Journeying from Althofen in Austria to Chioggia and Arezzo in Italy sounds like an inspiring European travel plan – until you add a campervan and one-year-old twins Alexis and Sienna.
Nicole Huang Huiling and her husband had enough incidents to restore their faith in Murphy’s Law during their Austria-to-Italy jaunt in June last year.
“There was a break-in on Day 1 when we drove into Italy and stopped at a supermarket to load up on supplies,’’ the 34-year-old digital media specialist recounts.
“Next, the campervan’s air-con was faulty and did not work for the entire trip. This meant sweltering summer heat and limited air circulation towards the back of the van, where the babies were seated.”
With sweaty and uncomfortable babies and long drives with broken windows, they were relieved to arrive at their first campsite in Chioggia, a lovely seaside town in Veneto.
Unfortunately, over the next two days, one twin fell ill, followed by the other. “We got worried and ended up going to the hospital in the nearest town – Siena, in Tuscany – to get them assessed by the doctors.”
On the flipside, however, they experienced the joy of slow travel and not just ticking-the-box touring.
Today, both parents smile when they recall the moment they watched their babies, 26 months old now, having the most amazing time in a makeshift pail that doubled as a bathtub, and frolicking amid nature.
Travelling in summer also meant that once the twins had been tucked into bed in the campervan, the couple could relax, savouring the sights and sounds of their ephemeral home while it was still day.
Also, what they might have lost in not doing touristy things, they gained in local experiences such as shopping for fresh fruit, bread and cheese at neighbourhood markets.
“Camping might not be everyone’s cup of tea – the idea sounds very idyllic, but the reality can be a little less so.
“Once you decide to embark on a ‘less regular’ trip, be realistic about what you can achieve with babies or toddlers, and slow things down a little,” Nicole advises.
“Remember that when things go wrong, Plan B might not be so bad after all. Let go of any expectations of a perfectly planned trip and leave some room for the unexpected.”
A version of this article first appeared in The Straits Times.
(Photos: Nicole Huang Huiling)