I recall an evening last year, not long before we left Balmain when I tore out of our front door, raced down Darling Street and jumped onto the ferry to Circular Quay. I drank in the lights of Luna Park glittering in the dark, and became a part of the city at night as I spent two blissful hours photographing the Opera House lit up with the lights of the Vivid Sydney exhibition. I rarely went out at night, with a young child to look after, especially one who slept fitfully and woke frequently, and almost always wanted her mummy. Going out at night, being part of the outside world for the evening, all the while doing something I loved, was magical and exhilarating.
Last week was our wedding anniversary, and we treated ourselves to a night in a London hotel and tickets to see We Will Rock You. It was the first time in the Littlest Hobo's two and a half years of life that we had left her overnight without one or the other of us being there. And I know that several of my friends who may be reading this will be tutting and rolling their eyes now, but I always have been a bit of a hippy when it comes to parenting, and I make no apology for it. It was great - she's old enough now to understand what is going on and she feel reassured that when we leave her we will come back - she waved us off happily and I wasn't nervous about leaving her.
We've been out for dinner occasionally, and we've each been out separately with friends several times, as well as numerous 'sleepovers' with friends who also have kids where the adults get to party once the kids are asleep, but really we haven't had much opportunity for mutually participated in adult outings for the longest time. We had a great time - I can't remember the last time we went to the theatre, a past-time which I have always enjoyed. Although we've probably checked into more hotels than your average Tom, Dick or Harry in the last couple of years, it was refreshing to just check in, no fuss, without having to make sure that they had put a child bed in the room, that they could cater for children, and one with food intollerences and allergies at that. When we walked into the hotel room we were able to marvel at our upgrade and throw ourselves onto the massive bed without having to first check the room for safety hazards. We ate when we wanted to and what we wanted to and drank enough cocktails, without having to worry about looking after anyone mini, to make the journey to the theatre very giggly. When we left the theatre we walked along Oxford Street, watching people go about their evenings before taking in the Christmas lights of Regent Street from the warmth of our cab, without having to race back to anyone.
It's Mr T's birthday tomorrow, and we're off out for the evening again with my mum in charge of getting her ladyship into bed, and I'm sure that it won't be the only time in the next two and a half weeks as we scrabble to see friends before we leave England's fair shores and our live-in babysitting opportunity is over.
We're quite enjoying our new found occasional freedom, but I'm not too sure how sustainable it is with our plans for the next year. I'm not willing to trust some random babysitter to look after my daughter so that I can go off galavanting around. I'm not that bothered about it - it's not forever, and ultimately we will be fulfilling dreams travelling, and we do have a couple of hours of child free time once she's asleep at night - we're just restricted to wherever our current home may be, and the night life will once again become a distant memory. I was reading in the Lonely Planet Travelling with Children book that between the age of 1 and 3 is the worst time to travel with kids - while I don't agree in many respects, I suppose this is one of the downsides. They need to be at 'home' and in bed by a reasonable time - too old to sleep for hours in a pushchair and too young to stay up late for too many consecutive days.
So I'd love to hear from the rest of the travelling families community - how do you get adult time when you're on the road? Are you able to experience the places you are visiting at night, or do you stick to daytime exploration?