Preparing My Daughter for an 8,000 Mile International Vacation Without Me


Family vacations are a time I treasure. Vacations give us all a time to unplug and relax. As well, they break up the daily routine while enjoying meals prepared by someone else, in a space that I don’t have to clean. This year, our family vacation is being traded in for the opportunity for my husband and oldest daughter to travel to my husband’s homeland of Zimbabwe, Africa.Zimbabwe

My oldest daughter is a hugger and a lover of everyone she meets. She wants to feel connected, cares passionately about her family and friends, and frequently sheds tears for her family in Zimbabwe whom she has never met. The past few years, she has consistently expressed the desire to travel to Zimbabwe to meet her aunts, uncles and cousins there, as well as to experience, if even only for a brief stay, the life her dad grew up in. Her desire has become so strong, it is often the last thing she thinks about before drifting off to sleep, and the first thing she talks about when she wakes.

With her strong desire, and my husband’s hope to visit his homeland, we began researching flights. Within a short time, we had booked plane tickets. Due to the long flight time, among other logistical deterrents,  I didn’t feel this was an international vacation our youngest, who is six, could manage.

So, from thousands of miles away, we are researching and planning safari options, hotel stays, food choices, and a visit to Victoria Falls. The planning for such a trip is exciting and stressful all in one. Here are some places they plan on visiting while there:

  1. Victoria Falls: One of the seven natural wonders of the world, and a must-see for anyone traveling to Zimbabwe.
  2. Roma Dinner and Drum Show– A feast for all the senses, a night filled with food, dancing, entertainment, and a true African experience.
  3. Horse Safari– While at Victoria falls, my husband and daughter will saddle up and venture along the trails to see wildlife.
Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. One of the seven natural wonders of the world

This will be the first time I have been away from my daughter for longer than her 5 night sleepaway summer camp. I am feeling many different emotions when I think that my firstborn will be on an international vacation almost 8,000 miles away, in a country where English is not the first language, where there is a 7 hour time difference, where water is scarce and often contaminated, and where the government just experienced a coup and had a major change in the ruling party.

This mama bear is an emotional wreck.

I am ecstatic my daughter has the privilege of experiencing such a life-altering trip at such a young age. I am sad that I will not get to see her face when she meets her aunts, uncles, and cousins for the first time. I feel blessed that my husband is willing and eager to take her on the biggest adventure she of her short life. I am nervous that the food will be so different from what she is used to eating that she may get hungry and miss out on fully enjoying the experience. I am incredibly humbled that my husband’s family in Zimbabwe is anxiously awaiting my daughter’s arrival, asking what they need to do to prepare for my daughter to feel comfortable and at home.

Since learning of this trip, my daughter has spent endless hours writing down the flight itinerary including hours spent at layovers, distance traveled, and arrival times at each airport. She has written to-do lists and wish lists for everything she wants to accomplish while on this amazing international vacation. This includes: playing soccer with her cousins, eating Sadza- a staple dish made of cornmeal, visiting Victoria Falls, going on a safari, and visiting her Sekuro’s (grandfather’s) grave site.

Three Zebras

We recently had an appointment with the infectious disease doctors at the travel clinic. The doctor we met with was really honest regarding the importance of taking every precaution possible to limit her chances of getting sick while on this trip.  As with any travel, it is important to consult a doctor to see what immunizations may be needed for the area you are visiting. For this specific trip, my daughter was told she needed two immunizations, both for mosquito-borne illnesses: malaria and typhoid. The doctor also gave her a list of other precautions to keep in mind:

  1. Dogs may look cute, but don’t go near any of them. Mom hears: Rabies
  2. Only drink bottled water. Mom hears: Parasites
  3. Sleep in a mosquito net. Mom hears: Malaria
  4. Wear bug spray ALL the time. Mom hears: More Malaria
  5. Only swim in pools, no open bodies of water. Mom hears: More Parasites
  6. If you can’t cook it, or peel it. Don’t eat it. Mom hears: OH NO!

As I’ve mentioned, we are all feeling extremely blessed that this trip is coming to fruition. I am still worrying about everything.

Food and water are on the top of the list. My daughter isn’t the most adventurous eater and will shy away from many of the foods she is exposed to on a daily basis here in Vermont. Having experienced Zimbabwe myself in 2007, I know the food options. Although many are delicious and amazing, they are not in our normal repertoire of food choices. I know what low blood sugar and being hangry can do to my normally sweet and loving daughter. I guess I should thank my lucky stars that I won’t have to deal with any of those hangry moments on this trip.

With only a few weeks left before they leave for vacation, we are crossing things off our to-do lists.  Double checking passports, finalizing hotel and safari bookings, and beginning to pack the suitcases. This will be a trip of a lifetime for my daughter. I just know it. It will also be a test of this mama’s heart.

Small Heart


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