It feels like it rains with disproportionate frequency at 3pm, and yesterday afternoon (despite it being mid-June) was no exception. My old car had stoically made it through a suddenly flooded village on the way home from work and I did my usual mad dash round to school in the pouring rain. I waited with wellies and a mac ready for Bean in the playground as the deluge continued and thunder rolled overhead, cursing the British summer and vowing to move somewhere sunnier.
By the time Bean appeared at her classroom door I was mentally strolling barefoot on a beach in the south of France, contemplating where to purchase that particularly pretty shade of blue for my imaginary window shutters.
Another roll of thunder and Bean rummaging in my pockets for snacks snapped me out of my daydream, and we set off for home as the clouds relentlessly drenched us. Bean scooted off happily, stopping only to leap in particularly large puddles. I trudged behind like an overladen donkey who had mislaid their ticket for the ark.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much stuff Bean is required to have to spend little more than six hours in school some days. This, in combination with the UK’s nod to a monsoon season, got me thinking about travelling. The humidity of the day and afternoon storm defining of that school run reminded me of backpacking more than ten years ago. It reminded me of the pairs of flip flops, which had been respectfully left outside a restaurant, floating quickly down a makeshift road as heavy rain predictably broke the afternoon heat in Thailand.
I considered whether I had packed lighter for that summer in South East Asia than for PE day at school. Bean seems to constantly accumulate more ‘essential’ school items. I conversely had successfully honed down the content of my backpack throughout the course of my trip, beginning with the redundancy of the foul smelling travel towel that prior to setting off had seemed like a good idea [why does no one tell you how awful those things smell when they get wet before you set off backpacking?].
Then, in the midst of my travel reminiscing, set to the backing track of Jack Johnson and Morcheeba on repeat in my mind (as I am sure is the case for anyone who was in Thailand around the same time), it hit me.
What if Bean one day goes travelling and does some of the things my 19 year old self did?
What if she falls asleep drunk on a beach and has her camera and money stolen? What if she takes a sleeping tablet from a stranger on a platform before getting on a train travelling south to Malaysia? What if she gets a tattoo done by someone she has just met using a sharpened bamboo stick dipped in a pot of ink? What if she treks in Taman Negara with no guide and no sense of direction? What if she is not concerned by the numerous holes next to the door frame of her ridiculously cheap hostel room where the lock previously resided?
What if she is having so much fun she blindly ignores everything I hope to teach her before she packs her bags in search of an adventure?
The penny drops that I can’t teach Bean everything. One day she will fly and explore independently, and most likely have her own summer of making at times inadequately judged decisions. At some point in the future she will put herself on a plane and be free; responsible for her own decisions far away from my advice.
Bean will have her own summer of having one of the best times of her life. Her own summer of meeting new people; people she will bond with and learn from and see new things with. New foods, new cultures, new places, and a slightly altered perspective. The wonder of seeing what feels like a totally different sun setting in the sky.
These are not things I can teach her fully. I can show her the possibilities, but I can’t make her feel them. They are things she will experience and learn for herself. They are things I want her to feel and experience for herself.
The thought of Bean one day forging her own path in a distant place may have initially had me wondering how to best to disguise myself and stowaway in her luggage but, with a little more reflection, I hope she does seek adventure. I hope she will be happy and free and take leaps of faith into the unknown, even if it does come with the caveat of some likely reckless abandon.
Maybe we will have some adventures of our own before she decides to fly solo. What better reason than the instilling of some wanderlust to try and fulfil my recent dreaming of a van, some time, and the realisation of some of my postponed travel plans?