I cannot tell y’all how much I am loving this trip right now.
It’s true that sibling disharmony is not improved by being stuck in a car for 6 hours at a time, but if they’re going to be fighting anyway, they may as well being doing it half way around the world while getting to see some of this amazing country with all it’s contrasting landscapes, cultures and accents, and learning so much about this side of their heritage, both cultural and familial.
And, as much as traveling through the West and Middle – seeing Yellowstone for the first time, and Chicago, to name just two pleasures – was awesome, it is really the time with people that I value the most.
We had plenty of that on the West coast, and now on the East – visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in over a decade, meeting people I’d only met before online, catching up with family and meeting new family (including staying with some AWESOME cousins who may be removed by a few “in-law” relationships, and have never heard of us before, but took us in at a moment’s notice anyway), and last night having dinner with a friend we saw most recently in Australia about a year and a half ago – who has now generously given us free range of his house while he is away.
We have met and reconnected with all sorts of lovely people, we have seen amazing sights and tasted all sorts of wonderful food, we have slept in a three-season tent during an unseasonably cold 19F night (that’s like -7C) and lived to tell the tale. We’ve figured out the metro in various cities, seen Washington DC from the top of the Washington Monument, marvelled over Yellowstone’s hot springs, and wept at the 9/11 memorial.
All this, and we’re only about half way through our road trip!
For me Park Guell was one of the highlights of Barcelona, though once again I was struck by the absence of park-like spaces the way we know them in Australia. You could sit on benches, including the beautiful mosaic benches shown below, but there were no big open grasses spaces to sit. There was plenty of garden space, but it was for looking at from the outside, not for sitting within. However, the structures were amazing, and we took a gazillion photos just here.
Of course, it wasn’t originally designed as a park. Gaudi was commissioned to design a fabulous garden city, in which individual plots were to be sold for houses to be built on. However, the plots never sold, and eventually Josep Guell, who owned the land, donated it to the city of Barcelona to be a public park.
Once again, before we were travelling with the kids, we didn’t spend as much time exploring the park as we might have on our own. They enjoyed it for a while, but eventually the need for ice creams outweighed the need to see more mosaics!
We’ve spoken to Liam’s teacher about whether she wanted to give us some work for him to do while we’re away, since he’ll be missing 6 weeks of school, and her response was to suggest he keeps a travel journal of what we do, or his impressions, each day while we’re away.
When I was about 8 my Dad and his girlfriend took me and her daughter (who was my best friend) to the snow for a few days, and they bought us each a drawing book and a notepad and we were supposed to write/draw in them each day. Even though I have kept a journal since I was about 9, I still remember how stressful I found that process, partially because I couldn’t draw to save my life, and partially I assumed that whatever I did would be compared to my friend’s efforts and found lacking. That shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on my Dad or her Mum, but only on my own insecurities.
Anyway, I don’t want Liam to have an experience like that. However, I do want to get him something he can draw as well as write in – because unlike me, he loves to draw. And, I’m considering whether to get something for Mikaela as well, but of course she can’t write yet, so I’m not sure if it’s worth it. I’m thinking she could stick things in it, like ticket stubs or postcards.
I’ve looked for kid’s travel journals on Amazon and Fishpond, but with limited success. I’ve also been down to the local newsagency and found a bunch of travel diaries (most of them not specificially aimed at kids though), most of which I thought were overpriced, and not that useful. Here is what I have found so far:
There is The Children’s Travel Journal on Amazon, with lots of prompts and things to fill in (which I would have loved as a child), but it doesn’t have many blank pages, much less one per page per day as a general daily journal, which is what I am looking for. It does have sections like “planning” and “packing list” for filling out before the trip, and then pages for “first impressions”, “the route”, “what we did”, “the language” and so on, which could be a good way of structuring a journal, particularly for a child who maybe isn’t sure what to write. But it doesn’t have any daily pages, and it assumes you have one destination, not several as we do. At the moment this is $14.96 on Amazon.
Then there’s the Kid’s Trip Diary, which looks like fun, and again, I’m sure I would have loved this as a kid, but it only has pages for 28 days. It does have a lot of list type pages to fill out before you go, which could be fun for a child for whom the wait for the trip seems interminable. It has a ‘special note to parents’ at the front with a checklist of things to take with you. It’s all good information, but seems to assume that your child will not read those pages (mine would!). At the moment this is US$6.95 on Amazon. You can also purchase the Kid’s Trip Diary on Fishpond, currently for AU$7.72 with free shipping Australia wide, but that is more than 50% off, so I don’t know if that price will last.
In the newsagency I found:
The Kids Travel Journal by Mudpuppy Press, which is also on Amazon. This one was closer to what I am personally looking for. It has less pages of lists to fill in, and more daily pages for your trip. It does have a world map to mark your route and stops, pages to fill in about your country of destination (only one country though), a page to write about your journey and arrival, postcard address pages and so on. Then it has more than enough daily pages for our purposes – I stopped counting after 60. It also has a few pages for drawing, but not enough.
The main downside of this one is that the daily pages are very structured. Each one is divided into three sections with the headings: ‘What I did’, ‘What I saw’ and ‘What I ate’. I’d rather Liam had the opportunity to write whatever impressions he might have for the day, and maybe draw pictures some days or paste in ticket stubbs or other souvenirs. Price at the local shop was AU, $22.99, price on Amazon is US$8.50.
My favourite option so far is the Fountain FOK Travel Journal. This is not aimed at kids, so hopefully I am not just projecting my preferences onto Liam. It has I found this online for AU$11.95, but I’m pretty sure it was under $10 in the shop. It comes in three different covers with different famous landmarks. It has a personal information page at the front, followed by a checklist page, postcard address pages, itinerary pages and then stacks of lined blank pages with a plastic pocket in the back. The lined pages don’t have anything printed on them, so could be a page per day, or several pages per day, as necessary.
I know this is in someways more a grown-up style book than they others, but it also leaves a lot more room for creativity and for also using it for scrapbooking, which I think Liam will like.
What I would really have liked to find is a book similar to this, but with a kid’s style theme, and alternating lined and blank pages for writing and drawing. There’s still the possibility that I might just buy them each an A5 visual art diary for around $4 each from Big W, and let them have at it. I will ask Liam whether he’d preferred lined or blank pages and go from there I think.
Travel blog and information from Barcelona to San Francisco and back to Canberra