One of the problems with having been in the industry for around 30 years is that everything related to travel becomes too easy, too familiar. My children have been ‘subjected’ to long haul travel since they were born, either to Australia or, more often, to Africa. Georgie, our youngest, did her first trip to Africa aged four (the other two were babies when they first travelled!). I can remember being a little worried about how she would cope with game drives, the ‘attention span of a gnat’ not being conducive for extended hours in the field. In hindsight, I need not have worried – the swimming pool was more of an attraction!
We’ve travelled considerably since then, and each year I’ve been encouraged about how much more all the kids seemed to get out of each trip. Some years later, Georgie was able to enjoy ‘adult length’ drives, and coupled with the fact that she could also put together her own bag, travelling in Africa has become very easy. (In my personal experience, our kids really started to get value from their visits from the age of around 10).
For February half term, I offered Georgie the chance to invite a friend to join us in Kenya. She invited ‘Nad’, a friend from school. Our laissez faire attitude was about to be brought into check. Nad has Type 1 diabetes, not something we had any notion about. She had not travelled broadly, and what we took as routine, she and her mum had kittens about: what to pack, inoculations, visas required, etc. etc. etc. We batted the answers back to them in our too familiar style – we must have driven them mad.
Prior to travel, we needed to get to grips with diabetes. We learnt a bit about what to do in an emergency, what foodstuffs were okay, what were not. I came into the office and sent a few emails to the camps we were visiting – ‘we need this and we need that’. Even I was a little anxious as we set off to Kenya, leaving the snow billowing around Heathrow.
Should I have worried? Not a jot. The camps performed beyond expectations, producing different meals for the diabetics (another friend with us was Type 2), providing fridge space for the insulin, and even ensuring we took packs (with biscuits, fruit, snacks, drinks etc.) out into the field in case of emergency. Nad travelled as easily as we did, and from her sugar level readings, was as stable as she was at home. The hot chocolate brought to their tent in the morning ensured that they were up in time and ready to go. They did every walk or drive until the second last morning when they decided to be teenagers and have a lie in – almost forgivable! They joined us for dinner and fireside chats, studied Jupiter’s moons, and explored the camp surrounds (veggie garden, kitchen etc.) with the camp staff. They only stopped when we boarded the aircraft at midnight to begin our journey home.
Travelling with kids to Africa? Mind over matter!