blessings back atcha… Theodora and Zac.

  27. Yes indeed, global time = quality time! I couldn’t agree more and we have been doing it non-stop since 2006 and see no end in sight. It’s a fantastic way to raise a global citizen!

    I’m so glad that you have decided to extend your journey. Many want to but few take the plunge. Good on you! I hope we were a positive influence.

    You know you can live that cheaply easily in rural Spain? I’d go to a local school where he can immerse deeply, rather than a bilingual school. Being totally immersed is harder at first, but is the best way to learn and he will catch up soon. Kids come all the time without one word and by the end of the year, they will be fine. You might want to give him extra help. Spanish really can be learned in 5 months if you are determined and live in a very immersed way ( listening to it and talking constantly, reading, writing it etc).

    Start now online, if you have not already, so he has some prep before being totally immersed. Even watching TV in the 2nd or 3rd language can be useful.

    Keep enjoying!

  28. Sounds like a great trip! When you make your way over to Latin America, if you’re going to Honduras, let me know, maybe you can come by for a visit. I’m on my own with two boys, 5 & 7, and we’re living on a little island called Roatan off the coast of Honduras, but would love to pick up and travel with them some in the next few years, so i’ll get some inspiration from your blog :)

  29. Katie says:

    This sounds like a great experience to have…

  30. When me and my siblings were young our parents couldn’t afford to travel. I hope that I will be able to travel with my own children and show them just a bit of the world. I think it will help them to be more conscious of the world around them and more accepting of people who aren’t exactly like them. Best to you.

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  1. By identity? « Life is a journey on June 10, 2010 at 11:37 pm

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