Travelling with Children

Why two eyes are not enough to drive in India

Horse on road in india
With all the hooting and cars swinging from one side of the road to the other across multiple lanes, it’s like a jungle on Indian roads. To the uninitiated it might look like things are happening haphazardly, but the truth is that there is a method to this road madness. 
I was lucky to experience a ride full of the unexpected recently. I got a chance to see the impossible happening first-hand. Who would have thought that one could travel hundreds of kilometres with hundreds of lane changes and turns without using indicators even once? This kind of driving can only be experienced in incredible India. 
Cow on road in India


On Indian roads you can see:

  1. sacred cows taking a nap on the highway divider,
  2. motorcycles making U-turns on the highway,
  3. cars driving the wrong way,
  4. people dashing across six highway lanes with fast driving cars and getting to the other side without a scratch,
  5. camel-pulled carts also join the highway traffic from time to time,
  6. backs of trucks with signs that say, “Horn Please” as hooting tends to be used as substitution for indicators. 
  7. Even dogs and goats are part of the highway traffic. 
If you are lucky, you can even spot monkeys crossing the highways in the centre of town in search of food.
Animals on road in india - buffalo
As you can see, India is not called the biggest democracy in the world for nothing. All animals have exactly the same rights on the road. A true democracy indeed. 
Everything is possible on Indian roads. As our driver said, “Two eyes are not enough to drive on Indian roads.” You need at least six eyes in order not to miss anything – two in front, two at the back and one on either side. The best option would be to have one big eye with 360 degree vision instead of the head. And that might still not be enough. But that’s part of what makes India incredible. To survive this jungle on the streets, the only option is to hire a good driver, fasten your seat belt and enjoy the crazy ride hoping that all will end well. As John Lennon said, “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” 
When travelling in India, the only thing you can be sure of is that your journey by road will not be boring. 
Even the road signs can be interesting. One road sign which I liked a lot said, “The highway speed limit suits all needs” which is true, when you think about it. 

Why just do it is a good idea when travelling on a budget

Travelling on a budget is not for the faint-hearted. It’s also not for those who love perfect plans. As they say, a good plan is better than a perfect one that is never executed. Read on to find out why. 
A 4x4 vehicle is a must for driving into the Moremi national park in Botswana. Travelling on a budget
We had no idea that a 4×4 vehicle is a must for driving into the Moremi National Park in Botswana
Not long ago I travelled to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia with my family. I would call it an adventure of a lifetime. All in all, we did 8000 km by car in around 26 days. That’s a lot, considering the fact that we were driving a car that was not suited for most of the road conditions we came across. We had travelled in other countries in Southern Africa before so we thought we knew what to expect, but we were wrong. But it’s good that we didn’t know. Here are some of the advantages of not knowing exactly what to expect when travelling and “just doing it”, as the Nike advert says.

You are more likely to travel:

  • when you don’t know that most roads are dust roads suitable only for 4×4 cars and you are driving a small passenger car, 
  • when you are not aware that the distances you will be covering are huge and there will be no one in sight, 
  • when you don’t know that if something happens to your car, the nearest service station is hundreds of kilometres away, 
  • when you don’t know that forgetting to buy fuel can be a matter of life and death when you get stranded in the middle of a desert, 
  • when you don’t know that some of the roads are like driving through a nature reserve full of animals that can cross your path and suddenly end your journey, 
  • when you have spent so much time in an urban area or developed country that you forget there are some places where your navigation system and cellphone have no signal and your only option is to walk in search of the highest mountain hoping to find a network,
  • when you forget that bottled water can be a luxury in some places and you need to keep enough of it in the trunk (boot) in case of unexpected events. 


A typical road in most parts of Namibia. Travelling on a budget
This speed limit on a dust road was a surprise to us. Our maximum speed was probably 70 km/h .
Not knowing or thinking too much about all these things beforehand and just letting yourself experience new adventures is what makes life beautiful. That is if you survive and live to tell your story, of course.

Never trust a navigation device

I won’t even mention the fact that in one of the cities where we had to find the lodge where we had reserved a room for the night, there were two streets with the same name and our clever navigation system decided to take us to the one which was in a very high-density suburb, in the worst part of the city. The street was dark and the houses looked like they had seen better days. It was a scary moment. I grew up in a ghetto myself, but that place sent the shivers down my spine. That’s the last time I trusted a navigation system again. 

At one point we found ourselves in a national park with no map. At the beginning, I felt safe, because I had brought my favourite navigation system that had previously taken me everywhere without a hiccup. I even had a backup navigation system, just in case. That didn’t help. We got lost and there was no network. To make it worse, the roads were so bad I felt like I was driving on a sandy beach. The fact that I was driving an off-road vehicle did not make much difference. A few times we almost got stuck in the sand. After a while, we lost all sense of direction. For a moment I thought we were not going to find our way out of the park. Fortunately, we managed to find the exit, but more than two hours later than we had planned.  

Just when you think you are experienced, you have seen it all, you suddenly realise that you still have a lot to learn. But it’s all part of the fun of travelling on a budget where the success of everything part of the journey depends on you. 

Just do it!

As you can see, it’s good not to be aware of some of this stuff before you embark on the journey of your life. With as long a list of things that could go wrong as this one, I would probably be crazy to venture outside the comfort of the four walls of my house. But I don’t regret. We had a great time and have a huge number of interesting stories to tell. I recommend taking just enough precautions before travelling. Besides, human brains love surprises. No plan needs to be perfect unless you are producing medication for people. 🙂 Sometimes it’s good to take reasonable risks. Life is too short to worry too much. Just do it. 

Men like taking risks then wonder why they die earlier than women

Men like taking risks. That’s a fact. They take risks when  learning, playing, sitting and even sleeping. In fact, they do it all the time.

Men like taking risks. Women don't.
Do women earn the right to live longer?

I am guilty of a few sins myself. No wonder we die early, right? I guess you have heard of men sitting in the bathtub with laptops connected to electricity, or men sitting on top of moving trains, buses, cars, or falling asleep behind the wheel, etc.? Women don’t do that. At least, it’s on rare occasions that you hear of women taking such risks. They know better and God rewards them with a longer life, which is fair. I guess they deserve the long life since they take good care of it.

When travelling with children, taking risks is one thing you want to avoid. Especially when you are far from home. If you do want to risk your life, do it closer to home and spare the family the trouble of having to bring you home on a stretcher. That’s why I advise men to listen to their wives when travelling with the whole family. Here is a real life story just to make the point clear. I promise it won’t be gruesome. 

Example of how men like taking risks

One day while on holiday in Zimbabwe, we decided to go to a small national park just outside the capital city, Harare. As we were getting close to the park, my wife said we didn’t have enough petrol and we should fill up before we drove in. I should have listened, but I didn’t. I regret. Being the risk-taking man that I am, I said don’t worry we have enough petrol, but I was wrong. If only I had listened. Anyway, after an hour or two of driving in the park, I had to accept that we didn’t have enough fuel. So I told my wife that I think we should go and buy some petrol and then come back to the park, which she agreed to. But not without some shouting and the normal “I told you so” that I have grown used to. I mentioned that I have committed a few sins myself, didn’t I?

Anyway, we drove out of the national park and a kilometre or so later, the car came to a sudden stop. We had run out of fuel. I don’t even want you to imagine the rage that my wife went through. That would be too painful. Take it from me, it wasn’t a pleasant scene. And all because I decided to take an unnecessary risk. What would have happened if we had filled up before driving into the park? Completely nothing. Probably the whole family would have enjoyed the day and have something pleasant to remember.

The struggle to find a container

With the situation as it was, I had to leave the whole family in the car, walk to the nearest main road, hitchhike to the nearest fuel station, spend lots of time looking for a container. It’s Africa. Things like containers don’t lie around waiting for people like me to come along. Everything is reused. You can’t even buy some things even if you wanted to. After some searching, bargaining and begging I managed to buy some fuel and then had to retrace my steps back to the car where the whole family was waiting getting more and more angry as time passed. The famous African sun was shining, but in moments like this when you have no air-conditioning, you can be forgiven for not noticing its beauty. All in all, it took me 3 hours to arrange and bring the fuel back. All because I had decided to take an unnecessary risk. I won’t even mention the fact that the car completely broke down later when we were on our way home and we had to be towed or the fact that we didn’t manage to go back to the park as we had planned to. It was a terrible day all round.

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. I learnt my lesson. I will not take unnecessary risks when travelling with my family. Not even the smallest ones.

I also learnt that women are sometimes right.

Budget travelling can make you creative

We never planned to specialise in budget travelling. Circumstances forced this on us. And we don’t regret. Here is why.
An elephant about to charge. All part of the fun in budget travelling.
Oops! This big fellow has just noticed us. It’s time to run.
Imagine for a moment that it’s the early 90s.  You are a poor student in a far away country. Thousands of kilometres away from home.
On another continent to be exact. In a country that recently transformed from communism to capitalism.
Where there are not enough jobs for local people.
Job opportunities for foreigners are close to zero.
Where you are not allowed to work, even if you wanted to.
And the only money between you and poverty is the meagre allowance you get from the University.
Just enough to get you from month-end to month-end, if you budgeted the money well. And everyone you know is in the same boat. The chances of borrowing from a friend are zero to none. 
Even the bank can’t lend you money because they are afraid you can leave the country any time without paying them back. Got the picture? Let’s move on. 
The first thing is, you have to be creative to accomplish anything that requires money under such circumstances.
You eat the cheapest food.
Buy the cheapest of everything.
And you count the remaining coins every day. 
You divide, add, multiply and subtract the remaining money all the time wondering how to make it to the end of the month. No wonder poor people suffer from decision fatigue
You find the cheapest means of travelling if you are into travelling like we were. Hoping that when you come back you will still have enough funds to buy potatoes to last you to the next stipend.
Why potatoes? Because that’s the cheapest food you can buy.
So deciding to travel was the same as accepting that potatoes would be the best food you could eat until the end of the month. 
We were willing to do that. I remember once we passed through Switzerland. The only thing we could afford there as students was a bottle of coke. Everything else was beyond our budget.
However, the fact that we didn’t have enough money did not stop us from fulfilling our dreams. We simply chose budget travelling. We even managed to travel to Africa from Europe as students when the times got a little better.
We keep going places on a budget up to this very day. And we have become quite good at it too. Check out Churchill Travel for tips on budget travelling.
Don’t let limited funds hold you back. Be creative and make those travel dreams come true. As Susan Sontag said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” I hope it’s also on your list.