Ex­plor­ing the world with five young chil­dren has en­riched the ex­pe­ri­ence for Celia Munoz

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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.


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

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