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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.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Where can I be happy?

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post takes a look at what it means to be happy - on holiday or at homeWords from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Horse chestnuts in flower (look for the white candles).
"Does Japan have cherry blossom trees?" asks Nell, 12. This seems left-field but she explains that she's been playing Subway Surfer with a new background of blossom to make it seem more like Tokyo...

These days it's easy to travel without leaving your mobile.

Springtime - ideally outside away from screens - is wonderful in a country like the UK with four seasons. At least that's what the dog and I think as we walk around London (see photos). The dog enjoys sniffing and running - he's a lesson in how to be in-the-moment and happy.

But is happiness a choice? Can you feel happiness on demand, say by taking a holiday or being generous? I don't think so - although it's lovely to break routines, the pressure of keeping a family all happy (let alone a large family) for 24 hours a day for a week or more sounds terrifying. Creating a calm environment - with the opportunity to have many happy moments - is another option.

Wanting to be happy (and solvent) are two closely linked aspirations. As I meet more teenagers - my daughters' friends and the university students I teach - I do wonder about their resilience levels. It feels as if inner-toughness is being eroded at quite a speed. 

So what's happened in four years that's changed? Possibly far greater reliance on mini-screens for entertainment? Here's where I have to reel in an interview in the Guardian with 15-year-old Alice Carruthers talking about her perfect (or possibly typical) weekend, see here. In brief her main external experience appears to be from watching old episodes of Friends on YouTube. I am sure Alice has zillions of strengths but I was shocked to read her summary of typical weekend. She doesn't seem to move around, do anything for anyone else, of have many domestic tasks - other than homework. She's never asked to solve problems.
Circus ponies graze near tower blocks in spring sunshine.
"I want to get off"
Teaching riding I often find kids reach a point they can do most things (eg, steer and rise to the trot), but are quite unable to cope with a horse or pony resisting their requests. It can be frightening riding a horse but if a child - or an adult - can find the inner resilience to cope with the unpredictable, stop the tears and maybe to learn to love an animal that is as likely to stand on their foot as nicker at them over the stable door - I think they are lucky indeed. Not only will they be able to ride (a rare skill), they'll also have mined a strength of character that I am sure helps people to cope with problems.

Oh yes, and climate change...
In St James' Park on a spring evening with deck chair, book & picnic rug.

Cow parsley and hawthorn blossom-lined walk along a former railway.
For rather more cerebral insights about happiness have a look at Mattieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, who links science and meditation with a certain amount of joy, see here. With thanks to my friend ML for passing this on (via Melbourne/Honiara and Facebook).

Over to you?
Any ideas for developing our resilience levels? Is there something that can be done at school or uni with students or is it something families need to work on?

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