With only weeks left until we set off on our travels, organisation and preparation is stepping up considerably.
Packing for 13 people for two month trips is not as daunting as it might seem as long as you are able to remember everything that everybody needs or might need. My memory is somewhat schizophrenic; remembering idle, non-important facts at inappropriate moments while letting me down tremendously when I most need it – in the supermarket for that obligatory ingredient that we just can’t do without for that evening’s meal, for example.
The oldest two are now independent and won’t be joining us, leaving us with only two adults and 11 children to organise. Spreadsheet after spreadsheet lists our packing itinerary. There is a list of clothes which contains everybody’s staple wardrobe items, a list of items we mustn’t forget – detailed right down to buggies, travel cots and bedding, and the outstanding list of products we still have to buy. A tech list is also present; detailing all the SD cards, cameras, camcorders, batteries, spare batteries and chargers we must not forget. Oh, and the work stuff. We can’t forget that.
Packing isn’t the issue; it’s ensuring that there is enough space on the minibus to accommodate it all. The minibus whose new brakes and tyres are a worthwhile investment into a two-month trip through Europe, or so we try to console ourselves, at least.
The weeks prior to leaving also requires various appointments to be made; this year included a trip to the dentist for a last minute check-up given last year’s welcome-to-Italy-toothache that made me want to rip my own head off just two days after our arrival. After a frantic hunt for a local dentist (found very nearby), two appointments and a root canal which left us almost €700 down, we decided to view it instead as our transition into become more like one of the locals rather than visitors to the lovely town of Torreglia. As wonderful as my Italian dentist was, I was keen to avoid another unplanned emergency visit which cut into our spending budget so much. The result was a £200 spend at my dental practice in England instead.
Keen to see more of the world, we are cutting through France for a few days in Hammelburg, Germany via Belgium before heading on down to Italy via Austria. Our Eurotunnel ticket outbound has been bought but, still undecided as to how our travel plans will pan out, we do not know whether our currently planned return date might change. Finding a holiday home in Belgium or Holland which meets our budget and the size suitable for 13 of us is proving difficult.
Young children have no concept of time, of course. Every morning the younger ones ask if we’re going to ‘Ali’s Castle’ yet – they named it after one of the owners whom we all adore. Trying to explain how long six or five or four weeks is to a child who has yet to grasp the wait between setting the table for dinner and the meal actually being served is difficult. Throw in a handful more children with the same concept of time and conversations prove to be very predictable and repetitive indeed.
The middle and older children are excited. The calendar is flipped back and forth several times a day. The countdown is calculated in the morning before being re-calculated in the evening because the day is almost over and tomorrow is about to (sort of) begin and surely that means we can count a day less, doesn’t it?
Working on the belief that you cannot truly experience somewhere without being there, that you cannot appreciate a culture without experiencing it and that you cannot open your mind to new things without being a part of them, we want to raise our children to be positively curious of the world. We want them to be open-minded and tolerant and, of course, we want them to learn by doing, because that’s the best way of learning anything.
The children are used to us announcing travel plans. Announcing isn’t even close, actually. It isn’t unusual for us to be chatting about where we plan to go and, realising how close our journey takes us to another place, we arrange a previously unplanned stop there as well. Caitlin came downstairs late one evening to seeing maps and notes strewn everywhere.
‘Where are we going now?’ she asked.
‘But when I went upstairs you were talking about Italy.’
‘It’s close enough.’
We haven’t yet decided whether Slovenia will be covered in this trip or the next one. Either way, we’ll be putting together a YouTube feature of our travels.
Do you have any recommendations of things to do or places to see either for this trip or any other? We would love to hear them.