Seeing as it often feels hard to make it through a normal day at home with the kids, I wondered how well we would adjust when we added the stresses of travel to our days. My impression, so far? We have adjusted pretty fantastically.
The kids have really stepped up and are taking all sorts of new and strange things in stride. Heat, humidity, an unfamiliar language, strange food, and a plethora of new customs and ways of being have been thrust on the kids. Sure, we are still refereeing the “he touched me” whines and the “don’t look at me” snarls. But we are doing it from half way around the globe. Pretty exciting stuff.
I think the lead up to arriving in Bangkok really helped us adjust. We had our travel warm up in California for a week, took a ridiculous and exhausting journey, got our toes wet with 12 hours of a foreign culture in South Korea, and then jumped head first into the crazy city of Bangkok.
In California, we got to try out carrying the packs, navigating new transportation systems, and homeschooling in new and different environments. On the first day, during a rather extended walk in Golden Gate Park, we had to address the complaints of too much walking.
As a family who lives an extremely suburban life, the kids are just not used to using their legs as a mode of transportation. After some explanation about the differences between city life and suburban life, we had them (almost.. maybe.. a little..) convinced that walking is both good for you, and more interesting. We also reminded them them that since we no longer have a car at our disposal, there will be a lot of walking in our future in the next five months. Though there is a quick mention of tired legs here and there, it hasn’t really been a problem since that first day. Luckily, they got to soak those legs in some salt water, after the long days of walking.
We also had some homeschooling struggles that resulted from lack of routine and new environments. This will be one of the tougher things to manage, but one thing that both boys seem to enjoy is journaling for the daily writing practice. If you want to follow their blogs, you can find Alex’s here, and Zach’s here.
The journey from California to Bangkok itself (nearly 44 hours in length and with the time difference of 15 hours — meaning day turns into night and night turns into day) was a great introduction to the hardship of travel. And the boys weathered it like champs. Eric mentioned that the trip was rough. Holy Hell. I made note of all the waiting and modes of transportation that it involved. It looked something like this:
We started at the Best Western in San Francisco at 7am, November 5th, California Time
1. Hotel Shuttle to the airport (to catch the BART)- 20 minutes
2. Airport Skytrain to BART- 10 minutes
3. Bart train #1 – 5 minutes
4. Transfer to Bart train #2 – 50 minutes
5. Coffee stop in Berkeley – 30 minutes
6. Bart train #3 to Richmond (The Amtrak station)- 15 minutes
7. Amtrak train to Bakersfield – 6 hours
8. Bus from Bakersfield to LA Amtrak Station – 2 hours
9. Bus from Amtrak Station to airport – 1 hour
10. Waiting for our flight at LAX – 4 hours
11. Flight from LA to Seoul, Korea – 13 hours
12. Layover in Seoul – 12 hours
13. Train from airport to Seoul – 45 minutes
14. Walking around Seoul – 3 hours
15. Train back to Incheron Airport – 45 minutes
16. Flight from Seoul to Bangkok – 5 hours
17. Taxi from Bangkok Airport to Hotel – 45 minutes
We finally made it to the Aloft Hotel in Bangkok at about 11:30pm on November 7th, Thailand Time. And no one killed each other. Phew.
Seoul, South Korea
Half way through our nearly two day journey from California to Bangkok, we had a 12 hour layover in South Korea. After a 13 hour overnight flight, we had to decide whether or not to hang out in the airport or venture out into Seoul to get a glimpse of the city. We chose to go into Seoul, and I’m really glad we did because I think Korea was a pretty easy way to introduce the kids to a new culture, before braving Bangkok. They got a taste of hearing foreign languages, seeing signs that weren’t in English, and seeing foods and goods that they aren’t used to in the stores, without the craziness of Bangkok.
In Seoul, we made our way into the city and just wandered around the streets near the main transportation center. We had the goal of getting Zach a new pair of shoes, as he was having trouble with his. He had one pair with an odor issue and a pair of flip flops that broke half way through the never-ending journey. Funny thing about this quest was that apparently there are no shoes big enough to fit Zach’s feet in South Korea. He wears a US mens size 11. We ended up settling for a pair that was slightly too small (which has since been replaced).
We also had our first interesting food experience in a food court in Seoul. We saw a sign that advertised a food court, and followed an escalator upstairs in search of it. When we arrived at the floor, we were greeted with a huge menu on the wall. The menu was numbered, 1-15, and under each number was a list of five or ten menu items. The rest of the floor was covered with a maze of all 15 different numbered stalls, with seating along the outside walls. After deciding what we wanted from the large menu of foreign items, we had to note which number our desired meal belonged to and then go around to each stall to collect our meals. The funniest part of this experience was when we were scolded at the end of the meal for mixing up all the utensils and bringing them back to the wrong vendors.
One of the reasons that Seoul was such a great quick warm up to being in a new culture is that it had all the elements of a new culture (new language, customs, food, etc.), without the sensory overload that is Bangkok (humidity, heat, noise, crazy traffic, bugs and rodents crawling around, putrid smells, bizarre people, you name it). A whirlwind of craziness.
The older boys took the craziness of Bangkok without really batting an eye, which really shocked me a bit. Sawyer took some warming up, and was definitely having the toughest time. He felt overwhelmed by the busyness, had a hard time with the heat and humidity, and was staunchly refusing any Thai food. He is coming around now, but still declares pretty firmly that he likes his house better than the hotel.
Since we have been traveling, when someone asks what time it is, the boys have taken to saying “It’s Adventure Time!” And these days, in just about every moment, they are right.
Thanks for the update. Great pictures too!
Love the photo out the window…and the colorful food one…you, Kelly? Zach? Keep them coming.
Nelius Family! I’m so sorry that I missed you in California. I was hoping that I could tuck myself away in someone’s suitcase and join the adventure. In lieu of that, I’ll follow your posts. Enjoy the journey! Thank you for sharing.
Wow……you guys look great……!!!! Stay safe and with any luck we might run into you along the way!! Also, I’ll try and get Roman to follow along on the boys blogs…..!!
Hey Stanley! Good to hear from you. Run into us on the way? Are you heading to SE Asia this winter!? Let us know if you are! Hope you and the kids are well, say hello to Roman from the boys.
It is interesting to see the boys personalities emerge through their blogs.
Kelly, you write very well. I especially enjoyed the segment on cultural shock and etiquette. Although I have some awareness of these topics, you got me to thinking about the stages of culture shock (especially upon returning from an extended stay in a foreign culture). Most people are aware of the concept of “ugly American” but your piece got me thinking of the long-term ramifications on how the boys will come to see the world as adults. I have a very positive feeling about this.