While her brothers ‘just’ went AWOL and were soon found again, third culture kid Clara had more dramatic incidents to worry her family about!
Anyway, the worst I did was to get very ill and end up in intensive care in a hospital in Gibraltar while my parents were a long way away (still in Cameroon) and totally un-contactable.
I had no land-line; mobiles were still a glint in the eye of men in sharp suits and email had not yet been invented. Well, it probably had, but I certainly hadn’t heard of it yet (this was the very early 1990’s). It was only because my mother coincidentally called the office where I was working that she found out anything was wrong.
Not that she could do anything about it anyway, being a few thousand miles away. Still, at least she knew that I was hooked up to a heart monitor in another country on another continent…
Modern technology helps families keep in touch
A few years later, I travelled around Australia and New Zealand and was astonished at all the youngsters with their mobile phones. Some of them were even using them to call home! On a regular basis! Where was their spirit of adventure? Wasn’t half the fun of travelling being un-contactable, feeling like you could do what you wanted and no-one would ever know? Ok, I had an email address by now – but I didn’t check it very often.
But gradually, like the rest of the world, I too have become more and more connected. Now, if I travel, I take my phone and check my email.
Unfortunately, as the world has become smaller through technology, so it has through the media and now we know almost instantly if there is any kind of large incident or accident anywhere in the world. Because of this, we are bound to worry more about our children when they travel.
Reassurance in emergencies
When a very large bomb exploded so close to our home in Islamabad that I heard the patio doors being sucked in by the impact, I was able to get on the phone straight away to reassure my parents we were fine. And then I posted a message on Facebook to do the same for other family and friends.
We now keep in contact with my brother-in-law in Florida via Skype. We speak so often I forget it’s sometimes two or three years between actual, physical visits to him.
The world these days is definitely a smaller place.
My children are still too young to travel independently, but when they do I am sure they will be in constant contact with us. I, of course, as their mother, think this is a good thing. But is it so good for them?
In our day, innocence was bliss and my parents were pretty good at just letting us get on with it.
On the other hand, one of the beauties of travel is exactly that letting go, that feeling of being free and away from everyone and everything in your normal life. I would hate to deny my children that.
So let’s just hope that by then, they’ve invented a way I can keep an eye on them without them knowing it!
By Clara Wiggins
Clara’s background is in journalism and diplomacy – she worked on regional newspapers overseas and in the UK before chucking it all in, travelling round the world and then joining the Foreign Office. The daughter of a diplomat herself, she has seen the “expat” experience from all sides, including during her own posting to Jamaica and more recently as a trailing spouse in Pakistan and St Lucia. She is now settled back in the UK and divides her increasingly busy schedule between looking after her two young daughters, training as an antenatal teacher, working in a part-time office role and planning her next project – a “rough guide” to being a trailing spouse”. She loves writing and just wishes there were more hours in the day.
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Great article and so very true.
My wife and I now know how our parents felt when we left for Australia as both my sons have reached the age where they want to explore. One is off to Scandinavia the other will be going to Germany.
I think when you migrate or relocate you give your children a taste for trying new things and experiencing different cultures. So looks like we will be totally connected with twitter, Facebook, Pintrest and viber tracking them wherever they go and no I never travelled with a phone either but I am sure glad my kids are not like me!
Thank you Nick. Modern technology certainly does make the world smaller, and keeping in touch much easier. I hope your sons enjoy their explorations and you and your wife enjoy your new life.