When undertaking any change or making any life decision; as a parent I have always to taken into consideration how it would affect my child; his wellbeing and safety is paramount.
Deciding to take a child backpacking is obviously not an everyday decision for anyone to make-so if anything, I needed to give extra careful consideration to what the impact on him would be and be certain that I am doing the right thing for him in the long run. Just because I want to travel, it does not automatically follow suit that any child of mine will, and I think that's something that I needed to be mindful of when making this decision. My ideal goal is to take him traveling for a year and world-school him. But I wanted to ease us both in gently and dip our toes initially, rather than completely submerging.
Points that I pondered were this,
Is he old enough to really enjoy this?
Does he actually want to do this?
Will he remember this as a fantastic life-enhancing experience, or will he just remember having to sit with his bottom stuck to a hot uncomfortable bus seat for hours on end, wishing he could meet his pals in the park?
How will he cope with the language barriers?
Will he moan all the way around Europe that he's too hot and be miserable?
What kid friendly experiences can I find to keep his enthusiasm up?
Will I put him off traveling for life?
Am I doing the right thing or should we just go on a package holiday to Salou …
And so on and so forth.
So I guess the answers to some of those questions will come while we are on the road and I will update as we go along. But I have made an effort to pre-empt the above concerns. I've planned the trip so that we have broken the journeys with fun stopovers and interesting tours. (Ferrari Musuem anyone ?!) I borrowed an Italian language course on CD from the local library and we have been listening and repeating in the car much to our amusement .. (I've actually found that he is better than me!) I have bought him a little travel pillow that clips to his rucksack with a carabiner, and a handheld water spraying fan for any hot whiny moments.
The most important thing here is communication. I have included Jared in every step of the planning. I've talked him through everything, the what's the where's the when's the how's and the why's. I've asked him if he wanted to do this and double, triple, quadruple checked before I was satisfied that he does want to go. I think that by including the child and showing them photos on Google images and a route then this helps prepare them and helps with their expectations.
To some parents this may seem a bit OTT, and that the kids should just do as the parent (s) wants them to do. But I've always included Jared in the planning process of any life-changing decision, and that's just how our little unit works. He has not had the easiest life, so to know that he is happy with anything that I'm planning is really important to me.
The child's personality and experience will also have some bearing on planning a trip. Having grown up in the Lake District with grandparents and uncles that have traveled extensively since he was born, this is all "normal" to him, so he is not phased by it one iota.
He is used to regularly camping, hiking and wild camping. He is always outdoors in general and is very fit and active. He is a boy scout and has trotted off on many weekend camps and even a survival night out in the woods in makeshift shelters by Windermere in 2 degree temperatures, so I am pretty confident in his ability to handle this, and any other backpacking trip that we may do.
I also am very independent and self-reliant and have total faith in my abilities; so I know that I can deal with most things that could potentially come our way. Obviously you can not plan for every event but I'm used to traveling alone with a child on shorter trips, and we spent a month in Spain when he was 3 years old so I have some experience. I've been a single parent for 11 years so you become very resourceful and probably the most serious thing that my son has faith and trust in me to keep him safe so he's completely relaxed about the whole trip.
Hope this post has helped and feel free to comment or ask any questions!