Late last year Alex turned twelve. Why is that important? Well, for starters, this year he starts high school. In terms of travel? He's now considered an adult when it comes to many airlines and not a few hotels.
Alex was still in the womb for his first overseas journey and was only four months old when he first set foot in an aircraft and headed off on his maiden international voyage. It should surprise no one that the destination was Japan. Five months later it was Singapore and Malaysia. Before he was even one year old he'd added Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Queensland, with repeat trips to Japan and Singapore to the list.
Later on came Taiwan, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, along with Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania domestically. A few destinations were visited more than once, at least yearly in the case of Japan.
Of course, this last year it all came to a halt due to the pandemic. No flights, just a few long drives.
Alex is, and was, a great traveller. Even as a baby he was pretty well behaved and good at either keeping himself amused on long voyages or sleeping. We'll never forget the flight with Thai Airways where he charmed the cabin crew with his smiles and they responded with gifts from their stash.
What does it mean turning twelve? Probably slightly higher fares and more expensive accommodation. It's been a while since he could squeeze between us and share a double bed in a tiny Japanese room. Meals are already much pricier with the hungry stomach of a teenager to be filled.
No more activity packs with colouring in or puzzles on the flights either. Sometimes they were a source of amusement, other times ignored. I'll kind of miss them though. In the name of mindfulness and distraction I've thought that an adult activity pack could be a good concept. I've got a few ideas for some.
I realise too that one of my other fantasies has come to an end. I've long imagined rocking up to the airport with Alex, but without any toys for him. So we'd have to choose and make do with whatever was sold at the airport. It's my favourite game of limited choices.
I remember when I used to travel I would carefully sort my Star Wars toys to find the minimal number required for a trip. Or the delight of my parents buying a bag of cheap plastic soldiers.
We kind of did the airport shopping a few times. At Sydney's Domestic Airport, before a flight to Darwin and Singapore with just Alex and I, he fell in love with a toy aeroplane which I bought for him. On another trip I bought him a Qantas Airport set, aircraft, trucks and signs. We rarely carried much, would buy some cheap (and not so cheap) toys along the way.
But Alex was very good at finding his own amusements. I remember at the transit hotel in Kuala Lumpur he turned toiletries into vehicles and he'd usually scribble on the hotel room stationery.
Then there was the lure of the electronic device, greater than any toy. I'd spend hours loading up an old Android phone with kids videos and cartoons. Getting him off the screen and looking out has always been the greatest struggle.
Now Alex has his own phone and his own luggage. He is a fully fledged traveller in his own right. Listening to him talk about his favourite times of day to depart, the scenes in world that trigger a desire to escape, and I am reminded of myself. Other times he follows B.
Most of all, Alex is his own traveller. He has shaped our journeys over the past twelve years. In less than half of that it will be time to forge his own. I hope he brings us along sometimes.