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Synopsis

For every North American mom who dares forge her own way, when all around her are the suburban ideals of keeping up and conforming, there are a zillion others who will consistently say: “I’d love to do this or that but I can’t because of the kids.”


Travellin’ Mama is about showing parents, particularly those who yearn to travel, that it’s possible to have their cake and eat it too. Because all evidence to the contrary, combining one’s passion for seeing the world with the passion one has for one’s own kids can actually be done. And it sure beats living with the regret and resentment of having put off one’s own dreams to faithfully toe the modern parent’s sacrificial line.


Every hockey mom worth her salt knows there’s an unwritten code of conduct for motherhood that has everything to do with self-sacrifice and nothing to do with self. So when opportunity knocks, it’s time moms start putting themselves first (a little less June Cleaver, a little more Courtney Love perhaps) and start going after what they really want.

This book shows them how.

Travellin’ Mama takes the reader on a cheeky, lighthearted, global odyssey across Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and south-east Asia as one mom, one dad and two kids cover 80,000-plus kilometres on 15 flights, 20 buses, 10 cars, 26 boats, seven horses, one submarine, one truck, three trains, two subways and three trams.

It’s a year-long adventure that’s as much about ditching the routine and tossing out the play-by-the-rules parenting playbook as it is about seeing the world.

It’s about the funny stuff that happens on the road with kids. It’s also about the unbelievably annoying shit that makes you want to start smoking again.

Taking to heart neither the Courtney Love nor the June Cleaver model, the author discovers a motherhood nirvana that lies somewhere between those two extremes. And she shares with her readers this essential truth: That going after what we want doesn’t make us bad or selfish parents, it actually makes us happier people … and therefore better parents.

Like travel writer Bill Bryson, whose first rule of consumerism is never to buy anything you can’t make your children carry, Harper also finds that having kids around to carry her stuff is one of the many upsides of taking them on the road.

But, of course, the good stuff is just half the story. Had she known, for example, that she’d be ankle-deep in water, wringing out her undies in a thundery midnight monsoon as lightning struck directly overhead again and again and again, she wouldn’t have made for the croc-infested environs of Darwin at the height of the rainy season with plans to sleep rough. That she didn’t start smoking again is still mildly surprising. And that she didn’t smother her Kiwi husband with a pillow in the dead of night is a MIRACLE, especially after he allowed their youngest to go out on a parasailing boat with no lifejacket, no parent, and a male stranger.

Travellin’ Mama shows that even when things go horribly wrong, travelling with kids is still so right. Long-haul adventure may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the point is that too many parents avoid travelling with kids at all for fear of the potentially disastrous consequences. And in an era in which children determine the family’s social agenda by leading mom and dad around by the nose, it’s important that parents realize there is another way, and one that can make them a whole lot happier - especially if in their carefree, pre-kids days they happened to travel a lot.

They might also be amazed to discover that that other way turns out to be great for the kids, too.

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