“Petra, we are going to a new city today!” my wife spoke to our two and a half year old daughter, Petra.
“A new city!?!” she said with excitement and then scampered off to fetch her Dora the Explorer backpack.
With her purple rucksack on her back she ran to the door and put on her hiking shoes. She was all ready to go and waiting for mom and dad, chomping at the bit to go exploring.
That’s funny, I said to myself, she usually kicks and screams at the very mention of leaving the house, now she’s gung ho about riding a train all the way to an entirely new place. I could not withstand a tinge of pride. Petra is starting to really enjoy her travels. I rushed to put my gear together and joined my daugher who was waiting for me by the door.
After a taxi to the station we were on a train heading west. My wife and Petra played Dinosaur Train, sang a little, and watched the scenery pass outside the window. I joined them for a time, watching ship yards, farm fields, construction projects, and factories pass by before getting up to shoot some video and make conversation with some other passengers.
In Yangzhou, the kid kept up her good spirits, walking through the streets, checking out the scene around her. She carried her own backpack the entire time which contained her own possessions. This is key: all travelers need to carry their own gear, the sooner they learn it the better.
I sensed that Petra was also becoming curious about the people and things she was looking at. This is a new development. Up to now, the splendors, visuals, sounds, and smells of travel seemed as if they were just a mere part of the backdrop of ordinary life, the wallpaper of the landscape, to Petra. Most of the places we’ve traveled she seems to have taken as being normal, ho hum life — curiosity had not yet kicked in.
Now Petra is going on three years old, she is beginning to look at the world from a more independent point of view. She is being infected with curiosity — which is an essential quality that all travelers posses in bulk. I watched her closely as she peered at the people and things around Yangzhou, and it became apparent that she was enjoying the voyeuristic aspects of travel. She seemed entranced throughout the trip, and emitted neither cry nor wail, and she was friendly to most of the people that she met. She dug the scenes before her, even on the somewhat grueling taxi and bus journey back to Taizhou through rush hour traffic.
It is easy to imagine that Petra could take on a passe, been there done that, view of travel. Going around looking at new sites and talking with new people should be normal for her — she has been doing it her entire life — and the normal is all too often taken for granted.
But I have a theory that world travel will always exceed the bounds of normalcy, that the irregularity, the extremes, the intrigues of the occupation cannot become dampered by experience — even for someone whose been on the road since they were six weeks old.
Up to now my daughter has been too young to really conceive of what was going on around her, she has been moved through the world, which is different than moving through it of your own volition. But now Petra is taking her own initiative when it comes to her travels, she has a sense of what countries and cities are, and that places become more different from each other the longer you have to ride buses/ planes/ trains to get to them. She is forming value judgements on places, some she likes more than others: she hates New York City, she really likes China, she prefers beaches over cities.
She is becoming her own traveler.
This is a personal entry meant to document the stages of development that my daughter goes through as we travel as a family. It is not really meant for a larger audience but it’s published here as I know there is a sect of readers who enjoy these types of posts.