I’ve just finished reading Ben Hatch’s Are We Nearly There Yet?: A Family’s 8,000-Mile Car Journey Around Britain, which I bought because it was a travelogue and (as you’ve probably guessed) I’m a fan of those. Hatch is a humorist, too, so he made this five-month trip with two “under-fours” (that is, children under the age of four) hilarious, though at times I was squirming. (It should be noted there is also a moving subplot about his father’s final illness and death.)
Then I discovered this article, in which Pamela Paul (editor of the New York Times Book Review) also discusses the trials and rewards of traveling with children.
The hope is that despite them, participants young and old manage to eke out some modicum of enjoyment, drawn into one another’s world by the sheer force of parental or filial appetite, tolerating or tantruming through the rest.
But when, I wondered, would my children want to do more of what I want to do, or vice versa, and when might those tendencies magically converge? At what age can a child truly appreciate the cultural value of an international journey, on mutually agreeable terms?
As spring break approached this year, I thought I might have finally hit that moment with my nearly 9-year-old daughter — especially if I left my two smaller children, boys whose predilections would confine us largely to playgrounds and ice cream parlors, behind. Perhaps I could take Beatrice to London, a city I lived in 15 years ago and have traveled to frequently since, as a test case: Would she be old enough to appreciate my London — a city of quirky bookshops, World War history and street scenery straight out of “Bleak House” — and also make it her own? By pursuing our shared passions for books and theater in a city that specializes in both, might we achieve that elusive family-travel synchronicity?
The answer is yes. Honestly, the trip looks like so much fun I’m saving this article in case I get a chance to go back to London. And I won’t need a kid to love it as much as Paul did. It just looks like an interesting itinerary.
I didn’t get to truly travel with my child until he was sixteen (interestingly, also a trip to England), so I missed the particular joys described by both Hatch and Paul. But it is, in fact, really delightful to introduce one’s offspring to something special like international travel when they are old enough to appreciate the privilege. Enjoy!