|Alli on the summit of Mera Peak, Nepal (6476 metres, 21,246 feet)|
In my twenties and thirties, I scaled mountains in the Himalayas and the Andes. I swam and rafted the Ganges, trekked through spider-infested jungles and got so far off the beaten track, I thought I’d never see civilization again. And I had the time of my life. Living in suburbia and being a mom was the last thing on my mind.
Then I fell in love.
I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, falling pregnant with my first child started me on an adventure I could never have dreamed of. And now, with two young kids and an awesome hubby by my side, I’m on a whirlwind journey that combines my old world with the new—and I couldn’t be happier.
When I grew up in Australia, it would have been easy to shelter myself from the rest of the world. As a kid (yes, I’m showing my age), there was no Internet, no cable TV, and (gasp!) one had to go to a library to find out information. But I had a geography teacher who found it impossible to contain his love for other continents and cultures, and his enthusiasm made me want to learn as much as I could about foreign countries and people.
I often get asked if I miss pouring Guinness in Peru or sashaying down Calle Florida in Buenos Aires (actually, I can’t sashay, but I like watching those who can!). Sure, I miss those times. In fact, I will probably miss South America every day for the rest of my life. But as with a lot of things in life, we need to move on, even if we don’t feel ready to. We have to open ourselves up and be ready to head in a new, adventurous, direction we may not have anticipated.
Writing novels set in South America certainly gives me the chance to reflect on my experiences and incorporate some of those more hairy escapades into my character’s adventures. It’s fun flicking through old travel diaries and slides, reminiscing about friends from the past, and enjoying being in contact with those who have continued on in the present. The memories are enough to stoke the fire in my belly. And when the kids ask about a photo of me standing on the summit of Aconcagua, I get to share that experience with them and see it through their eyes.
Travel has expanded my world. I’ve met people from many, many cultures, seen natural and manmade wonders from modern and ancient civilizations, and had so many close calls, I’ve lost count. I’ve discovered how to be patient, empathetic, accepting, and tolerant. I’ve learned to be self reliant, ask for help when needed, and know my limits. What travel has done is made me a better person. And it’s this knowledge I hope my kids will embrace and put their own spin on.
Even though the kids are young, I know the seeds of wanderlust have been planted. I’ve spoken to the kids in Spanish and English since they were born, hoping the language part of their brain is opened and remains that way for life. In our house, we listen to music in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, to name a few languages. Next year, our eldest will start learning Italian at primary school. My husband and I talk freely about our travels, and encourage the kids to ask questions. We’ve even been fortunate enough to take some extended international trips away as a family.
Now that we’re back in Australia and settled into school and routine life, those days of long trips are over—for now. But rest assured, as soon as another opportunity presents itself (or we make one), those passports and bags will be packed in record time. First stop? Preferably South America. But who knows what the universe will throw at us? What I do know is, through my husband and I sharing our love of travel and culture, our kids will be well equipped to deal with a variety of situations and won’t always need a passport to experience them.
Australia prides itself on being a multi-cultural country, and visiting a school or local neighborhood shows the diversity of people from many nations now calling Australia home. What better way to start a love for different cultures than with the people living next door?
For now, I’ve packed away the dusty trekking boots and ice-axe, but one day, I’ll take them out and give them a good airing. I’ve pressed the pause button on my crazy adventures, but I know I’ll eventually get to hit play and experience it again with the whole family. And I can't wait.