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​Faux fur, devices and reference points: Travels with a 10 year old

Jo Scard

What has astounded me more than anything else so far is how international travel has changed.

There are two of us on this mother/daughter journey across four European countries in four weeks. Myself and my 10 year old.

We have five devices, four different electricity plugs (Australian, European, UK and US), three spare battery packs, a powerboard and seven ​different sorts of connection cables including one for my Fitbit and a European-wide coverage modem that we booked in and collected in Paris just after we arrived.

I’ve realised that you have to have bunch of apps to simply function, including ones for tour bookings, airlines, to convert currency, to make restaurant bookings and an itinerary organiser that integrates with your chosen frequent flyer scheme. Must have. Phew.

I recall that when I used to travel both last century and even more recently this century, that the key items to pack were Hydrolyte and Bonds underwear. Maybe swimmers.

Not now. Nope. If you travel with kids you have to have options. Many of them. Or else they get “bored”. A games console. A selection of (new) games apps on your iPhone. You must have, of necessity and at huge cost, downloaded a number of the most recently available films on the iTunes Store because, invariably, the films on the plane may not be any good. You need colouring-in books. Real books with words printed on paper. Colouring in pens and pencils. A mini-paint box and brush.

Let me just say that my 10 year old daughter is not a Veruca Salt, not in the slightest. It’s just the way it goes these days. You have to get with the program or leave.

It’s a bit like living out that Alain De Botton book The Art Of Travel, the main message being that travel is always more perfectly imagined beforehand than it is in the moment. We all know the drill – we feel disorientation, the exhaustion and the lethargy – the reality of travel seldom matches our dreams.

This no truer than when traveling with children. It’s a far cry from skipping along hand-in-hand on crisp Parisian mornings. It’s never Room With A View.

Before we go any further I totally need to say upfront that I’m REALLY pleased that I invested in a ‘foundation piece’ for the trip, namely a water-resistant winter coat with a faux-fur collar and hood. Made me feel right at home in Paris. Like a local as soon as I got off the plane. That and the Samsonite luggage. I could have an EU passport. Such a jetsetter. And it’s faux – win-win, so PC and on point.

However, I underestimated one big thing with her when we arrived in Paris: how hard it is for her to recalibrate as quickly as I can. When you’re looking up at everything and you’re 10, the world must seem daunting. It’s new. You’re in another place. It isn’t home. The menus are in French. Everyone looks and sounds a little different to what they look like in Canberra.

For the first two days she ate steak. Steak and water. The potatoes were too fancy. She wasn’t interested in the Wild Boar Bourguignon or the Pigeon Pie. Steak she could grasp. Steak was a reference point. I know what steak is. There were tears in the restaurant and requests to fly home or get Dad to fly in.

The thing that grounded us was a very long walk through the city on Day Two. We went to a lolly shop. The man was friendly and gave us free samples. We went into a pharmacy – the woman was lovely and gave my daughter a caramel. We just walked. And talked. And observed. Ate. Discovered macarons. Visited the Eiffel Tower. More reference points. What worked was ownership. Ms 10 took responsibility for orienteering us on the Metro and she nailed it every time.

I could pretend that the other half of this mother/daughter tour was in search of frilly dresses, tiaras and princesses but that’d be a fib. Ms 10 was much more interested in navigating the Metro, art installations made of sand and the Mona Lisa than shopping.

This meant that I had to recalibrate too – I had it in my mind that I really needed to visit Galeries Lafayette but this was met with groans of resistance from my travel companion. We went to one ‘modern’ French restaurant and Ms 10’s summation was that it was ‘disgusting’. Pureed celeriac. #@&!. Oh well.

Keeping in touch with Australia – there’s a variety of apps for that. Ms 10’s knowledge came into it’s own when I wanted to tweet some positive witch references to get involved in the ‘witch’ conversation bits of the nation were having. She suggested Hermione or Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter – all I could think of was the flourescent Wicked Witch of the East, an oldy but a goody – or the more politically correct Joan of Arc (we are in Paris).

It will be interesting to see what the Prime Ministers response to the Samantha Maiden/Peter Dutton cat-text-strophe is. Didn’t the PM say Day One that the key to confronting domestic violence was to have respect for women?

Back to reality – next stop Venice. Ms 10 has planned our itinerary:

  1. Eat spaghetti bolognese
  2. Eat lasagna
  3. Eat pizza
  4. Eat gelato

Oh and we’re going to do a gondola rowing lesson (it’s 2 degrees there).

Reference points. Simplicity. And joy. Will keep you posted.

Jo Scard is the Managing Director of Fifty Acres – The Communications Agency and tweets @scardjo

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Jo Scard

With over 20 years’ experience in communications, political advisory roles and journalism, Jo Scard is one of Australia’s leading advisers to corporates, Not-For-Profits, organisations and government. Managing Director of communications agency, Fifty Acres which is HQ’d in Canberra, Jo is a respected former political journalist in the UK and Australia working with ITV, Associated Press, Seven Network, SBS, ABC and Fairfax. A former senior adviser to the Rudd and Gillard governments and a trained lawyer she is on the Boards of the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Hockey ACT and a Member of the NSW Council of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. Jo is an Ambassador for the global entrepreneur magazine Renegade Collective and a member of the Registered Consultancies Group of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. She has spent over a decade advising corporates and Not-For-Profits at CEO and board level across strategic communications, government relations and public relations and co-authored the best-selling book The Working Mother’s Survival Guide with Seven’s Melissa Doyle.

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