Making memories: familial interactions during trips matter

Singapore has been in what I call a tender lockdown since April 7. The government has ordered suspension of most business operations and closure of workplaces and schools. People are asked to stay home to break the chain of Covid-19 transmissions. They have stopped short of making it a crime for us to leave home.

This is a strange period. Streets are empty and silent by 20.00. Never have I stayed home for such long stretches, leaving only for a quick grocery run, knowing I have to be back within an hour.

Even stranger is the absence of travel, not just for work but for leisure as well. My last work trip was to Berlin in March this year, while my last family vacation was to Perth in – gasp – October 2018!

Last year was extremely busy for me and with hindsight, I made the poor choice of postponing our holidays multiple times.

My firstborn, who is now five years old, went on his first holiday with us when he was 10 months old. We flew to Bali and spent several wonderful days at the serene Kamandalu Ubud.

From then on, he became our travel buddy and joined us twice every year somewhere in Asia-Pacific.

I never realised how much he appreciated travel until one day, during the second week of our movement restriction, he asked wistfully: “When Covid-19 is over, can we take an airplane to go somewhere?”

He reminded me how much travel is a part of our life, and how no pandemic will dull the wanderlust in our heart.

As I typically travel for work once a month and for a week on average each time, family vacations are an invaluable opportunity for me to spend waking moments making up for all the lost time with my loved ones.

The value of family time must surely be amplified now, as we find ourselves with more time on hand to reflect on how we had neglected the ones closest to us during the good and crazy, busy times. I know I have, and I intend to maintain the lost connections I have rekindled in the past month. If anything should change in my travel behaviour post-Covid-19, it would be to plan more travels with the extended family.

My firstborn’s wish to resume travels soon certainly overturns the common belief that children never remember and appreciate vacations, and that money is better spent on other things. He remembers how we tried to stop curious deers in Nara from nibbling at his pants, the poop-inspired cartoon character we posed for a photo with at an indoor playground in Seoul, the colourful sprinkles on the chocolate discs I got for him at the Fremantle Markets, and the instant noodles his grandpa made for him at Uncle Alan’s house (the jolly owner of the Airbnb apartment we rented in Perth).

His memories clearly show that it is the interactions with family members on a trip that leave the deepest imprint.

Travels will not resume swiftly, with countries battling the pandemic at different paces. Some travel restrictions are likely to remain. So, it is unlikely I can fulfil my firstborn’s wish any time soon. But once the Singapore government lifts the movement restrictions, I will be glad to resume a different kind of travel – first by exploring my own backyard and supporting local tourism players. There will be plenty for us to do together.

This time, we will have our youngest to join us in making new discoveries. I wonder what memories will stick for him?

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