So, you have decided to travel down to the coast for the holidays. Or maybe up to the grandparents? How are you planning that trip? Is it going to be a dash there and back? Or is the travelling part of your holiday?
When our son was 2 months old, we traveled to a coastal city by car for the summer holidays with the rest of our family. (To be honest, it would have been better to have traveled with a truck with all that luggage!) It was a journey of about 1200 km. We had a wonderful time but I honestly looked forward to getting home. He cried so much, especially at night. This was also the holiday where my husband told me to look, our 2 month old baby did not want us to stand still when we were carrying him. He was always kicking to get us moving.
We slept over at a guest house halfway along our journey back but by this time the crying had turned into screaming. We arrived home on a Saturday and I called the pediatrician. I could not get him to stop. She suggested I gave him some Paracetamol and let him sleep. Paracetamol, six hours and three phone calls later she told us to bring him in to hospital where she sedated him. They did a battery of tests and could not find anything wrong. Despite the very strong sedation, he only stayed asleep as long as he was in my arms.
Two years later we again went to the coast on holiday. This time he did not scream so much but it literally took us three months to recover after the holiday. He was difficult and grumpy throughout the holiday. We struggled to get our happy boy back. The holiday had been a waste of time and money and we returned home more tired than what we were before we left.
The occupational therapist shed light on the issue for us. She explained to us that the travelling overstimulated his senses, and especially his vestibular nerve. It was everything he saw and heard and felt but most of all the vibrations in the car. He could not handle it.
This was an eye opener to us. How on earth would we be able to travel with a child who became overstimulated by travelling? We love travelling and wanted to be able to share this love with our son.
New travel plans
After some deliberation, we decided that we would take a few days longer holiday and start our holiday at home when packing. We would no longer travel straight to our destination but would sleep over along the way. And we made some rules for ourselves. We would not travel for more than 4 hours per day. When we stopped after 2 hours, it would be a proper stop. We would look for places where there were trampolines or jungle gyms or tunnels or even a touch farm.
We would have a picnic (whether we bought the food there or packed our own), sit down and eat without being rushed and then give him the opportunity to run and jump around, stretch his legs and find his equilibrium again. Two hours later we would stop for the day. Because he did not sleep in the car, I sat next to him and brought things for him to do. Most of the time we would build Lego. Often I would read aloud to all of us.
Our travels became part of our journey. We looked for interesting places to stay over. It took us three days to complete a journey down to the coast. We often stay over in Bloemfontein. After 11 years we have now visited every museum in Bloemfontein. We started with the military museums. Did you know that at most military museums they allow the children to play on the exhibitions outside? He would climb the tanks, “drive” them and “fire” them. He would fly the planes. We would talk about the history throughout and take loads of photographs. And at the end of such a visit, he would have forgotten that he was tired and overstimulated.
We tried to find overnight accommodation where there was a swimming pool or a trampoline but at least a garden where he could run around. We would stop at points of interest like monuments next to the road and take the time to walk around and read up about them. Where possible we would try to find a guest farm to sleep over instead of staying in towns or cities. On the road we would Google the history of the towns that we drove through.
Somewhere along the line the fact that we have to stop more regularly has become a huge adventure. We have discovered awesome places all over our country, places that we otherwise would only have rushed through on our way to our destination. Our country has become a place that we have come to know, not because we have read about it or watched a TV-programme about it, but because we are living it and seeing it for ourselves.
Don’t focus only on the destination
It reminds me of that song of John Lennon where he says that “life is just what happens to you while you’re making other plans…” Don’t become so focussed on your destination that you miss the adventure of the road.
Safe and peaceful travels!
PS: Read my post about the first step to adventurous vacations.