Taking a break from the usual routine can be an enlightening experience.
Taking a break from my usual routine to travel and live in another country has been a liberating experience for me. For a month, I do not have to worry about daily schedules (involving the kids) or living up to expectations (mine or that of others). In fact, I am free to create the experiences I want with my children instead of focusing on “the right things to do”.
My family and I recently spent a month travelling in Turkey. We spent the first half travelling to a few towns and cities (I wrote about my earlier experience in my previous column), and the second half living in Istanbul.
I love the fact that every day, I was able to wake up to the thought, “what should we explore today?” And to have the luxury of creating new adventures and just having fun. Of course, all this would not have been possible without proper planning.
Something my husband (the planner) and I made several months ahead. We, especially my husband, put a lot of thought in choosing the kind of experience we want, the places we’d like to see based on our budget.
As my husband was only able to travel with us for the first two weeks (due to work commitments), we decided that after he goes back, the kids and I will stay in the city and experience the life there like the locals.
In Istanbul, we rented a studio apartment, which is located in the new town of Beyoglu, just a few minutes from Istiklal Cadessi (street), known as the Istanbul that never sleeps. True to its name, the street is always buzzing with activities.
We can always count on seeing something exciting every time we pass the street on a daily basis in order to catch public transport.
From the funicular, to the old and new tram, the ferry and the bus, we’ve been on them all! We have even gotten lost and taken a longer ride than we should once, because we waited for the bus on the wrong side of the road!
As the locals generally can only speak Turkish, communication can be quite challenging if you don’t speak the language. Very little English is spoken here. The good thing is, it has forced us to pick up some Turkish words to manage simple conversations.
My kids seem to do it naturally while I struggled with my audio programme. From my experience, the best way to learn a language is through ‘immersion’.
I was on a bus one day struggling to ask a guy sitting next to us, how to get to a museum. The next thing I knew my son uttered a few words to correct me. The guy we were talking to was so impressed with him.
He not only told us where to stop, he even told the bus driver to notify us when we arrive at our destination. My son managed to learn some words by just listening and making sense of the conversation around us.
Travelling with children here has its perks. My children especially my son often get free treats. I regularly get discounts when we eat out or make purchase from our regular grocer and the butcher. A couple of shop owners even know my kids by their first names.
Another thing I’m glad I did here was to catch up with a few friends. From them we learned more about the locals, get to sample a variety of local cuisines, and got to know local guides who took us to places we wouldn’t have been able to do on our own, like climbing the rooftop of the Grand Bazaar.
One of the guides, Mehmet, is patient and fun. He answered every question the kids asked during the tour to Topkapi and Ayasofya with my friends and their children.
He showed us video clips, asked the kids questions as well as threw in challenges and fun activities.
I think they remember facts better when they’re having fun. Our trip became more memorable when a friend from Scotland visited my kids and I.
By the time this article is published, I’ll be back in the comfort of my own home in Petaling Jaya. When I’m back, I may continue with some of my usual routine, but my perspective on creating my day will never be the same.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own.