I seem to be very drawn to all things travel at the moment. I mean it’s something that I’ve loved for a while now, ever since being bitten by the travel bug when I first took a gap year at the tender age of 19. But recently I’ve wistfully been reading travel blogs, procrastinating by scanning house sitting websites or flicking through Lonely Planet guides in bookshops. For a while there I started lamenting the fact that as we had now ‘settled down’ and had a child I would never get to experience those crazy travel adventures of my youth. This is possibly the reason why I was so drawn to Erin & Tim, who have inspired me to do more travel – and who, without knowing, convinced me to take Sophie on a recent camping Adventure to Tasmania.
One not-very-useful piece of advice I remember hearing when I was younger was “Get the travel out of the way before you have kids.” It’s as if they are saying that somehow you can get it out of your system and then settle down to a sensible life in the ‘burbs. In my experience it just made my wanderlust stronger. The more I travel, the more I want to see. Before having kids I would have said “Screw that, the kids can just tag along.” , but becoming a parent was a much bigger shock to the system than I imagined and my confidence took a big knock as a result. The idea of travelling with a child suddenly scared the hell out of me. Since then I’ve started re-building my confidence and have adopted much more of a growth mindset.
Actually, the growth mindset is a key factor in the Cold Showers Are Good For You philosophy. It is a concept that I came across a few years ago that has been explored scientifically by a psychologist called Carol Dweck. She argues that there are two types of mindsets that we typically adopt, one of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Under a fixed mindset people believe that they either have a talent or ability to do something or they don’t. And they attribute their success or failure in any pursuit as a reflection of their intrinsic value. Under a growth mindset people see that their success or failure is a reflection of how much effort or practice they have put in. Here are some of the ways the two mindsets differ:
|Success is how you validate yourself||Success means you have expanded your abilities|
|Failure is a catastrophe||Failure is something you learn from|
|Effort is a dirty word (i.e. you should be able to do it without trying)||It feels good when effort pays off|
|Criticism is hard to take||You can risk criticism because it provides opportunity to improve|
|“That’s just who I am”||“How can I be better?”|
I think to some extent having a fixed mindset served me well in the past. I had a fixed mindset that I was smart, and that provided me with a sense of confidence that I was clever enough to do most things – until I couldn’t. But having a baby is not an intellectual pursuit, and therefore my fixed mindset turned out to be quite the liability when I first became a mother. I struggled as the story I had going on in my head (on repeat more times than Back Street Boys when I was 13) was that I wasn’t good at being a Mum. So how the hell would I be able to cope travelling with a child if I couldn’t even manage one at home?
When we decided to visit relatives in Canada when Sophie, our daughter, was 11 months old, I seriously wondered whether I would cope. Luckily I would not be alone, I remember thinking, as my husband Gerrit would of course also be there. We decided to hire a campervan and planned a (in hindsight) very full-on itinerary covering parts of British Columbia and Alberta. While I look back in fondness for a lot of that adventure, it was also in parts seriously horrible. Things went wrong, Gerrit and I argued, Sophie cried, I cried – it felt like a terrible failure.
Fast forward 2 ½ years to a markedly different trip. My brother had been travelling around the country and was in Tasmania over November and December. So I decided to take the opportunity to take a Mother/Daughter adventure and meet up with him to camp at the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula. Things went wrong, Sophie cried, but the difference this time was that I didn’t. When problems arose – and they did, I pity the person who had to sit in seat 12E after us for example – I thought “Ok, how are we going to deal with this?” and granted it took a few different strategies to see what stuck in any particular circumstance, but I now have so much more confidence in my ability to cope with parenting setbacks and in my potential to improve.
There is no denying that travelling with kids is going to be different than the heady days of my youth (which are probably also heavily romanticised in my memory) but I know that it’s not only possible to do it but that getting outside my comfort zone will make me an even better mum and maybe even help Sophie grow up with more of a growth mindset. Having progressively adopted more of a growth mindset I realise that I’m actually a fucking awesome Mum – but only better than I was, and not as great as I am going to be.