When I was 10, at 19 and again at 21, I lay awake dreaming of the plane I would be catching the following day…a plane that would take me to unknown lands, where lay the promise of adventure and hope and the awakening of a New Me. I could barely breathe from excitement as the plane lifted its wheels and soared into the sky. In a foreign country, I could be a different version of myself. I would transcend from dreary old Life and emerge the other side of the clouds in a land I knew I should have been born, amongst houses that were quaint and cobbled streets that were hundreds of years old. I would breathe in dust that tasted different and allow my senses to be ravaged by new smells, sounds and colours. Travel never let me down. I had moments of grief during my time away, but largely it fulfilled my appetite for novel and wonderful delights.
And then I had a child.
This time, prior to my flight, I lay awake worrying about all the things I hadn’t done, like putting out the garbage or packing my phone charger. The day before we left, my husband and I bickered, which was unusual for us. We snapped where snapping was not due. We were both anxious, and consequently, my daughter clung to me fiercely, needing cuddles all day long, which made last minute packing and cleaning impossible.
We were blessed with a smooth plane trip and a child that travels amazingly well. She never grumbled, had appropriate amounts of sleep and when the time was right, she entertained our neighbours.
We battled crooked sleep patterns for the first few days – even those weren’t that bad. Though we saw a whole new side of Elka…fast becoming an independent and assertive toddler under normal conditions, when faced with sleep deprivation, her sense of independence and assertiveness escalated. As did her wild ways. She would screech (excitedly) in train carriages and tear down the platform, sending both her parents into a fit of near anxiety as they struggled to prevent her from flying off the side. She threw food on the floor and developed numerous cheeky ways to entertain herself.
Once sleep homoeostasis was restored and her wild ways subsided, Elka’s social personality flourished. She now will chat non-stop for 15 minutes about chimneys, and little men with funny hats and sharks, regardless of who’s listening. She sings and dances for strangers, even attracting a severe “Shhhh….” from a cranky French lady in the Belvedere Museum, Vienna. Like both her parents, she is drawn to company and novel experiences, never tiring, and constantly satisfied if surrounded by Happenings, Events and Lots of People.
Travel is different for me now. Now, I don’t transcend. I am the same Old Me who walks the footpaths of Panorama Drive pushing a pram. The air here is fresher and cooler. The natural flowers more beautiful. The mountains more astonishing. I appreciate it all…but I am no longer…lifted. I felt it particularly at the Belvedere yesterday. After years of studying art history, I used to visit European art galleries and became overwhelmed by passion. Schiele and Klimt would give me goose bumps. Yesterday, walking around the same museum, seeing the same paintings, I was preoccupied with the fact that Elka needed a sleep, or Elka needed a “Jutie”, or Elka needed to go outside. My micro-world of me, Elka, Gregor and the growing foetus felt the same in the Belvedere as it did on Panorama Drive.
I am partly whimsical about my young and carefree travelling self. But still, I enjoy taking my micro-world with me, seeing new things and being in new environments. I will take it to Mt Everest if I have to…because there is no way I can do without it. Travel is different now…I can’t tell you which exhibitions are on in Vienna, but I’ll happily explain the city park in vivid detail. That is becoming an adult and a parent.