To be honest, he might have liked a year or a few months to travel this year. But he went and surprised us all by getting the only apprenticeship he applied for. He absolutely loves his apprenticeship and wouldn’t change it for the world, but he still has the travel bug.
He’s interested in the world and wants to see as much of it as he can. He also likes planes, airports and flying in general. Since his A Levels, he’s had trips to Amsterdam (with his former girlfriend), Krakow (with my husband) and two cities in Germany – I forget which ones – on his own.
But he wanted to go away further and for much longer. So he’s going to Singapore and Australia.
His best friend from his first secondary school is currently in Australia. He’s been there since September and is planning to stay for a year. He’s loving it out there. He’s made friends, is doing labouring work and enjoying the climate. Meanwhile, my son had been talking for a while with his best friend from 6th form about going to Singapore. So he brought the two trips, and the two friends, together.
Later this week, all three boys will fly to Singapore. They plan to travel from there to Kuala Lumpur, before my son and his old friend travel on to Australia, and his other friend flies home. My son will then fly all the way home from Australia, via Singapore, on his own.
If you’re reading that, you probably think it sounds amazing. If you’re reading that and you happen to have a child in their late teens, you probably think it sounds scary. Because that’s exactly how I feel.
I have general worries about my son’s carelessness and disorganisation. He has planned the trip himself and has done it very well. But he’s the kind of person who is constantly losing stuff – his bank card, his wallet, his keys… How will he cope with being entirely responsible for his own passport, luggage, phone etc in foreign countries and on flights for three weeks?!
At least he’s got his friends with him most of the time. But he tells me they are more disorganised than him. I don’t know how that is even possible.
I also have minor worries about him becoming a victim of crime. He sees himself as invincible, but he doesn’t realise that young men like him are actually quite vulnerable. He isn’t worldly wise and he could become a victim – either of a violent crime or robbery or getting sucked in by someone’s story and inadvertently doing something stupid like carrying drugs.
On top of that, I have specific worries. My first worry was his peanut allergy. In Singapore in particular, he’s not going to know what he’s eating. Luckily, he only reacts if he actually eats peanuts – so touching them or being in the same room as somebody eating them isn’t a problem. But he only has to eat a fraction of a peanut for his face and throat to swell up. He has promised me he won’t eat any street food and he should have a friend with him at all times to stab him with the epipen, apart from when he’s flying home.
My next worry was the bush fires in Australia. I know Australia is a very big country and they weren’t that close to the cities, but would they spread?
And then came coronavirus.
I talked to him about the possibility of his trip being called off. I knew he would never call it off himself, but if the government put a ban on flying, he wouldn’t be able to go. Alternatively, Australia could put a ban on flights going in. At first, he wasn’t even willing to accept this might be a possibility, but he started to accept that it could be. He also thought about the precautions he could take. He bought some masks and plenty of hand gel. He promised to always be careful to wash his hands before eating.
Singapore was the source of a big outbreak at an international conference, which led to the virus being taken home to various countries.
My son has been keeping a very close eye on the situation and it appears that Singapore is doing a very good job of controlling the virus. Every day there are more people cured and released from hospital than new infections. But of course it’s still a worry. Aeroplanes and airports are among the most risky places because of the mix of nationalities and the very close proximity of so many people.
So I’m worried.
He came home from work and told me his colleagues didn’t want him to go. I asked if he’d told them that I didn’t want him to go either and he said, ‘But you do want me to go’. So either I’ve been doing a really good job of masking my worries or he’s just really ignorant of my feelings – it’s probably a bit of both.
I’d been telling everyone he was going ‘in three weeks’. The moment I realised that three weeks was actually two weeks was a big shock to me. I’ve checked and double checked his luggage. He’s got his and sanitiser and face masks (although welding ones, so I’m not sure they’re quite right). I’m going to see if he can squeeze some antibacterial wipes in for the table on the plane and any public transport. I’ve run through scenarios in my head so many times of him coming home and having to self-isolate in his room.
I know, deep down, that it’s all going to be fine. He’s going to have a brilliant time and he’s going to come home happy.
But I am still going to worry every single day until he does.