Have rucksack: go travel!
IT IS a Summer of adventure for The Eldest. I foresee five weeks of low-level anxiety for me.
She and a close friend are off to explore Europe: 8 countries, 15 cities. They plan their inter-railing adventure with the precision of generals planning tactical manoeuvres. They buy their flights during a sale. They book hostels, student travel and top sightseeing passes months in advance. It's impressive, I tell her. But I'm hardwired to worry.
'You'll text me every night when you arrive back at your hostel?' I do my best to make it sound like a casual question. She is, after all, 23. Not a child: well capable. Judging from her expression, I know it's come out as an order.
'Of course.' Patiently, she adds, 'you know we'll be posting on Facebook every night. So you'll know we're fine.'
'They'll be fine,' says The Husband. 'But I do think they're going away for too long. Say if they have a falling out?'
That's the least of my worries. The Husband did a bit of inter-railing back in the day. He had got to his second country, when he left his passport and his wallet, with all his money, on a train in Italy and had to sleep overnight in a railway station.
In the days before mobile phones or the internet, he had limited resources. Eventually, he made his way to Tuscany, where his parents were holidaying. Apparently, they were only mildly surprised to see him.
Meanwhile, The Eldest and The Pal fly out to Italy, and spend the first few days in Rome, Florence, Pisa. I stalk them on social media, relieved when there's a new post. And for the first few nights there is a text, letting me know they are safe.
By the time the nightly texts stop, I have stopped worrying. It's a revelation. I'm not sure why it's happened, because it's a first, but I embrace it. I revel in it. And I revel in their daily discoveries, their Facebook and Instagram posts, their funny stories.
'I'm not sure if I'd ever be able to do that,' The Middle One admits.
'What? Interrail? Of course you would!' I am now, after all, an old hand at this: I have evolved to become mother of the student traveller.
She looks at me, says nothing. I think of her bedroom: always the untidiest space in the house. Of the fact that whilst she is talented, smart and wonderfully creative, she is...disorganised, prone to losing things.
'I think it's just about organising yourself and picking a good travelling companion.' I should have been a diplomat.
Currently, 300,000 young people in Europe buy interrail passes each year. This Summer, in a move to encourage public travel and interest in other European countries, the European Union (EU) gave out thousands of free passes for 18 year olds.
It comes with conditions: the youngsters can visit between one and four countries in the EU, and must travel within a certain 30 day period. *
Most significantly, they have to be 18. Not 17. Not 23.
'It's a great idea, but 18 is far too young,' The Husband mutters. It's not the blanket pronouncement that it appears: I know exactly what he's thinking. The Boy will turn 18 in three short years. And he's already talking about getting his free interrail pass.
I know my biggest worries are yet to come.
* Information about free interrail passes for teenagers from EU Today.
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Enjoy the rest of the Summer,