The world is very big. I'm working on remembering it. Traveling has a way of putting you in a jello suspension, taking you out of life in the oddest way, putting you somewhere that has no regard for your goals or normal routines. You'd be better off forgetting them entirely, at least for right now, at least for this bus ride, this train ride, this trip to the train toilet, this seatbelt sign duration on the plane.
This is even truer with kids. The only question you can ask is right now, the only step is the immediate one. Now we're waking up on the train, now getting breakfast and charging devices in a cafe that was quiet before we got here, and so soulless that I wouldn't think of coming here if I wasn't desperate. This is travel, all the normal budgets and standards reduced to, “Wait here, kids, I'm getting us these million dollar chips for dinner."
And just like routines, the normal rules of life are also suspended. For instance, while in general it may be a kind thought to offer a child a balloon, if you give my child a balloon on a night train just before bedtime, you are my sworn enemy. (Sorry, nice curly-haired lady with the flower print shirt- I'll forgive you someday. Also, to be honest, I'm not sure that balloons are ever a parent's friend, more like an instrument of torture, especially if they have the ability to fly away into the sky to be lost forever, but despite that, I buy into them like everyone else.)
Traveling with the kids, without Chinua hasn't been my favorite. He is my traveling partner for life- he keeps us all sane and singing silly songs. But if I hadn't tried this, I might not know that I can do this, I can transport us to India. (Proven at least halfway, to Malaysia, where we are right now.) Also, I might not know the skip in my heart that comes when my thirteen year old boy comes up behind me to take a heavy bag from me and carry it himself, unprompted.
(I sure wish I had these future children ghosting around, reassuring me of their excellence, back when they were smaller and fell down crying when they were supposed to be carrying something. It would have been very reassuring.)
Ugh, I could just kiss them over and over, the two oldest. Their degree of well-behaved-ness cannot be charted. On the other end of the spectrum is the little guy, who doesn't know it's his third birthday today—I haven’t told him--because nothing in his brain can help him understand the lack of cake. His birthday will happen when we reach Goa.
I knew, I had these prickles of warning that he would be a runner, ala Leafy circa 2009 and Solo circa 2011. I've been trying to put the fear of wandering around Bangkok motherless into his soul, but he blinks at me with unrepentant eyes. I've clamped onto his arm like our dog, Wookie, does on our feet when we dare to wear socks, and so he lets his whole body go limp, and then I have to drag him down busy streets/airports/train aisles. Thankfully his future well-behaved self is ghosting around in the form of Kai and Kenya, politely holding doors open and carrying my bags. So I haven't gone crazy yet, not even when the stomach bug that has been going around hit him at precisely the wrong moment (on the train, poor love) and I'll spare you the details but poo. Lots of it and the train man had to change our sheets. (I know you've been missing poo stories.)
And Travel, I have missed you and I love you. Chinua told me that he wants to traipse around the world with me and I told him it should have been In our wedding vows, because nothing in our lives has been repeated, with such love, as much as travel. And yet, there have been these times of separation, scattered through our lives, when Chinua travels away from me, and the crazy three year olds run away more than usual. And when Chinua leaves, I'm on a Himalayan mountainside, or a lakeside town in Nepal, or a small town in Thailand, or traveling to India via Malaysia. In the future he'll have to leave while the rest of us are sailing to Australia or something.
A side note: in a matter of years I'm going to look super young, not because I'm looking younger, but because it turns out that children look like adults over night and soon people will be all, "who are all these adults with you?" This is what I tell myself, anyway. I don't normally travel without Chinua and I take the safety of a tall man for granted, but we still don't exactly look vulnerable, now that we have the man-boy Kai.
And meanwhile Chinua is in his own kind of limbo- the limbo of a hospital room and the unblinking lights of the hallways, a friend he loves and the meditation of care. My heart is with him, and my heart is also here, in the in between, where plans fade and the moment looms larger than any other thing. He's always been better at it than me, but I'm getting there.
Those are my traveling thoughts today.