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Around the World With Kids

Quentin and Justine Solomon took their two young children on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, South America and Asia. Harald Breiding-Buss spoke to Quentin.

Traveling with young children is always hard work, but taking a four year old and a 15 month old on a round-the-world trip for more than three months seems like outright madness.

Yet this is what Wellington couple Quentin and Justin Solomon did. They left on July 1st for their first destination, Rio, and things were already not going to plan. A volcanic eruption in Chile disrupted air travel across the southern Pacific, and the young family spent a total of 30 hours on various planes having to take a long detour via Sydney and Dallas with just four hours in stopovers in between.

“Xavier couldn’t sleep, he was that little ball of energy”, says Quentin. “He was about 15 months and he was absolutely not used to flying and being cramped into airplane space. I was constantly standing because he was constantly moving and getting up. He didn’t sleep at all, there were too many people to go and bother. I was pretty knackered at the end of it.”

Xavier was still being breastfed, and just as well reckons Quentin. “Breastfeeding saved a lot of crying. It was good during the flights. When we were descending on one of our flights he started to cry with a different pitch, a high whining sort of noise, and we thought it was because of the ears, so Justin breastfed him and it went away, because of the sucking.”

His daughter, Mila, wasn’t bothered at all, thanks to today’s entertainment facilities in planes. “She had movies to watch, games to play. She was quite excited in the plane – movies, food. She ended up rating the companies we flew with and rated Air New Zealand tops. Air America had no TV and food, so they rated bottom.”

Even so, it took the family a few days to get over the time shift.

“The first day in Rio we were practically sleeping”, Quentin says. And Xavier’s sleep routines were all over the place. “He used to have two sleeps a day, but was down to one.”

Other stops on their trip included Colombia, various parts of Europe including Justine’s native Croatia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Quentin says it took about a month “before we really knew what we were doing.

“Because of the time difference, it was quite hard to stay awake during the day, so what we tried to do, especially the first day [in a new location] we decided to stay up, so we walked around like zombies. It took a little bit of getting used to.”

Although Quentin, who had never been outside of New Zealand before, thought it was an awesome, life-changing experience seeing all these different countries, he concedes that they didn’t get to do a lot of the things they wanted to.

“You gotta understand that if you take your kids on a holiday it revolves around them. Our daily business was to keep the kids entertained. So we did a lot of things like going to the parks.

“Every country we got to we scoped out the entertainment, parks, indoor playgrounds, anything to get out of the room. We just constantly explored, and we ensured our kids were well rested.

“You plan your days, you plan your time in one place. Your kids come first. If your kids are happy you are. Hydroslides, zoos, everything.
“Sometimes we just took a bus with no destination in mind, see where it takes us. That was exciting for the kids and us.”

Meeting people in different countries, speaking different languages, was exciting for parents and kids alike. Although everyone tried to speak English, it was often very hard to understand.

Mila, says Quentin, has a habit of just blurting out what she thinks, including comments about people that are ‘different’, but they were saved bigger embarassments. “We had to explain to her that if she hasn’t got anything nice to say, don’t say it. She was okay, but sometimes we could see on her face, what she was thinking, and I was just hoping she would keep it to herself.”

And although she wasn’t homesick, she did start to miss friends and a familiar environment after a while.

“She did alright. Obviously, when she was really tired, she became really emotional. She wasn’t homesick at all, but she was missing school, she wanted to communicate with friends and she used [the online game] ‘Moshi Monster’ to communicate with her friends at school. She was also really good with the homework and keeping that up.”

Dad was a different story.

“Xavier was getting better with travelling, but I was getting worse. The second month into it I was ready to come home. I had things to do, and I was putting on weight. 10 kgs or more. When you’re travelling you just eat what’s there. Being fit is important to me, and I was missing the training. I was getting a bit titchy, especially in Hong Kong, our last stop, I didn’t even want to go sightseeing. I just wanted to stay at the motel.”

The relationship was put to the test as well.

“If you spend that much time together, you’re constantly in each other’s presence, that’s a real test. Communication is the key. Bring up how you feel. You have to talk to each other”.

And also take breaks from each other.

“We took turns looking after the kids by ourselves so the other could go and do stuff on their own or with others or just stay at the room. Mindspace is very important.”

Quentin has a few tips for others setting out on a big OE with little kids. Most of all, he says, “don’t rush, don’t feel like you’re busy”. It’s easy to put yourself under more stress than you have to be. This is your holiday.

He also reckons it’s important to involve children in the decision-making. “They feel quite validated”, he says, and obviously they’re more likely to stick to the plan if they had a part in it.

Plus, you will need more than the one change of clothes each that Quentin packed for the family. “My wife wanted me to pack light, so I packed light”, he says somewhat sheepishly. Maybe these things are better left to the woman of the house after all…

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