In 1996, we had an opportunity to establish a business in a (then)
booming SE Asian economy. As John Lennon said: “Life is what
happens to you while you’re busy making plans”. Here’s
part of what happened to us:
clutches the ever present Barney the Dinosaur while travelling through
my husband and I married, we celebrated with a year- long honeymoon
backpacking adventure around the world. Eleven years later, we welcomed
an opportunity to again explore Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.
But this time we would not be alone: our two children, aged 2 and
6, were coming too!
friends’ and relatives’ trepi-dations, we felt confident
that all would go well. We had encountered many families on our
world trip - even some with babies - in all sorts of remote and
the hectic weeks before flying out of Vancouver, we sold most of
our furniture, packed and moved the rest of our belongings into
storage and then struggled with the arduous task of deciding what
we should bring on the trip. We allowed one large bag per parent;
the kids’ things were consolidated into an additional large
bag and then, of course, there was the day bag for holding necessities
like diapers, wipes, food, camera, notebooks, pens and an assortment
of toys and books.
children were allowed two stuffed animals along. For Rosalie, our
two-year-old, one choice was particularly easy: Barney, the Purple
Dinosaur, was going on a holiday!
Rosalie peeing on the plane seat not long after lift-off, our kids
proved to be natural travellers and managed to recover from the
twenty- plus hour flight much faster than their poor parents.
for me, I lost my breakfast on a busy Singapore street the morning
after we touched down. As I crouched on the sidewalk wondering:
“what on earth did we think we were doing, taking our children
half way around the world,” the sweet sight of their concerned
faces heartened me and I gathered enough strength to carry on.
and Rosalie were big hits wherever we went. Heads would turn at
the sight of our blonde, curly haired, blue eyed offspring as they
walked wide-eyed down exotic streets and laneways. We were asked
countless times for permission to take their picture. There are
now many Japanese tourists who have pictures of Rosalie with Barney
poking his purple head out of her tiny backpack.
derived great comfort from her purple pet. He certainly helped make
strange hotel rooms in an exotic land a little homier and he also
doubled as a pillow on long train trips or bus rides. However, it
didn’t take long for us to appreciate a certain fear: what
if Barney disappeared somewhere along the journey? We were in a
land where he was not exactly a household name- in fact, we hadn’t
seen Barney anywhere!
Jonathan, our six year old, a former Barney devotee who now loathed
him with a passion, would certainly have been happy to see the detested
“purple idiot” disappear, but we knew that Rosalie would
have been inconsolable.
before leaving every hotel room and disembarking from every plane,
bus, train, boat or tri-shaw, we would check and double check to
ensure Barney was still in our presence. In our zeal to prevent
his loss, we usually managed to overlook other possessions so our
load lightened with each leg of the journey.
the course of the trip our losses included one calculator, a miniature
suitcase filled with little toys and crayons, food, clothes- even
the stroller, left on top of a pick-up truck taxi. We felt lost
without our “wheels” but managed to retrieve them several
days later as luckily, we kept the business card of the driver’s
sister, a hotel rep who had been trying unsuccessfully to persuade
us to stay at her hotel.
day, during our stay on Koh Samui, our favourite Thai resort island,
we swore we couldn’t believe our eyes when we spotted another
Barney perched on a chair in a small shop down a quiet laneway.
I felt a glimmer of hope that if we ever did lose Barney on the
island, maybe we’d be able to convince the shopkeeper to part
made it to Bangkok with Barney safely in tow but decided to move
out of our downtown hotel after a couple of days. We had literally
become sick of the noise and pollution that accosted us each time
we stepped through the doors of the hotel onto the street. We were
also fed up at finding cockroaches the size of small cats lurking
in our bathroom or crawling up the bar fridge. We decided to splurge
on a posh hotel in a quieter part of the city.
checking out of the old hotel, Rosalie required a last minute potty
stop. I had carefully noted that she had Barney when we rushed back
into our room but it wasn’t until we arrived at the new hotel,
that I realized with a shock that Barney had somehow gone AWOL.
we left Barney in the cab? Maybe he’d been dropped somewhere
on the Thai capital’s street and was now steam rolled by the
mass of Bangkok traffic into an insignificant purple blot?
were good that he was still at the old hotel. After a couple of
confusing phone calls we ascertained that yes, the hotel staff had
indeed found Barney lounging on the bed in our room (apparently,
the cockroaches hadn’t bothered him a bit) and that they would
hold him for us at the front desk.
next challenge was making the long journey back to fetch him. Chris
doggedly volunteered to do the job, after a day’s recovery
from the debilitating effects of our ordeal staying in downtown
leaving bright and early, Chris did not manage to escape the insane
Bangkok traffic. In an attempt to amuse himself during the endless
bus ride into the heart of downtown, he composed a poem:
a Bangkok Bus
Construction ahead, behind, sideways
Traffic cops in gas masks wave
Vendors on the side of the road sell their
lead enhanced fast foods
The ticket taker
rattles her little steel drum
full of change and tickets
At the next red light
drivers in our convoy are obsessed
Throbbing at the wheel as they rev
Onward in the City of Angels
hours later, Chris reappeared at the hotel, hot, sweaty and exhausted
but with the purple beast tucked under his arm. The look on Rosalie’s
little face when she spotted her beloved Barney was indeed reward
for his efforts. Barney looked a bit the worse for wear too, so
a bath in the sink was in order. I was getting good at this little
chore and by the next day, he was back to his old self again.
travelling through developing countries with two small children
for three months, we knew Canada was where we wanted to be. As for
Barney, having made it home in one piece, his favoured status has
been wiped out by a succession of other toys. So after our next
big trip, I may be writing, “Travels With Barbie”