A-Z activities

A-Z countries

What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Half term walks

In 2007 Pete, Nicola, Lola and Nell spent three months travelling around Britian in a low carbon way. We're back home now, but we still like days out - and sometimes share ideas here on this blog.



It's half term and I've already taken my kids to see Granny and their cousins over in Hertfordshire. Parking the Car Club car bumped into Dr Dave who has three small children who he likes taking on trips. Like me he's a fan of Adventure Walks for Families by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis (Frances Lincoln, £8.99), but I just read it in bed because it very much assumes users have their own vehicle.



Are we nearly there yet?
Dr Dave spent a good 10 minutes praising the trips that led him and his family to see the amazing red kites (birds on Christmas Common, Oxon); following in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland (Port Meadow, Oxford) and BFG and other pursuits in ~Roald Dahl country (Little Missenden, Bucks).



So good we made up our own trip
Inspired by Adventure Walks Dr Dave then spent the last wet Saturday at Cadbury World, Birmingham. Not only do you get plenty of tastes of chocolates (chocolate buttons, curly wurly, chocolate bar, etc, etc) you also see a factory at work, better visualise Charlie's temptations (from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and learn about the founding of Bournville and how to be a truly good Quaker. Mind you he warns that you may regret the colour purple during the trip, and fail to learn anything about new owners Kraft.

I found Dr Dave's retellings of his family outings a joy to hear. Kids need love, of course, but stretching their mind with simple themed walks with plenty of opportunities to look out for Oompa Lumpas, or big red raptors, or a bottle labelled 'drink me' - or perhaps more practically a pub selling packets of crisps - is a lovely way to spend half term. You all get to know the UK better, and stop clogging up the sky with multi mini-break flights.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Gritty world tales

In 2007 Pete, Nicola, Lola and Nell spent three months travelling around Britain in a low-carbon way. We're home now but still like to travel, and blog about it. This post is by Nicola.

Part of the year I teach feature writing to university students. this is a real pleasure and has enabled me to meet many very lovely, bright and ambitious young men and women on the cusp of their careers. It's a kind of virtual travelling as I get to meet people from places I doubt I'll go to. For all of us it's about realising everyone has different norms.

When students do a feature assignment for class I always say "write what you know". This year I'm regretting it. Many of my students have interviewed friends/ family/ acquaintances who have harrowing stories about family life around the world.

Life changing journeys
From Nepal there's the misery caused by students lured to the UK enrolled into fake colleges, or Visa Factories, who then end up in debt and with no chance of getting the promised degree.

From Nigeria there's examples of the causual violence inflicted on girlfriends and wives because it's OK for men to be seen to be the boss.

From Bangladesh there is the problem of arranged marriages leaving young women, new-to-Britain (often with no friends and no English language skills) trapped with violent husbands and consentingly mean mother-in-laws. If these women manage to leave these husbands and divorce they are shamed and shunned by their own family, destroying their lives if they even can get a ticket home. They are also stuck if this happens within the first two years of their marriage/visa as the UK rules mean they cannot get any support from the state. Any unfortunate woman with a baby would be in a horrific situation.

There's the Albanian girl who knows her life will be mapped out for her. She may be a student know but you get married before you're 24 or that's it, no man will want you.

Or in India, the semi-Royal-behaving family who was so angry with their daughter's choice of boyfriend that they packed her off to the UK and then faked her death in a car-crash. This is a particularly harsh story as the girl was treated like a princess right until the moment her family realised she had been a friend of a Moslem man. Clearly she didn't realise she was living in a gilded cage and had misjudged the love her family had for her. Daddy loved her but only if she did what they wanted, which isn't love at all is it?

And there's another story from India recalling the clashes in 2002 which left 1000s dead in a city on the "other side of the bridge". For the Moslem teenager on that side the experience was scarring enough to bring on post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet his contemporary, a Hindu girl, remembers the three months of curfew on her "other side of the bridge" as a happy time with far more leisure and indoor activities that she almost misses now the troubles are over.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
It's a right set of misery pieces, all written so well. And I so hope my students can take these ideas and shake them up and make an effort to change things. At the very least I think we all deserve safe homes, and yet for so many women this is painfully not the case. My students' writing show the world as cruel and unfair - and yet their own generosity, happy spirits and kindnesses demonstrate another path.

Here's a good luck message to anyone baffled by the things going wrong - the lost housing deposits, the fake colleges with dud courses, the family or cherised boyfriend/partner turning against you. I hope things will get better for you, and that you have the skills to share your stories. I've never read about the stuff my students chart in my favourite newspapers, but I cannot tell you how many times I've read about how to reuse a plastic water bottle, what film to watch or summer festival fashion tips - useless, simplistic journalese.

I guess the message of this piece is that when you travel - anywhere, even out of your door - try to see if your friendship can ever help people too proud, or confused to admit to the pain their nearest and dearest are giving them.