Adventures in Travel Parenting

Other wandering travelers had warned us about an issue we could encounter when coming to Thailand on a one-way ticket. It’s the dreaded “proof of onward journey”. Evidently either the airline attendant checking us into our flight in Johannesburg or the customs agent in Thailand could ask us to provide proof we would be leaving the country by the end of our visa period. This presented a potential problem because for the first time on this around-the-world adventure, we were totally winging it. We had no plans lined up beyond our airline tickets for Thailand and a 5-day reservation at an AirBnb apartment in Bangkok. That was it.

Let me just pause on that for a minute. Tracey Carisch, an organized, responsible, Type A-personality project manager, was not only comfortable with having housing lined up for a mere five days, but she was actually the one who had planned it that way! Is this Bizarro World? What can I say, everyone kept telling me to “get to Bangkok and then figure it out…don’t overplan it….” So that’s just what I did. My go-with-the-flow approach to our time in Thailand speaks to the effect this adventure has had on me. I’ve definitely loosened up a bit when it comes to planning everything to a tee. Granted, I’m not growing dreadlocks or dancing naked by the light of the moon. I’ve just learned how much better it can be when I stop obsessing and let some things unfold on their own.

Getting back to this whole onward ticket thing…. After much hemming and hawing we decided not to rush and buy outbound tickets just to have something to show in case someone asked for proof we were leaving Thailand in 30 days. We weren’t quite sure where we would go when we left Thailand. If they required proof of tickets, we would cross that bridge when we came to it. With all this in mind, even my new mellow travel attitude couldn’t keep me from being a little anxious as we got ready for our early morning flight out of Johannesburg. Would they ask for our onward tickets at check-in? If we got through the ticket agent, would customs ask for it? Would we really have to buy tickets we don’t want while standing in the middle of an airport?

Then something happened which made me forget all about our onward ticket situation. The thing any parent would fear before starting 18 hours of travel with three kids suddenly reared its ugly head. And that thing is vomit. Thirty minutes before we were to leave for the airport Liv got very sick – as in coming-out-of-both-ends sick. (Sorry Liv – consider this blackmail material for your teenage years.) A sick child is a horrible thing to deal with in any travel situation. In addition to feeling so bad for them and dealing with the mess at hand, as a parent your mind is racing through the trip…Is it food poisoning? Is it a stomach bug the rest of us will start getting soon? How can she make it through these flights?

Now add to all this worry the fact that we’re flying out of Africa and every airport is doing infrared temperature scans and watching for signs of illness due to the Ebola outbreak in the western part of the continent. Going through security with a vomiting child is not likely to go over well. My nerves about the onward journey issue disappeared and were replaced with nerves about getting kicked off the plane and quarantined.

In addition to this, just as we were leaving the guesthouse and helping our sick middle child to the taxi, I noticed an inflamed rash on our youngest child’s upper arm. Evidently Ali was having a delayed allergic reaction to the “Don’t Bite Me” mosquito patch I’d put on her while we were on our safari. She didn’t complain about it, but it looked HORRIBLE and bizarre. A 2×2 inch perfect square of bright pink, puffy welts. Normally I’d be looking at it and slathering some sort of ointment on her, but we were running late and I had a puking kid on my hands. The rash went to the backburner.

Liv was such a trooper through it all. She lacks drama when she’s sick, thankfully. She insisted she was fine to travel, despite the fact she was throwing up out the window of our cab on the way to the airport and again in front of the terminal doors before we walked in. She stoically kept it together through check-in, security and the immigration line. “Which one is Olivia?” the immigration officer asked. When Liv stepped forward the woman looked at her scrutinously and said, “You look tired, Olivia.” Gulp. I breathed a sigh of relief as our passports were stamped and we were allowed into the international terminal.

Liv looked puny and pale as we waited for our flight to start boarding, but hadn’t thrown up in a while. Then suddenly she said, “Can I have a Tic Tac?” which was followed a few minutes later with “Can I have those crackers?” She was miraculously cured from one minute to the next. Hallelujah!
Livs fast recovery
When we got onto the plane, Liv was immediately all smiles and picking out her first movie of our 8-hour flight into Dubai. We were out of the woods…or so we thought.

During our first flight Ali’s rash spread a little and she started complaining it was itching. I put some hydrocortizone cream on it, but that didn’t help much. Our flight into Bangkok took off late in the evening and Ali was getting worn out after a long day of travel. While I doubted the rash was causing that much discomfort, her fatigue had her whining about everything. I hoped her fussiness as we got settled in on the plane meant she would conk out soon and forget about the flaming red, itchy patch on her arm.

Then a flight attendant came up to our seats. “Excuse me, but we need to ask what this rash is on her arm,” she said politely, nodding toward Ali. Seriously? After getting through the vomit/diahrrea episode, we were going to become a bio-hazard because of a friggin’ rash? Damn you to hell, “Don’t Bite Me” mosquito patches!! Damn you and your promises to “never worry about mosquitoes again” to hell!

My mouth went dry as I feigned nonchalance. “Oh, it’s just contact dermatitis,” I said with a laugh.

“Does she have a fever?” the woman asked, not sharing in my lightheartedness. I wanted to send Alison telepathic messages. Be perky. Be happy. For the love of God, act like the healthy child you are!!!

“No, no, no,” I said, smiling reassuringly as Alison whined dramatically about her seat belt being too tight. “She’s just fine.”

The flight attendant looked Ali over for a moment. It felt like one of those dramatic scenes in a spy movie where a security guard or police officer inspects the espionage hero’s fake documentation and the audience holds its breath hoping his cover won’t be blown. I started to feel like I was smuggling a sick and highly contagious child over international borders.

“Okay, thank you,” she finally said and turned to walk back to the front of the plane. WHEW!!! I breathed another sigh of relief. I’d seriously had enough tense parenting moments on this leg of our journey. Let’s get to Thailand already.

When we arrived in steamy Bangkok 6 hours later, I forced Alison to wear Liv’s sweatshirt until we got through customs. She kept whining that she was hot, but I forced her to wear an oversized hoody in 85 degree heat like the mean mommy I am. The chances of a customs agent detaining us over a rash were slim to none, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.

Ten minutes after we got through customs I suddenly remembered something. I was supposed to be nervous about the whole onward journey ticket thing…which they never asked for. So, I guess the good thing about all this kid drama is that it kept me from worrying about the onward journey drama. So much for being mellow.

At any rate, we made it to Bangkok. A five hour time difference and an entirely new culture awaited us. Let the jetlag begin!
Jetlag ladies at dinner our first night in Bangkok

About the Author

Tracey Carisch

Mom, wife, friend and change agent traveling the world with my family to learn our place in it. After spending a career in organizational change management and community initiative implementation, I put my career on hold for our family's trip around the world. In April of 2014 we sold almost everything we own, put the rest in a storage container, and departed on this journey. While my husband continued his software development work to financially support our trip, I planned and documented our adventure, homeschooled our three daughters, and found volunteer work opportunities for us to do in the communities we visit. Now that we've returned to the U.S., I'm completing book about our family's adventure and our lessons learned.

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