A Chichester mum on backpacking with a five year old
Going away with a child can sometimes fill parents with dread, but after a trip to Spain, Laura Pauley decided to go travelling around Asia with her five-year-old.
“When my daughter Summer was three, I wanted to see if I could go away with her,” Laura explains.“I booked a package holiday but while we were there I decided I wanted to go to Barcelona.“I worried that it would be too stressful with a three-year-old, but we managed to get to the city centre by train and stayed for a few days. It was so spontaneous, and having Summer by my side made it all the more enjoyable.“After making it back to the hotel after our city break, I decided it was definitely something I wanted to do again.”
With Summer turning five, Laura decided to take her travelling for six weeks around Asia, choosing the destination because of its varied landscape, mix of cultures and religions.“I also chose it because it is cheap which meant we could do one or two ‘rough’ nights somewhere but then stay a couple of nights in a hotel,” explains Laura.“It would have been a culture shock to stay in hostels all the time as she was only five.”
The key to going away with a child, Laura says, is preparation.“I had an itinerary and planned everything.“We had to be in certain places at certain times otherwise we would miss connections. The route we did usually takes people three months, we did it in six weeks.“Also be prepared for things to go wrong. If they do face them head on and bounce back quickly.“We had scary moments on the trip and I could have come home, but I am so glad I kept going.”
On their travels they visited Hong Kong, Thailand (visiting north, central and south), Cambodia (north to south) and Vietnam.Laura adds that although she felt she had researched everything, some things did catch her out.“Before leaving the UK I got Summer used to eating with chop sticks and eating a touch of spice. I knew that in Asia their food is notorious for being spicy.“We were often in situations where we were staying with families and so we were not asked what we wanted for food and had to eat what we were served, and often it would be spicy with no cutlery but chop sticks.”
During the trip, Summer kept a journal where she would say what they had done that day and they also kept a scrapbook of postcards and mementos from the trip.
The family now also sponsor a Cambodian child, which provides a constant reminder of their travels.
My Asian Summer chronicles their trip but took Laura four years to write.“Life got in the way,” she reveals. “I had two more children in that time, but I did keep bullet points of sounds, tastes or things that happened that I referred to.“I also made friends with many of the people we met travelling so I messaged them for stories.“But I would write a chapter, edit it, leave it a few days, reread it and rip it apart again.“I probably could have written it in a year but I wanted it to be a particular way.”
On the trip Summer’s confidence grew massively, she went from hiding behind Laura’s legs when meeting new people to chatting away to anyone they met.She also learned about money when at markets and loved to barter with the local traders.
Now Summer, aged nine, has her own bucket list of places she wants to head to.“When she was three, I taught her countries and continents and if you asked her where the Taj Mahal is she would point to India,” she says.“Summer wants to go to New York and mentions the San Francisco (Golden Gate) bridge a lot.”
There are no immediate plans for another adventure but Laura would love to travel either Australia, America or Europe in a camper van.
My Asian Summer is available from Amazon and to order from book shops.You can follow Laura’s travels using the hashtags on Instagram - #myasiansummer#myasiansummerillustration #myasiansummeredit