The World, My Classroom

February 21, 2010
Nubian Desert in Sudan

Nubian Desert in Sudan

On 1 May 2008, Alison Murugesu-Ghani and Ghani Ishak set off with their three-year old son, Adrian, to see the world in a Nissan Patrol 4×4 that they have fondly dubbed Tuah.

Together they covered more than 60,000 miles in 43 countries across four continents before their journey was prematurely cut short in August 2009 by a medical emergency—Ghani needed treatment for his heart condition.

The family is now back in Kuala Lumpur—Adrian has started pre-school, Ghani is well and back on his feet and Alison is busy keeping all their friends updated through their Facebook page. They are waiting for Tuah to arrive in KL so that they can resume their adventures in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.

What were your objectives for making the journey?

We wanted to experience one of the greatest adventures of our lives; to gain an insight into the culture and history of the people who we meet and the places that we visit; to inspire others particularly those from the Global South to fulfill their dreams; and to promote our country, Malaysia.

Why did you decide to do it when Adrian was so young?

Adrian was 3.5 years old when we started off. Having a young child doesn’t mean the end of adventure holidays. We were determined that we were not going to be confined to a future of paddle pool and play area holidays and we thought that if we really did want to make this trip—a long-time dream—we would have to do it while Ghani and I were still fit and able to cope. Otherwise, we would end up just talking about it, never doing it and possibly one day regretting that.

Were there any special preparations that you had to make for Adrian?

Lilongwe, Zambia

Lilongwe, Zambia

We made sure that Adrian had some comforts of home and a proper place to sit, eat, draw and do some homeschooling exercises—this was one of our top priorities.

Not many toys made the trip with us. We brought along a few toys, some art and craft materials and lots of imagination. We also had a portable DVD player, which provided in-car entertainment and was used for Adrian to listen to his audio books.

Adrian had a litany of vaccinations before we began our travels and I took a special First Aid for Babies and Children course.

How do you think the trip has benefited Adrian?

Adrian has become a very independent and confident child. He has seen how people live in different countries, eat different foods, have different traditions and customs and he has learnt to understand the need to respect them.

Adrian has seen how in many parts of the world, some of the things that we take for granted are, in fact, luxuries. He has seen children his age and younger walking for miles carrying water home for the family and working in the fields for the night’s dinner. Hopefully, he will remember these and be grateful for what he has.

He has learnt that a cold shower is better than no shower and that poverty doesn’t automatically equate to unhappiness. Some of the biggest smiles we’ve seen have been in areas where people have the least.

He has seen how in some places, like Finland, the environment and nature are so wonderfully preserved and, hopefully, he will learn the importance of being ‘green’.

How has it changed you and Ghani as parents?

We have learnt not to be over-protective of Adrian. We learnt that to allow him the freedom to explore and discover, was the best learning tool for him.

What were some of the adventures you experienced along the way?

White Sands, Alamogardo, New Mexico

White Sands, Alamogardo, New Mexico

We were following an off road trail between the Dades and Tundra Gorges in Morocco, not realising that it was one of the most challenging trails in the country. It took us five hours to drive the 30 km between the two gorges, and we needed the help of the local Berber Tribe at one point to clear large rocks from the path.

Ghani suffered a stroke when we were in Norway—three months into our travels. Fortunately, I recognised the symptoms and managed to get a paramedic to come to us within 10 minutes. Ghani was rushed to the nearest hospital, 60 km away, where the neurologist and his team were waiting to attend to him. Ghani regained the use of his limbs within nine hours and his speech within 12. That was nothing short of a miracle, really.

When we crossed Lake Nasir from Egypt to Sudan, Tuah was bundled onto a barge at the risk of not being seen again. This was an eventful ferry ride for us—one of our fellow travelers was hit by the ferry’s exhaust fan door, which missed Adrian by a few inches, thank goodness. On the ferry, Ghani was given special treatment by the staff by virtue of his experience as a Ship Master. This gave us the privilege of being on the bridge as we passed by the temple at Abu Simbel.

There was great excitement when we saw a couple of lions within touching distance at the Kruger National Park in South Africa, after having searched the park for a few days. Then on our way out of the Park, we spotted a rhinoceros by the roadside bushes but it decided that it wasn’t going to wait around for Ghani to reverse Tuah so that we could all take a look.

What adjustments did you all have to make being back in Malaysia?

Adrian needed no time at all to adjust to life in KL.

For me, the hardest thing about coming back was recognising the amount of waste we churn out daily as a family. When we were living in a truck, with limited water and other supplies, we were very cautious of everything we used and the impact that our waste had on the environment and local wildlife.

Would you encourage other parents to make similar journeys?

We would definitely recommend that anyone who is able to make such a journey should do so. It not only opened the eyes of our child to the world around us, it also opened our own eyes.

At a Zulu Village in South Africa

At a Zulu Village in South Africa

While on the road, we were sometimes invited to join families for meals. Many of these families could hardly afford to feed themselves. We have been invited to stay in homes, allowed to camp in tribal villages—these are experiences and life lessons that you cannot gain by watching a documentary or reading a book.

Spending so much time camping outdoors has made us more aware of our surroundings, of the beauty of nature and of the need to respect the environment.

Our Interview series focuses on parents, teachers, role models and children with interesting tales to tell, lives to share and inspiration to give. If you have a suggestion for someone you’d like to see interviewed (including yourself, ahem!), drop us a note at parentingworks AT gmail DOT com to tell us why the person should be featured.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

Search this blog