St Albans’ backpacking Mum launches Facebook page to inspire other holidaying families
PUBLISHED: 12:19 15 November 2016 | UPDATED: 12:19 15 November 2016
Avoiding big cockroaches running amok on a train in Sri Lanka, and sharing showers with frogs have done little to deter a St Albans mum from winging her holidays.
Intrepid explorer Susannah Cery refused to give up backpacking after having a baby six years ago, and she has recently launched a Facebook page to help inspire families to follow in her unplanned footsteps.
Susannah and her husband Kelvin are ‘huge backpackers’ and when the couple go abroad they leave everything to chance, including their accommodation.
They spent seven months backpacking around SE Asia, looking for work, and when their son, Alfred, was a baby, they trekked up to about 10,000 feet in Nepal, carrying their then toddler in a traditional local basket.
Susannah described as some of their budget travel, including through Sri Lanka and India, as ‘crazy’ at times, “as people are literally sitting on your lap. There were some big cockroaches on a train in Sri Lanka, so you have to put your feet up. I have also shared showers with frogs, because some places we have stayed in have showers with no real, solid walls – they are made out of bamboo, with gaps.
“In Mumbai, I had a mouse run across my legs – I think we have good immunity!”
She said that backpacking was, “not only a lot cheaper than a standard holiday, but the fact you’re immersed in the local culture adds another dimension to your family experience”.
Susannah reckons the family has saved thousands of pounds by backpacking, rather then paying for package holidays at popular and busy tourist resorts.
She added: “We do it on the cheap – I don’t buy designer clothes!”
Over the recent half term, and ahead of winter here, Susannah took Alfred to Thailand, to help demonstrate how feasible backpacking with a child is.
She has posted photos and information on her Facebook page, “Our Tribe Travels”, described as a “growing global community of families who enjoy independent travel” where people swap tips, share ideas and exchange knowledge relating to family travel and backpacking.
Hundreds of people from all over the world have joined, sharing advice on how to make alternative family travel simpler.
When Susannah and Alfred went to Thailand, she did not book any accommodation, instead asking the community to come up with suggestions of places to visit or stay.
They chose destinations and made their way there using local transport – both of which were ‘easy’ to do, she said.
Susannah was recommended to visit Koh Samet, a ‘stunning’ island located a few hours east of Bangkok.
After returning to St Albans, she told the Herts Advertiser that it was a, “fantastic adventure. We stuck with our plan, which was to have no plan at all, and used the recommendations from the ‘Our Tribe Travels’ community.
“After we were hit with a bad weather system in Nai Yang, we travelled back to Bangkok and spent two days exploring the city. As the weather was far better in the east of the country we decided to take a local bus to the port of Ban Phe and jump on the local ferry to Koh Samet, a stunning small island that is favoured by Bangkok locals. It’s a real gem.”
She said that Alfred also loved backpacking, “because he has been brought up with travel”.
Susannah has visited 44 countries so far and says that while travelling is her passion there have, of course, been a few hurdles. These include, after severe travel delays, wandering around with backpacks trying to find accommodation at 1am, when “everything was closed”.
But the family travels on transport that locals use and eats at the places patronised by residents.
Susannah explained: “For us, if we come away from a destination and haven’t got under the skin of it, I don’t feel like I have done it properly.”
Advice for alternative family travel from Susannah Cery:
• Pack light. When you are carrying your rucksack daily, the lighter the better. Some internal flight companies only allow 16kg per bag, so if you can limit your main bag to this you will avoid excess baggage charges.
• Be flexible and go with the flow, as this gives you the freedom to explore other hidden gems recommended by travellers you meet on your journey. But, if you are not comfortable doing this, consider making reservations through online service booking.com which gives you the freedom to cancel bookings without getting penalised.
• Go Local - avoid taking tourist transport and use local buses and trains instead. The cost difference is huge and having interaction with local families enhances your travel experience.
• Cost savings - if you are heading to a big city as part of your trip, sign up to Groupon a few weeks before you leave. You can often find substantial discounts on entrance fees to family attractions.