On this day five years ago I flew to Melbourne. My niece was turning 11 and we were about to embark on an adventure together, just the two of us, to Singapore.
I’d said to Peppa years ago that when she turned 11 I’d like to take her on an overseas holiday somewhere, just the two of us. Perhaps I should have cleared it with my sister first, but I naively thought Peppa would have forgotten I ever said anything. Ha!
When she turned 10 we started planning. I set some rules for what would be the first in a series of trips, one with each of my three nieces.
1. No more than one flight from Australia. This didn’t stop the suggestion from Peppa that we should go to Paris, or the follow up from Goldie three years later that perhaps we could give Brazil a whirl.
2. The destination had to be somewhere I’d been before. I needed some sort of familiarity given that I was taking my sister’s children out of the country.
3. It should be a country where people spoke a different language. We were not going to Hawaii to lie on the beach.
Peppa and my trip to Singapore was filled with miles of walking, cable cars, hawker stalls, Universal studios, dumplings and one terrifying ride on a chairlift. We finished every day at the chocolate shop near our hotel, drinking hot chocolate and sharing some amazing chocolate creation.
Peppa’s trip was where I learnt the benefits for me. When I came up with this idea, I thought about how interesting it would be for the girls to travel, how much they could learn about another culture, the fun in trying new foods and using different money. But during the six days with my funny, laid back niece (oh, dear God, did I mention funny?), the real value of the trip became apparent. Spending so much time together, getting to really know each other, forming that special Aunty-niece bond; that was priceless.
Goldie and my trip to Tokyo was a whirlwind of temples, cherry blossoms, sushi, bike rides and 12 non-stop hours at Disneyland. My insightful, independent, stylish niece led the way through the crowded streets, mastering the money, the trains and the souvenir shops far better than me. Another beautiful Aunty-niece bond was cemented over croissants every morning and internet quizzes every night (FYI I know exactly what Harry Potter character, what small dog, and what colour fairy I am).
Today, five years later, I’m back in Melbourne for the third and final trip. Somehow the rules have stretched a little for my youngest niece Lulu. We need to take three flights to get to final destination, and it’s somewhere I’ve never been before. We’re off to Borneo: into the jungle for a river safari. Orangutans, monkeys and elephants are on our agenda. Lulu is curious and adventurous, so this ought to be one wild ride.
I’m a little sad that this will be the last trip. But then, this has all been my idea. There’s nothing to stop me coming up with another idea.
I was thinking I could do a go around as they each turn 18. Or perhaps they could take me.