Despite some of my fears about how the boys would cope with Morocco and travelling in general, on the whole I’d say they’ve managed well. The first week or two were definitely challenging for all of us and particularly our littlest drifter, but since then I’ve been impressed with how the boys have adapted to a life on the move.
In some ways, the circumstances of their previous lives have helped with their transition to a transitory way of being; neither of them were in school or kindergarten and, although our days at home were unstructured, we’ve never watched much TV or spent a huge amount of time in front of a screen, so they were both well primed for chunks of boredom. It’s also a huge help that Eli loves to read and will spend entire days immersed in a book, giving only the occasional grunt to signal that he knows we are there at all. Monty has found it harder to occupy himself, especially on some of our longer drives but mostly between them they’ve managed to fill their time admirably.
The following is a list of some of the activities that have occupied and amused our seven and five year olds whilst travelling so far:
This is unsurprisingly top of their list. Whenever Rob and I turn to them wistfully while standing in front of some breathtaking vista and sigh, ‘isn’t this one of the most amazing things you’ve ever seen?’ one or other of the boys will invariably say in response, ‘yes, but not as amazing as Disneyland Paris’. Well yes, they are children after all.
This is a good versatile activity for all locations. Collections include; giant pine cones, acorn type things, peacock feathers, beautiful stones, bones, shells (the more exotic looking the better), dead bugs (currently it’s a butterfly floating about the van) and junk. Some of this activity is harmless and reveals a healthy curiosity with and appreciation of the natural world, but there are times that I struggle to maintain my motherly interest with their curating. Such as the time Monty gathered a mountain of gravel and entirely filled his trouser pockets and the pouch on his brand new hooded top with the stuff, then protested loudly because I wouldn’t allow him to bring it with us to our next stopping place.
Catching ‘beetle bugs’ and making them homes; spotting swooping raptors or sprightly little sparrows; watching processional caterpillars but remembering not to touch (hopefully!); trying to catch a proper look at the little thrush-like birds with the crest on their heads and identifying whatever we can with the help of our new bird book (thanks Uncle Richard!); painfully watching the feral cats and dogs because they’re not allowed to stroke them; following peacocks around waiting for their feathers to drop out (see above); fishing for salamanders in the dunes of the Sahara; petting and loving all the dogs owned by our fellow campers wherever we go.
It’s easy enough to get grubby whilst travelling in dusty lands with a limited water supply to hand, but the level of dedication our boys have given to this particular activity is deserving of a category of its own. Both are self-confessed junk collectors (see above) and this pastime is always a mucky affair. A particularly quirky dirt maker was the found battered spoon; attached to a tatty bit of acrylic twine it was worn around the neck for ease and convenience. This ‘tool’ could then be used to dig in all manner of ‘interesting’ substances and was also most useful for assessing the suitability of various sands and soils for play. One admirable day of dirtiness was achieved by not only rolling around in a couple of inches of grubby sand at a campsite but by throwing it at each other and then pouring it in each other’s ears. Eli said that he could hear only vibration for days afterwards. These activities are obviously ongoing and endlessly entertaining.
Around campsites, into towns, out along little dirt paths to find secret ruins or magical forests. Being on bikes is loved by all of us, which keeps Rob constantly busy (more on this another time!). Whenever we stop somewhere for longer than a couple of hours, Monty asks for his bike to be unstrapped from the back, and then he’s off. We bought them new bikes for the trip with the help of generous grandparents and it’s been really worth it. They’re light and easy to handle, with tyres that can cope with rougher terrain without being too bulky. Definitely one of the top diversions.
In the van
As most parents know, long journeys are the hardest times to keep children in good moods. Successful diversions amongst our arsenal of engagement are Lego, sticker books, story CDs, lots of drawing materials – including activity/doodle books. Top Trumps cards, and the occasional game of Angry Birds.
Chucking them into rivers, sword fighting, poking them into filthy places, etc
The travelling life offers many opportunities for adventurous eating and well lets face it, eating in general. We all seem to do a little too much of it as there’s always something tempting around every corner. The boys have enjoyed churros with chocolate milk in Salamanca, tagines (chicken with olives every time for Monty), creme caramels, Moroccan salad, fried sardine sandwiches and harira soup among other things. Eli even gave snails a go and reported that they tasted pretty good but he was put off by their eyes sticking out.
– Throwing stones onto frozen ponds and listening to the weird other-worldly noise it produced
– Writing the names of all the people that they love on Monty’s body in coloured felt tip pens
– Re-enacting the scene from Star Wars in which Darth and Obi Wan have a light sabre fight and then Obi Wan vanishes, complete with dialogue. Monty is very convincing as Darth when he checks the pile of robes with his foot for any remains of Obi Wan
– Singing along to the Frozen soundtrack and various other favourite songs including: I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, Ying Tong, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Cement Mixer (Putti Putti), Brand New Key (Rollerskate Song) and Right Said Fred.
We do have the occasional movie night, which is very lovely when we’re all tired, and there are times when everyone cracks up a bit and no one knows what to do with themselves, but really we don’t have too much to worry about. When at one campsite in the middle of nowhere, Rob and I suggested moving on, Eli asked us why. We replied that we were just stopping overnight as there wasn’t much to entertain us and Eli, outraged, said firmly ‘Yes there is. That log!’
(P.S. I’ll attempt to put links to some of our favourite family tunes on my Facebook page over the next couple of days, you can find it here)