01 July, 2019

Travelling (and coming home) without kids

Our latest trip overseas is over. Today is my first day full back. I'm feeling a bit jetlagged, but managed to have a good night's sleep last night, despite going to bed at what our bodies thought was seven pm (but was really midnight here) and waking up at 3.37 am, and that has helped a lot.

We spent just over seven weeks away, and had an amazing trip to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. It was a trip for my husband's birthday. It was a significant number (with a zero) and neither of us can quite accept that he's that old! But we had a great time, went to some great places, ate some fabulous food, and - apart from the fact we're still waiting for our bags to arrive - didn't have any major accidents, illnesses or travel problems. We know we are very lucky.

And yes, as I noted a while ago, we couldn't share our travel with children. But even though I commented frequently to my husband that our niece "Charlie would have loved this!" I also knew that her parents would hate the very things their daughter would love. Life is a compromise.

We loved our trip and were very thankful that we were able to do it out of school holidays, in our own time and at our own pace, following our own interests. Well, we compromised between the two of us, but that's easier than compromising with a child, I'm sure. My brother-in-law and his family had just been to Japan a few weeks before us. They did completely different things than we enjoyed doing on our trip. (Well, except for one thing I will show below.) They visited anime museums and Disney and Universal Studio parks. My BIL wanted to go to museums but didn't have time to do any of the things he wanted (except for one brief escape in Kyoto), whereas we visited a number of really excellent museums, and enjoyed the temples and palaces and history. (Which is not to say all kids would dislike museums - we have a nephew who is a museum buff, but would want to spend too much time there even for us.) We saw a few families travelling, some with young children, and we shook our heads in a combination of admiration at taking on the task and gratitude that we didn't have to deal with the complications of travelling with kids.

There was two incidents where we were reminded we were childless. Once, in Japan somewhere I think, when we gave the inevitable reply to the question of whether we had children, we received a very kind response from the questioner. The question didn't bother me, but the kind response did make me bristle a little, simply because I don't like the assumption that our situation deserves pity. But they were kind, not judgemental, and that was the key.

The second incident made me laugh a little. In Vietnam, we visited the My Son Sanctuary, a complex of ancient Hindu temples built from the 4th to the 13th centuries, still tucked away in the forest. A key feature of the temples was the focus on fertility, with altars in the shapes of male and female sexual organs. Our guide went on and on about them, talking about the people who would come and pray for fertility at the temples. It reminded me that I am linked to people who have experienced similar disappointments a thousand years ago.

Finally, after an hour or so, he asked us how many (not if) children we had. "None," we replied simultaneously. His eyes widened. I laughed. "We should have come here to ask for help!" I said. He didn't say anything. He clearly didn't know what to say, and I wondered if we were his first customers who had responded this way. I wondered what was going through his head. I wondered if he would do/say things differently in the future. What I didn't wonder was whether he pitied us. Because it didn't matter. We were in an amazing place, learning about a civilisation that was new to us, and I just felt fortunate to be there. (Well, despite the heat that had me streaming in sweat.) What was more disturbing to me was when he caressed part of the "female" part of the altar! (Though if I'm honest, that was actually very funny.)

Still, two incidents in seven weeks is pretty good if you ask me! For most of the time we were in that neutral space, where our No Kidding status - our childlessness - was irrelevant. Where we could concentrate on each other, on where we were, and on what we were seeing and doing.

Coming home too was easy. Well, as easy as three flights (one with a delay that saw us making a connection in the nick of time, one an overnight flight), and 24 hours travelling with virtually no sleep can be. We heard babies and children crying on the plane, one crying "mama" quite regularly, others being shushed, and we relaxed into our seats, with our pillows and blankets, our movies and (e)books. Being able to have 2 1/2 hours sleep yesterday afternoon helped a lot, though with children we may not have been able to do that either. And last night we relaxed and caught up on the last two episodes of GoT, rather than getting kids ready for school today.

Yes, we know how lucky we are.

If you made it through that, here are a couple of relevant pics:

Sensoji Temple, Tokyo
- my SIL and family went at night
because it was the only time they could do so.
I loved her photos, so we went too.

My Son Sanctuary -
where people prayed for fertility
hundreds of years ago.


  1. Wow, that sounds like an AMAZING trip! And happy birthday to your husband, what a great way to celebrate! I was kind of hoping for a picture of one of those altars, but that's probably not appropriate (not because of the depiction, but because of the sacredness). ;) I'm so glad that much of the trip fell into that neutral space, and that you felt grateful for your no kidding status upon returning. I thought you dealt with the two comments well -- it's a hard balance, between empathy and pity, and sometimes it's clear that it's the latter and that sucks. I hope that guy shifts his spiel to "do you have children," instead of the assumptive "how many children." What a beautiful area to go explore -- it sounds amazing!

  2. Thanks for the beautiful pictures Mali! I'm glad you enjoyed your trip a lot. It must have been amazing!

  3. Wow, what a cool trip. I've never done anything like that. I hope your husband had a very happy birthday, which I'm sure he did! Thank you for continuing to share your very full, no kidding life. <3

  4. I followed along on Instagram and loved seeing through your eyes. I didn't realize it was 7 weeks -- win! Thank you for sharing with us and allowing me to live it vicariously through you.

  5. I didn't realize you were gone 7 weeks either... that is quite a trip! Glad you had a good time, and thanks for sharing all those photos, here & on Instagram!