Childhood travel memories

Coming from a big family has many advantages but also meant that holidays were not that high on the priority list.  We had our annual trip to Blackpool for some beach fun but as a family of 8, we spent most of our holidays at home, running around fields, being happy and merry.  However, as the youngest I was lucky to go with my mum to Pakistan for a few visits, the memories are still embedded in my mind.  My parents are both of Pakistani origin and we still have lots of family in the country.  The trips we made, saw me meeting family that I didn’t know existed, experiencing and living as a local in a country so different from the one I lived in.   So, I am sharing some of my most memorable childhood travel memories.

The first time I visited Pakistan was in 1988 and it was the first time I sat on a plane.  I think travelling so young planted the seed and helped me become the crazy adventurer I am today.  I still remember arriving in Pakistan and the culture shock I had.  There had been torrential downpours the night before and there were puddles, mud and animals everywhere. I was an avid bookworm and it felt like I hadn’t arrived in another country but  a whole different world.  For me it felt even more strange as looking at everyone, we dressed the same, I could speak the language, we ate the same food but still the people and being in Pakistan was so different to anything that I was used too.  Once the dust settled and I got used to my new surroundings the next couple of months were awesome fun. 

Pakistani house
I loved, loved the fact that all the houses had flat roofs.  Going on to the roof was considered to be the most normal thing in the world and often I would go to a neighbours house via the roof (for a 7 year old that was on awesome levels).  I used to love climbing to the roof to see all the farm land for miles and miles in every direction and I was totally enchanted by it.  The houses were all tiled and there was no carpets anywhere as the whole house was set up to deal with the heat which lasts between March and October.  My family are from the north of Pakistan so winter can be bitingly cold but fires and some coal was all that we had to keep us warm.  To deter robbers from getting to the house, our wall had shards of bottle glass cemented to the top of the wall.  It was something that I would have expected in some history books but the glass covered the top of every wall and seemed to work!

Our house in Pakistan
Pakistan Village fields
Pakistan fields
Glass to keep out the robbers

Our house was not in the village, as my granddad had wanted his own water supply, so he had built his house on his land on the outskirts.  I loved the fact that just outside our front gate was our very own well.  It was just like the wells in the storybooks, with a bucket and the end of a long rope and I was amazed that people considered this to be normal. Our daily routine would see us getting water from the well to fill in the drinking pots during the day and would be all that we used for everything from baths to washing up the dishes.  Even washing clothes was just the way Enid Blyton describes Dame Washalot in The Magic Faraway Tree and was so much fun!  Whilst on the topic of chores I loved the thing they used to brush up.  It was a handful of strong straw sticks bound at the top to make a “brush” and that was used to clean the whole house.  I used to sit and watch my aunty cleaning with it and always being surprised that it managed to sweep up even the tiniest piece of dust.

The Brush
There was no gas in our house so all of our cooking was done via a small fire, yes campers eat your heart out, we made some of the finest curries on a normal fire!  I still remember the smell of a freshly fire and how the food would always have a lingering taste of fresh smoke.  Even now when I come across that smell it brings me back to those few months, many many moons ago.  One thing that still makes me laugh is during the first few days I was told to get these round things which was used as kindling for the fire.  It later transpired that it was dried cow pat and I remember how grossed out I was at the concept and how I could never touch it again.  On another note, they were great for fires and helped to keep a fire burning for hours.  Walking out of your bedroom, you would see animals, whether it be hens, buffalos or cows in the garden in front of you, you got to see the cows being milked and collect fresh eggs.  I think living on a farm is an amazing way to spend a childhood and holidaying on one was one of the best things I have done.

walls and walls of cow pat
Coming from the UK, I was used to only seeing cars and buses going up and down streets but here there was the horse drawn carriages.  I was totally in awe of the owners, having so much control and racing along fields and bumpy roads with such ease.  This was my favourite mode of transport I would get excited every time we went.  My uncle had his own horse and carriage and it was amazing to be jolted along on one of these on a trip to get some food.  We returned to Pakistan in 2005 and almost all of these have been replaced, much to my huge disappointment, as that was part of the old charm of the place.  Another mode of transport that I will never forget are tail boats.  My cousins lived on the other side of the river and the only way to get across was via an old, rickety tail boat.  The boat owner would be on waiting for you on the banks and for a few rupees would take you to the other side.  You had to be careful though, as there could be a chance that the boat wasn’t there and you would be stranded.  It may not sound so dramatic but the village was over hour away from the river bank so that was the last thing you wanted!

tailboats in Pakistan
We spent a week in Lahore and I loved seeing the hustle and bustle of the city and lots of the old monuments from a time gone by.  I still remember climbing Menera (Tower) Pakistan, seeing the Red Fort and lots of other colourful mosques and old castles.  Lahore is a gorgeous city, for me it lacked the magic and freedom that living in the countryside brought but it was great to see how a country as young as Pakistan was developing and what a contrast their lives were compared to the villagers living a few hours drive away.  Looking back I think that Pakistan is often unfortunately overlooked when you compare it to the other countries in the Indian Subcontinent especially as it offers just as much culture, history and diverse scenery, wildlife and gorgeous food as that of its neighbouring countries. 

Lal Hawali
Lahore mosque
View from the top of Menera Pakistan
Mosque 2005
Even after years I still remember that feeling of being free.  I loved that I had  no school/planned activities for two months and waking up with nothing set in stone but to seek a new adventure.  I also remember the freedom of having nothing but open fields to run and explore.  Finding a fruit tree, throwing stones and being able to eat them there and then.  I loved how after two months, I had a whole new set of friends, I was now super fluent in another language and learnt that being in a new place where you do not know anybody doesn’t matter, after a few days you realise that everyone is just the same!  I think this very experience has made me want to take a year away with my own children.  The time out of school made little difference to my education and helped me to become more confident, you actually spend hours upon hours with the people you love and learn important life skills.  I will leave you with a picture of my granddad, who has sadly passed away in 2012, but its nice to have photos of him to remember some of our adventures.

grandad

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Nisbah

I am a traveller, mother and blogger. We love to go on adventures (big and small, near and far) and strive to show our children how amazing and beautiful the world is! I caught the travel bug many moons ago and despite having three little adventurers, I still suffer from "itchy" feet. We love the great outdoors and one another. Come and join the fun :)

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33 Responses

  1. samiya selim says:

    You described your memorable time in Pakistan so well! Loved the pictures and stories…it’s funny because so many of this is similar to what I grew up with (or when I visited our family home) back in northern parts of Bangladesh, but it was not new to me as I had always lived there, whereas when I take my children to our home village, they are just mesmerized and find it all so exciting and different as they grew up in England..I hope you get to take the young adventurers on holiday to Pakistan..their world education and experiences will be so amazing! Thanks for linking up with #Theweeklypostcard 🙂

    • Nisbah says:

      Samiya

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments. Its crazy as my reaction sounds the same as your children as I remember being excited about the smallest things and I bet you took it all in your stride. Bangladesh looks amazing from your posts. My best friend is Bengali and I have always wanted to visit. 🙂

  2. Such a fantastic post Nisbah. Reading it reminded me of my feelings when I first went back to Hong Kong with my parents and stayed in a village at my grandfather’s house. It was definitely a culture shock for me too. Although I didn’t get to spend as long as you otherwise my chinese would be a lot better! Love the photos, I can just imagine you running around and getting into mischief with all your new pals xx

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Ting,

      oh wow, that would’ve been such a change to stay in the village. I loved Hong Kong and would love to go again with the kids. I want to take the little adventurers to Pakistan and India (hubby is on Indian descent) as I want them to be bilingual and learning the language whilst you visit is the best way. And yes, I was up to terrible mischief everyday, but luckily everyone was extra nice to me as I was only visiting 🙂

  3. Such a fascinating post – you describe Pakistan with such detail but I can hear the emotion too. #sundaystars

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Megan

      Glad you enjoyed the post, it was really emotional writing the post and glad its been well recieved. Pakistan is very dear to my heart and it is a real treasure trove for little adventurers. 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing so many intimate and cherished details about your background. It’s very different than this Southern California gal’s suburban upbringing.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Elaine

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the post. It is crazy as visiting Pakistan was so different from the upbringing I had in the UK so was a real eye opener!

  5. what lovely memories you have and how great that experience must of been the mosques are so beautiful xx

    • Nisbah says:

      Amy,

      I was so wowed by the buildings. We went back in 2005 and there is so much history and culture in the country it is a shame that it is often so overlooked.

  6. This is a really lovely post Nisbah full of wonderful memories. I would love to travel more with the kids and take them to places like this. I know your kids are going to be so well travelled. More posts like this to read please!

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Karen

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the post. Writing memories like these was one of the reasons why I started my blog, think i may need to revert back to things that I enjoy writing 🙂 I hope y little adventurers get to travel as much as I have been able to. One of my wish list that you have done is Nepal. Looks amazing!

  7. Ah Nisbah what a lovely post, its so amazing to see it through your eyes as a child. Lovely photo of your dear granddad too, I have loved reading this post and your memories x

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Sarah, thanks for your lovely words. Glad you enjoyed the post. I loved writing this post and it was great having a walk down memory lane. I loved the picture of my granddad too. He was in the army during the second world war and had lots of great stories to tell.

  8. Stephanie says:

    Love that you have such vivid memories of arriving in a different world – sounds like you were bitten by the travel bug at a fairly early age 🙂 #timetraveller

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Stephanie, thanks for reading. It is crazy how vivid these memories are. We have travelled so much since then and these are still as clear as ever. When I hear people say that kids wont remember travel, i just show how much I remember! 🙂

  9. Connie Reed says:

    What lovely memories! It seems as though you looked at every day as an adventure when so much of it might be seen as others as a hardship. it’s no wonder that you are now a traveler.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Connie

      Thanks for reading. Everyday was an adventure as it was all so new and different. Travelling so young did definitely plant the seed for my future wanderlust 🙂

  10. What a great post with some truly wonderful memories. It must have been fantastic to spend two months with your family and emerge yourself in everyday life. I bet coming back to the UK was an equal culture shock. No wonder you have such a passion for travel!

  11. Your photos are incredible and I really felt like I was there with you. I would have found flat roofs very exciting as a child too, it’s funny the things that we find fun when we’re young!

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Sian

      Thank you for reading and glad you enjoyed the post. As i wrote the post the memories just started flowing and its amazing how much we still recall all those years later. Flat roofs are still exciting, I want the little adventurers to have a good run around them when we do get a chance to visit!

  12. Mari says:

    What an amazing post to read, you transported me back in time and I lived every moment with you, from collecting the cow pat to throwing stones at the fruit on the trees.
    What a fantastic opportunity to have had and so young, no wonder you love to travel. who’s going to stop you now?
    Thank you so much for linking up to Time Traveller, it has been an absolute joy to read your post.

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Mari

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. It really picked me up after having one of those days. It is an incredible experience to having travelled to Pakistan at such a young age. It opens your eyes to the a whole different lifestyle, culture that there is in the world. I cant wait to take my children to Pakistan and other incredible countries out there. It opens their eyes and warms their hearts to the different cultures out there.

  13. Keri says:

    What an amazing way to see your country – and the reverse culture shock even so young, thanks for sharing #MondayEscapes

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Keri

      It honestly was the best way to see the country. I loved every minute of it and despite it being so many years ago, I still remember it so vividly. The culture shock was huge and I think it was even more so because on the face of it we were so similar, language, dress the way we looked but still so different. Thank you for reading 🙂

  14. What a fascinating post – really transports me to such a different world. #MondayEscapes

    • Nisbah says:

      Hi Cathy

      Thanks for reading, glad you like the post. Honestly it was like going to another world, everything was different from the UK. 🙂

  15. Wander Mum says:

    Fantastic read full of the colour, sights and smells of Pakistan. I felt like I was there with you. They must have been very special memories for you to remember it all in so much detail. What an amazing opportunity to go and live a different life and meet new friends! #mondayescapes

    • Nisbah says:

      Hiya

      Its crazy, as I wrote the post, a whole host of memories came flooding back. We had such an awesome time and made memories to last me a liftetime 🙂

  16. What a wonderful story!! I always wanted to visit Pakistan for some reason. This trip certainly stayed in your memory, and I am impressed with how many pictures you have from the trip. You went there the year I was born 😀
    Beautiful story! Did you go back as a grown up?

    Thank you for linking up with #MondayEscapes

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