Monday, September 10, 2007

Life after birth: who needs freedom ?!

Many weeks have passed since I had the time or even inclination to write much here.The world of Mrs. Donatella and I is dominated by a little chap who weighs no more than about 12 pounds even at the ripe old age of 10 weeks.

Everything else from work, to sleep or dare I even suggest "leisure" has to be fitted around his requirements.If nothing else it makes me appreciate, in a totally sincere and non-cheesy way, what my parents did for me. Maybe that seems a bit late in the day but I think it is only possible from personal experience to realise all that parenthood means both in terms of joy and in terms of sacrifice.

I just exchanged notes with a friend I have known 10 years this September. Back in September 1997 we were both part of an "intake" for a major global accounting firm, albeit at a provincial office in Kent ! Since then we became very good friends and have observed the changes in our lives over just one decade. They seem to have been huge and of late they have accelerated.

Back in September 1997 before starting my new job, I decided I wanted to visit the US, having never been there before. For some obscure reason, known only to me then and not now, I chose to visit Texas and Arkansas. I wanted to see "authentic" America rather than the usual tourist destinations of Florida, New York and California. Back then, even as a relatively impoverished student working part time in a greengrocer, I had only myself to think about and had no real problem getting the ticket albeit with the new Firm's trainee salary on the horizon.

Other times I drove to friends around the country or even on my own- once to Switzerland once round the borders of all of France visiting most countries it bordered.I travelled with my friend to the US, Canada and even a hairy day trip into Mexico!

Later with work I visited many countries from humdrum industrial towns in eastern Europe to the screaming bustle of mega cities like Moscow and Sao Paulo to the soaring skyscrapers of Dubai and most recently Hong Kong.

Business trips aside, my life was not especially exciting or unusual but even the ability to mooch round a book shop or dive into the public library for an hour or two was a luxury I didn't realise I was taking for granted.

Now with young Luis in town not only is going to Texas not an option, but going to the centre of London with a pram and changing gear is an expedition not to be lightly undertaken! Horizons have shrunk and for now the old cliché about the world getting smaller has gone into reverse- it is getting bigger!

But as I tell my friend who is still relatively free, travel isn't everything. After all if you land in Boston, Rio, Madrid, Athens, Sydney, Shanghai or Jerusalem won't many of those photos, those hotel nights, those restaurant meals be so similar to thousands of others before and after your "experience" ? How authentic is the experience of the traveller anyway? In the age of mass tourism you are unlikely to see or do anything that hasn't already been done by someone else- not to mention written about and posted on a photo sharing website.

This may all sound a bit cynical but it makes me feel a little better as I contemplate top "destinations" in southern England !! Of course travel can be great fun and can broaden the mind or sometimes the person who returns from travel appears unchanged from the person who went on the journey. In my last job my manager had visited at least 4 continents with her job but still asked about Roman ruins while shown a Frankfurt WW2 bomb site. Sometimes travel does no good !

To look at this positively parenthood brings into the world someone totally unique who God willing will live many years beyond his parents and hopefully do some things better and differently from his parents.

Young Luis learnt to smile in the last week and against that I am happy to make do with a photo of what a Maldives sunset looks like.

Parenthood brings sacrifice and a loss of freedom that is at least physical. Travel becomes harder and probably less affordable too. But the freedom of the mind and spirit remains and we can still choose to travel there- although maybe not when someone is crying at 4 o'clock in the morning !

Yes it would be nice not to be woken in the small hours and I do miss the concept of "free" time and despite all the above, the ability to travel. That said, in a world of choices, the arrival of a little boy who at 10 weeks smiles and looks so curious when a plane flies overhead is a choice and a blessing that I would put above any destination I visited or activity I took part in before.

No comments: