Ever since I gave birth to my son, I started paying attention to all the baby-talk in my environment and broader on the internet. And those things I hear make me realise that we have the whole concept of travelling with young children wrong.
I saw women asking on the travel forums: “Do you think I have to stop travelling after giving birth?” I also got some condolences-like comments from my child-free friends about not being able to have adventurous trips from now on. Maintaining your travelling schedule after you have had a child is seen not as a norm and continuation of the normal lifestyle fit to your personality, but some kind of achievement, almost worth an Olympic medal.
But travelling with a young kid or kids is not like travelling with an oversized luggage full of fine china or your leg broken and in a cast. It is not about a great obstacle preventing you from having your dream trip. An obstacle, which you somehow overcome and still manage to have some fun in the end. As if no one expected you would have fun in these circumstances, but you actually did, and on this you are congratulated.
I will be extremely provocative here and define travelling with a young kid as travelling with a human being, who is very close to you and whom you happen to love. Like for example your boyfriend or girlfriend. And yes, I know that sometimes your baby would demand much more effort from your side (nappies, feedings etc). But I’m speaking about the whole concept here, and those nappies – however annoying at that particular moment – are just the logistics.
So, how would those questions sound, if you exchange the word ‘baby’ for the word ‘partner.’ “Ana, I heard you are travelling again soon after you started dating?” “How was your trip? I admire you so much for travelling often with your boyfriend; I don’t think I would ever dare to do it myself.”
Really, parents, can we get rid of all this “overcoming the struggle” notion? I gave in myself (and wrote some tips about hassle-free travel), but then thought: “What’s wrong with me?” Ok, it can be a hassle to have to suddenly look for a toilet on a busy street in London or for a quiet place to breastfeed in the middle of Jerusalem old town.
But when I imagine the same trips, just without Mark in them, I see that they would have been so much duller. When I now think back about the trips we had, I remember the fun we had together much better than those moments of complicated logistics. I’m speaking very generally here about the fun, but if you would like a list of very concrete reasons why exactly it is fun to travel with your kid, here is one.
The world is full of amazing things, and my travels are fuller, when I can share those amazing things with my family. On our first trip to Crete, when Mark was 3 months old, my husband looked at him looking at the sea, and said: “So now we have a travel companion.”
So I suggest that we – the parents out there – reclaim the fun. We are not victims of some small humans, who came to enslave us and take the fun out of our life. We need to understand ourselves that we actually just got another cool companion to travel and to share the adventure with.