Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ricky Abroad: Thoughts about Being on the Road with a 5-Year-Old

We’ve traveled a lot since Rick was born in 2005. When he was two months old, we took him to Las Vegas (where he’s been at least five times since), and at five months he traveled to Spain from Los Angeles for the first time. Last year, we spent three weeks in Argentina. And last summer we were in England for a month. When he was two, we traveled from Los Angeles to New Jersey at least seven times. He’s been to sixteen states in the United States.

Because of all this roaming, I know that traveling means fun to Ricky but also stress. One of the ways that stress has manifested in past trips has been through illness. Ricky has all too often thrown up while traveling, even when he had not eaten anything unusual. The stomach trouble is usually accompanied by a very high fever. Also, he has frequently wet his bed at hotels, while at home this is a rare occurrence. Although he enjoys many things about hotels, he dislikes change and wants to remain at whatever hotel he is in, saying he does not want to go to another place, that he likes this one (especially if there's a pool).

Fortunately, Ricky will go to sleep in any bed and tends to sleep through the night. He gets up early and is very hungry in the morning. He can be reluctant to take a bath in hotels, and usually avoids showers.   On the whole, he is very good about staying at new places.

Ricky does not eat a lot of vegetables. He likes ketchup, and tomato sauce, and in the last year he’s started eating the super tasty chard fritters that my mom makes. Occasionally, he eats sweet potatoes. But other than this, Ricky is not picky about food, and we’ve been able to feed him in any restaurant while traveling. His favorite foods are hamburgers, eggs, breaded chicken, and pasta, but he can eat noodles and rice and meat and bread as long as there’s a sauce for him to dip things into. He loves all fruit. He drinks watered down juice and milk, and when very tired, he has a glass of milk as a meal.  This year he has also become crazy about fish.  He likes it no matter how it is prepared, and even enjoys pickled herring.

He loves museums, and although he is the loudest child in the world and tends to get overly excited, he looks at art and artifacts with interest and care. He has a million questions about exhibits, and loves museums that display furniture, and cars, and odd objects. During a tour of Martin Luther King Jr.'s boyhood home in Atlanta, he had a running conversation with the guide, discussing and speculating about the toys and games which were on display, and how the different rooms were used.  He is fascinated with the past, and wants to travel there in a time machine. One of his favorite movies is Back to the Future, and he believes that some cars can take you time traveling.

The plan for our upcoming adventure is to arrange for longer stays at some points during the trip, so that we’re not constantly moving from one hotel to the next. This, we hope, will give Ricky (and us) a time to rest and relax, and to create continuity and a small dose of routine. The first two destinations (Morocco and Egypt) will not allow that, since we are there for only one week in each place. But in South Africa, we’re staying in the same place for two weeks. And later on the trip, we may stay put in Thailand or Malaysia for even longer (this part of the trip is still unplanned). Since we’ll be traveling for months with a 5-year-old, we can’t run around the whole time. We will see what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully Ricky will have a great time.
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