Thirteen countries and 40 cities in six months gratify Auckland couple
Khadija Poonawala, her husband Husain Rampurwala and their two children Ammar (9) and Ozair (now one-year-old) have just returned after a whirlwind tour of 13 countries and 40 cities covered over six months, belying the common belief that children cannot take global travel without stress and inconvenience.
Ammar and Ozair were paragons of Adventure Travel, taking in varied time-zones, weathers, food stuffs and other vicissitudes, having a great time and enabling their parents also to enjoy and plan the next one soon.
“Our story should inspire those who put their travel plans on hold because of their children,” Khadija, who is again on the road in South Island, this time with her visiting relatives, said.
She believes that the greatest gift that parents can give their children is a lifetime of adventures. The family rented their home in Auckland in early June 2017 and after travelling to various parts of the world, returned last fortnight.
As they left behind their corporate lives six months ago, they were certain that the experience they would gather as globetrotters would be invaluable to them and their little children. Just how the two youngsters coped is a story in itself.
Forty cities in 13 countries took them to some of the most exhilarating places on earth-
Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Greece, India, Kuwait, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (not in that order). They travelled in airplanes, cars, trains, ferries and local subways.
Extensive travel within India was a highlight of their six-month sojourn.
As Husain said, “People tend to follow the trend of overseas travel but forget to see and experience their own home country. We completed our world tour with ‘solid downtime’ in Pune, the home of our grandparents, where Ammar tried to learn a few languages.”
Easy as it does
While the decision to travel abroad was strong, the spirit of adventure was even stronger.
“We travel overseas twice a year but this year we decided to make it longer, more exciting and make it go ‘easy as it does.’ We are not getting younger, our children also need to experience what the world has to offer and hence we set ourselves on this journey. To add to the adventure, we did not know where we were going. Not knowing where we would wake up the next day and going with the flow allowed us to enjoy the simple pleasures of life and how much our beautiful world has to offer,” Khadija said.
Such hands-on-experience of a journey would surely entail challenges, but Khadija prefers to call them ‘experiences.’
“One of the most important aspects when travelling with a baby is food. In many places, there was not much option except tetra pack baby food, and hence we gave baby Ozair everything that we ate. Now, having turned one year, he eats just about everything!” Khadija said.
Children make Merry
The six-month journey would be an important stage in the young life of Ammar. Seeing new places and people, tasting new types of food and riding on elephants and camels made him happy.
But his excitement knew no bounds as he took on the role of a navigator, reading maps and giving directions to his parents as they walked or drove around cities, towns and villages in Europe.
“We spent the first birthday of Ozair in Singapore. He massaged his face with cake, enjoyed various rides in Sentosa Island and was fascinated by brilliant colours and lights and amusements at the SEA Aquarium and Universal Studios,” Khadija said.
Countries to explore
For like-minded travellers, she recommends Singapore, Russia and India as the top three countries to explore.
“Santorini and Mykonos in Greece are stunning, but we are definitely going back without children! In terms of experiences, explore your palettes with your children, do the things that are typical for tourists but also encourage them to do what locals do. Do not be shy. Just talk and explore, drive on your own where you can and travel with different modes of transport: trains, subways, buses and ferries. You will be amazed on how much you learn,” Husain said.
Travel and grow
Khadija said that every person with the financial means must ‘just travel, with children, no matter their age.’
“Travelling makes you grow as a person. Exploring new places and food, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures are among the biggest learning and blessings that you can give your children. It will not only make them humble but also make them aware of how tiny we are, like a small dot in this big world. This world has so much to offer. The travel experience will stay with them for life and we always tell Ammar to continue travelling and pass on the spirit to his children and peers,” she said.
Some Dos and Don’ts with a baby
First, the Dos
Carry a good mountain buggy stroller, a small foldable high chair and a portable cot, life will be sorted!
Eat local and meet local people; you will get the best experience.
Avoid trying to do everything, you have a baby who needs rest and so do you.
Don’t sweat over ticking all the boxes on your list.
Book in advance if you can; we relied on booking.com and our rating is 9/10!
DIY; Do It Yourself. Airline bookings, hotels and sightseeing: leave that until you reach the destination. You can always research on your phone and keep it handy.
Hop-On, Hop-Off buses are the best while overseas!
The cliché is true: travel light. Trust me; you will be happier especially when you are with children.
Always keep an extra change of clothes handy for your baby.
Maintain a diary and a journal; these are two important things. Ask your child/children to write every second day, and you should do too.
Now, the Don’ts
Do not procrastinate; just travel and keep on the move.
Do not forget to pamper yourself and splurge a little once in a while. It keeps you going.
Do not feel guilty if at all your child falls sick. They do anyway; and they grow anyway. This is your chance to keep yourself on the top and they will only benefit from you.
Do not forget to carry a small sterilizer for the baby.
Get to the airport with plenty of time to spare. You are better off spending some extra time there instead of rushing with a child.
Ready for the next
After a six-month adventure around the world, Khadija and her family are back home in New Zealand, and they are ready for their next adventure.
They hope that their story would encourage and inspire other parents who do not want to step out of the house because they are fearful of their baby’s health and the challenges that come with it.
“Today, parents pride themselves that their children get so much exposure. Ammar is more confident, modest and knowledgeable. Ozair has been an absolute pleasure and has grown to be people-friendly and smart. Ammar has his own YouTube channel with his travel videos, where his friends and family across the globe can see and experience the world through his perspective,” Khadija said and concluded with a quote of American writer Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Photo 1 – Khadija and Husain in Mykonos, Greece
Photo 2 – Khadija and family in Mumbai
Photo 3 – Ammar Rampurwala clings on to Aamir Khan at Istanbul Airport, Turkey
(Pictures supplied by Khadija Poonawala)