x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Travelling wih Kids: reckless on the streets of Colombo

Mayhem on the roads may be something I am used to from an upbringing in third-world countries, but with two sleeping children in my arms, the disorder suddenly seemed highly alarming.

After making our way through Bandaranaike Airport in Colombo with the children in tow, we were met by our friendly driver who escorted us to a waiting minibus. But as my husband and I bundled our two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter into the private bus, we both noticed the same thing - there were no seatbelts.

The minibus was taking us to our hotel in Bentota, a beach resort four hours south of the capital on the west coast of Sri Lanka, and we wondered how we would keep our wriggling son in one place.

So with the car seats redundant in the back of the bus, we took it in turns to wrestle our excitable two-year-old into a sitting position. Thankfully, even this little human Duracell runs out of power eventually and, after 20 minutes of jumping between my husband and I, he fell into a coma-like sleep for the remainder of the journey, allowing us to focus on the chaos around us.

It was the start of the Sri Lankan weekend and the minibus had no choice but to weave between auto rickshaws, cows, cars and buses overloaded with people and luggage.

Mayhem on the roads may be something I am used to from an upbringing in third-world countries, but with two sleeping children in my arms, the disorder suddenly seemed highly alarming.

It was then I realised having children had turned me into what I would consider a "safe" traveller. Since the birth of my daughter five years ago, it hasn't crossed my mind to go on an adventure across India, climb a mountain or explore the depths of a rainforest - things that seemed perfectly normal in my youth.

Instead, I've picked locations where the hotel would supply a travel cot, a bottle steriliser, kids-meal options and everything a parent could possibly need.

So with one hand firmly gripping onto my children and the other clinging onto the seat in front as we careered, horns blaring, to our hotel, it felt good to be a little bit reckless again.

Over the next week, the car seats stayed in the hotel wardrobe, while our children sped around Bentota hanging out the side of auto rickshaws.

Any concerns over their safety were put to one side when I reminded myself this was how I was brought up either sitting in the back of a pick-up as my parents bumped their way along forest roads in southern Africa, or peering through our Land Rover sunroof in the South Pacific as we drove down non-existent rainforest tracks.

But the second we arrived back in Dubai, the auto rickshaws disappeared, along with my carefree abandonment, and the children were strapped, albeit very grumpily, back into their car seats. Yes a little recklessness was fun, but the world's roads are too dangerous to stay car-seat free for long.

arayer@thenational.ae