TALES FROM A TRAVELLING FAMILY
Exploring the world with five young children has enriched the experience for Celia Munoz
In a lush jungle clearing near the Omo River in southern Ethiopia, my five children are dancing, completely at ease, chanting and laughing with the locals, living for the wonder of the moment. Flavia, who’s 10, Lucas, nine, Siena, eight, Bosco, seven, and Hugo, six, have shown me that a touch or a smile have the power to transcend cultural and language barriers. My husband, Caspar, and I have always loved travel. Discovering new places together cultivated a deep companionship between us and we always knew that our adventures would continue. But when we got married and had Flavia, some friends were dismissive about our travels. ‘It’ll all change now,’ they told us. ‘You’ll go to a resort like everyone else.’ When Flavia was two months old, we did try a more ‘normal’ holiday at a hotel in Sardinia. Yet sitting by the pool, surrounded by model-sized women with tiny waistlines (and still carrying the 25 kilos I put on during pregnancy), I felt miserable. Caspar and I bickered constantly. Babies or no babies, we both craved new places and experiences. That holiday was a valuable lesson for us, and after that, we ventured further afield again. Every year, we had one more baby with us. We toured around
South Africa, explored Guatemala and hidden areas of rural China with five children under five. There, we took tandem bike rides in the mountains, the little ones falling asleep in baskets at the back. It’s not always easy. Of course, they wouldn’t be children if they didn’t argue or struggle with tiredness. I still remember a trip we did to Guatemala where we had an unexpected delay between flights and Lucas, then just a baby, cried constantly for the entire night flight – the other passengers were not pleased! Generally, though, other people see that we’re trying our best. We try to keep to a routine on the plane, but we’re not always successful and jetlag has resulted in many tears and sleepless nights. But the way I see it, it’s all part of being a parent and worth it for the experience we’re giving them. Seeing the world from our children’s eyes gives me and Caspar a new perspective. While we might be struck by the landscapes and historical landmarks, the children will remember the smaller things – the time they saw a cow killed in South Sudan, or the fact that in a lot of rural tribes, the children don’t even know the date of their own birthdays. They see the world as one big playground. Earlier this year in Ethiopia, Hugo made friends with a local boy and while they had no language in common, they were soon running, jumping and playing.
I’m constantly amazed and inspired by their flexibility. In Papua New Guinea, we were the first guests in two years at a remote eco lodge near Lake Murray. The surrounding scenery was stunning, but I was horrified as I tucked the children into bed to see a huge nest of bats above us. The next day, we moved the beds and they sat on the floor and doodled the bats, completely unconcerned. In fact, Hugo makes us laugh as he often refers to his trip to ‘papaya new guinea pig’ as the best of his life!
When you first become a mother, you have all these worries about the things you can and can’t do. But very often, we put up the barriers ourselves. I’m determined to spread the message that with planning, drive and a spark of courage, nothing is impossible. In fact, Caspar and I have found that there’s something about children that unites people, bridging the gap between cultures. Through travel, my hope is that my children will continue to grow and flourish; that their eyes will be opened and hearts expanded by every new adventure.
‘THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT CHILDREN THAT UNITES PEOPLE’
Experiencing Cuban wildlife (lef t) and Ethiopian culture (below)
Celia and family in the Papua New Guinea rainforest
Camel trekking in Morocco (right) and face painting with a difference in Ethiopia (below)
Exploring Indonesia (above) and getting close to an elephant in Thailand
Flavia makes f riends in Papua New Guinea