It’s 8:39 am and Ava just had a friend over for a sleepover the night before. For the first time in the dozen or so sleepovers that we’ve hosted, we didn’t have any flour or milk, so I wasn’t able to make my token pancakes. It didn’t go over well with my daughter.
“Sorry Ava, I don’t have ingredients for pancakes this morning. I can make you both bagels and cream cheese.“
“No pancakes daddy? What kind of sleepover IS this?“
I then thought that Ava might benefit by starting her trip by writing a thousand word essay on the topic of ‘disappointment’ to shake creeping first world privilege. While I was wrestling with whether or not I might be too hard on her, or raising a spoiled child, I had an epiphany- sleepovers would soon dry up.
The Challenge of Making Friends While Traveling
By now, word has spread around our community of our plans. Common responses from our coworkers in passing have been:
“What a great learning experience for your daughter!”
“She’ll have so many good memories to look back on!”
“No doubt, she’ll have a great global perspective!”
True. But, how will she make friends? Say what you want about the 9 to 5 grind, but there are real comforts in daily work-life. Visiting the gym regularly, social get togethers, local hobbies- all of things make a place home, and after weeks on the road, we’re always happy to be homeward bound. With us being gone for a year, how will our daughter make and sustain any long term friendships? How will she learn to resolve conflicts through negotiation and role play? Sure, she’ll meet people here and there, but as people are always coming and going on the road, I know the moments will be fleeting and ephemeral. Here are some strategies that we’ve learned to keep her social:
Skype and Hangouts. Not just for calling your parents (see below). Some of the families that we’ve been following have said that periodic chats with friends around the world via skype or Google hangouts can do wonders for loneliness.
The Local Park. Europe is awesome for community parks and I was surprised at how much I liked down days just hanging out on a blanket in the grass. Some times, we would take a picnic lunch, a book to read, sunscreen and a frisbee and it would turn into one of those ‘magic days’.
The Beach or Swimming Pool. I’m already jonesing for the beaches on the Mediterranean. I think when most people think of those idillic beaches of the world, they think of deserted places. I’m the opposite. The more the merrier, and with people come amenities like cafes, ice cream shops but more importantly, other kids with whom to play.
Resort Owners A few years ago we went on a diving trip in Moalboal (see below) and arranged for childcare ahead of time so Lisa and I could go diving. Upon arrival, we learned the owner had two grandchildren visiting and we asked if Ava could play with them. They hit it off instantly and soon we gained the trust of the family to leave Ava with the other children in the pool for a couple hours when we went diving. Since then, we’ve made an effort to see if any of the owners of the hotel or Air B and B have similarly aged children for a playdate.