You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not the Only One

So, I guess you won’t be travelling for a while, eh?

If there’s something my husband and I share in common beyond our passion for outdoor adventure, it’s a condition we deal with about once a year called “the travel bug.”

Our last night in Antigua after a month long backpacking trip in the Caribbean. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.

Our last night in Antigua after a month long backpacking trip in the Caribbean. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.

Paul’s travels have been extensive, from backpacking trips through South America and Europe, long solo trips in Iceland, New Zealand and the South Pacific, and forays to Ethiopia and Norway. Together we have backpacked throughout the Caribbean, trekked in Nepal, and explored the far reaches of our own country, from Nova Scotia’s coastline to the Arctic tundra of Baffin Island. My first and only solo trip (so far!) took me to Costa Rica for a three amazing, soul-soothing weeks of hiking, yoga and exploration.

So, as we enter parenthood it has been a regular part of our conversation to plan a trip internationally before our baby reaches his or her first birthday. We feel that the best way for us to learn how to keep doing the things we love is to keep doing them. I am also a firm believer that children, no matter their age, benefit from being exposed to different cultures and environments, even if it is only on a visceral level when they are so tiny. By committing to travelling abroad with the wee one (of course assuming all goes well in the next little while), we can get used to the idea and have this become our norm.

The bus station in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

The bus station in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica (2009). Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

But, I can’t tell you how many times in the last half year I have heard someone tell me or suggest that we can put our travel ambitions aside once the baby arrives. These statements have come from people from all walks of life – from people who aren’t travellers themselves or who couldn’t fathom even a baby-free backpacking trip to adventure-seeking people who have chosen not to have children because they feel it would compromise their lifestyle (this is at the very root of The Adventures in Parenthood Project, by the way). I get the sense from some people that if they really spoke their mind, they’d tell me I’m totally foolish for thinking we can make it happen. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment, honey.

Exploring around Chhukung near Everest Base Camp, Nepal, Fall 2011. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.

Exploring around Chhukung near Everest Base Camp, Nepal, Fall 2011. Photo from Meghan J. Ward collection.

But I know it can happen because I have seen it, thanks to my adventurous friends, online resources, and people I have met on my own travels abroad. An article that particularly inspired me was one I found on a doula’s website called Birth Takes a Village. In Backpacking with a Baby, Charlotte Watson recounts her family’s journey through Eastern Asia when her daughter, Beatrix, was 6 to 12 months old. I particularly appreciated Watson’s candid accounts of what they experienced: different cultural perspectives on breastfeeding, experimenting (and finding success) with elimination communication, learning to adapt to warm temperatures and discovering Beatrix’s level of adaptability. In the article, Watson also provides some great tips for travelling with an infant.

So today, as I dream about taking my little bundle on an adventure abroad next winter, I turn to John Lennon and his famous song lyrics. Maybe I’m a dreamer, and maybe my parenting choices will vary from the norm, but surely I’m not the only one.

Here’s to taking babies abroad, to opening their little minds, bodies and hearts to something different early on and, perhaps even most importantly, learning from the way they interact with the world around them.

Have you travelled with an infant or young children? Please share about it in the comments and recommend more links of inspiring stories and websites!

Check Out More Inspiring Stories and Websites:

Backpacking with a Baby – Minimalist travel with a miniature person

Have Baby Will Travel – Their mission is to inspire, motivate, and help families travel with their babies, toddlers, and young children…

Walking on Travels – when you won’t let your kids stop your wanderlust

Around the World with Luca – Biking the world with a 2-year old

Baby To Go – Because babies want to see the world, too!

Suitcases and Sippy Cups – Packing, passports and the pursuit of family

Baby Loves to Travel – Global travel with your kids should be simple and fun

Adventurous Moms – The travels and adventures of two moms and their little boo

Heather and Sierra’s PCT Thru Hike Journal – This mother and daughter successfully hiked the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada in 2012

Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Happy Families – Ever heard of Kinderhotels?

Top 25 Travel Blogs by Parents – A round up of more great sites!

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44 responses to “You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not the Only One

  1. Before the age of four, we don’t have “photo” memory. Meaning we really can’t “picture” what happened, but we have the ability to have sensations and develop beliefs and comfort/discomfort levels, which we have difficulty describing. Yes, by all means put your baby on your back or on your chest and go hiking and exploring. You won’t feel deprived and your baby will ingest a myriad of comfort levels, so by the time your baby is walking by your side, able to grumble about not having enough battery strength for the electronics, your baby will know from “pre-memory” that this is what we do in this family. Go for it! Barb

    • Thanks, Barb! I appreciate your contribution here. You have definitely expanded on what I meant by “visceral.” It’s all about developing a family norm, not just a norm for the parents.

  2. I did a few trips, Meghan, and enjoyed the ‘free airplane ticket’ until my son was 2. I would do everything again… And, as you know, now that he is 5 we even did a glacier traverse in our own backyard, the Canadian Rockies! I think it is us, the parents, who think it can’t be done… ;-)

    • Thanks, Helena. I have people like you in mind when I write about these things. :) I am always inspired by parents who at least just give it a shot. I’ve heard an equal number of stories from trips ‘gone wrong’ and believe it’s the only way to make it happen. Bring it on!

  3. So far we’ve only done day trips on the train in Holland and Germany, but our little one travels great so far! I think traveling with a babe is likely easiest in the first 6 months when they are exclusively breastfed, and you can wear them easily all day. Then you have everything you need on you at all times :) And awesome tie in to EC, we are also practicing this, I am going to check out that site!

    • Cool, Sam! I didn’t know you guys were practicing EC. We’d love to give it a shot, even just partially. Would love to hear about your experience.

      We’re sticking around the Rockies for summer to take advantage of the things you’ve mentioned on some hikes/trips here in the mountains. The kid will be a bit bigger when we head abroad (same age or so as Beatrix). It will likely present some challenges but we’d rather escape from here in winter!

  4. Our son’s 1st long road trip and camping trip was at 2 months, 1st flight at 3 months, 1st trip to England was at 10 months, and 1st backpacking trip was at 2 years. We travel to visit friends and relatives at least 6 times a year, and in addition to England have taken him to Germany and Iceland. Our adventures are not what many would classify “adventure travel”, but having our son hasn’t slowed the way we like to travel, we just carry more stuff and visit more parks. We hike, bike, climb, camp, backpack, fly, drive and hotel-it; whatever works for our current travel plans. Powell will turn 4 in February and pushes us to have adventures and to slow down and enjoy the moment. There are tons of tips out there for traveling with your child, but the main thing is to listen to your child and do what is right for and what works for your family. It won’t all be easy, but it will be rewarding.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennie. I’m sure it will be really challenging at times, but well worth it! Sounds like you have had some great trips with your family so far.

      Did you use any particular resources when you were planning on traveling with Powell?

  5. I agree with some of the posters that it’s easier to travel with babies few months old. We, my husband and me, didn’t want to give up our passion for hiking when our children were born and the easiest part of our journeys with the kids was actually during their first months of life. They were very easy to carry, I breastfed them and all we needed were some diapers and change of clothes. Later on we had to modify our plans, however, we could manage even challenging hikes in our backyard in British Columbia when our little boy was hardly three and our young lady was 5. Thumbs up, Meghan!

    • Thanks, Pat! We’ll definitely be taking advantage of those first few months with our kid here in the Rockies. I think it’ll be perfect timing to hit some of the trails and campsites around here. Lots to learn on how to really pull that off successfully, but no doubt we’ll have some great opportunities for trial and error. :)

  6. We went camping with our little one when she was 2 months, took her to San Fran at 3 months, and just came back from 10 weeks in Thailand and Australia – she’s now 8.5 months. Like Barb says its not about photo memory, its everything else. We were in Thailand for 6 weeks and 5 of those weeks we were rock climbing. We were limited in where we could go, and some days we climbed more than others but its all about compromise. Our baby girls needs always came first but we were still able to do what we love doing. Everyone thought we were being dreamers too when we said we would still go to Thailand for a climbing trip with a baby…but we did it and it was great. What you love to do doesn’t have to stop when you have a baby…it just takes more time and organizing. All the best with your travels with your little one.

  7. We had the *exact* same conversations with our close friends and family when we were pregnant! Ha! at 6 months pregnant we were already planning 2 trips (one road trip up to san fran when she was 6 weeks old and one tent camping trip up to big sur when she was 4 months!). Everyone just laughed at us and I remember looking back at them baffled as to why they would be so unsupportive and wonder what the big deal was about our plans anyway!

    Long story short, we went, we had an incredible time and then took her to New Orleans when she was 9 months old. Her second tent camping trip was at 14 months and we went to Istanbul, Turkey for a month with her when she was 18 months.

    You’ve got it right, there is no reason that should stop you from showing your baby the beauty and awesomeness of our world!! Enjoy every second of it!

  8. We have always enjoyed traveling and camping with our kids since they were only months old. It’s not always easy but always worth it. We are currently on an adventure with our 7 and 2 yr old. We left Colorado in October and are now in Mexico. We think the best education is one of adventure, different cultures and being together. We are writing about our trip on velomom.com

  9. Meh. Don’t listen to the nay sayers. The Chickabiddy was 18 months the first time we took her across the ocean. And she had been to lots of different states before that. Speaking from experience, I don’t think traveling with a kiddo is even very hard. I love ‘seeing’ the world through our children’s eyes. The wonder. The joy. The Chickabiddy is 8 now and has been in as many States and as many countries. And she is better for it. Keep on traveling! (And keep on writing this wonderful blog!)

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  11. We’re buying a campervan and going to save up our carbon credits over the next few years to explore closer to home. We’re in Scotland so have endless exploring to do here, before maybe heading to the Alps and Scandanavia by ferry… airplane and longhaul journeys can wait for a bit, but only because I want our little one to have the grounding and appreciation of our own backyard that we both had growing up before exploring further.

    • You bring up a really good point, Lyndsey, about reducing our carbon footprint and exploring closer to home. We feel privileged to live in such a beautiful part of the world that offers so much to the outdoor adventurer and can’t wait to do the same. Luckily Canada is also gigantic and one can travel a far ways away without being ‘abroad.’ We’ve also been talking about driving down to Central and South America instead of flying – we’ll see! We really want to expose our child to other cultures and ways of living, so will need to weigh the benefits of that with the environmental impact. I look forward to following your adventures on your blog!

  12. Great to see we really aren’t all that crazy! We recently counted all the flights that our 2.5 year old has taken so far in his life: 28, including 2 overseas trips. No it ain’t easy but its well worth it and ever since we got back from Argentina (in Feb 2013) his favorite game has been loading up a box with all his animals and taking them on a trip to the Buenos Aires airport. He is now constantly asking us “what is that in spanish?” as well as, “Can we go on an airplane today?”

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  14. Hi Meghan,

    I have done a bit of traveling in the last few years, and for the longest time it really weighed on my mind that I would have to somewhat give that up if I chose to have babies. I think I held that belief because my role models (friends with children) did actually give up on the things that were important to them, such as traveling, once they had kids. Not being able to travel, and not being able to go adventuring really held me back from deciding to take the leap.

    I had two moments throughout my travels that led me to a sort of paradigm shift in that way of thinking. In February 2010, I had been climbing in Patagonia. I had just finished one of the most challenging and exhilarating climbs in my life. I felt on top of the world and couldn’t imagine ‘giving up’ this life and I definitely couldn’t see how a child could fit in the picture. I was recovering in camp where I met a woman that was traveling from the Netherlands. We got to talking about her child and naturally I asked where she was. She told me that she was at home with her grandparents. She told me about how she had done a 6 week bike trip with her little girl when she was about one. And how every year she does a big adventure like that with her, but also she had promised herself before baby that she would do a smaller trip on her own. A promise to herself to keep true to who she is and to make sure she stays happy too. So there she was backpacking around Patagonia for 3 weeks. And I found myself suddenly making room in my mind for the possibility of a baby.

    The second moment came about 8 months later when I was in China. I was at a hostel where I met a couple from BC who were traveling with their THREE children (Ages 6-10)! And this was by no means a wealthy couple with a nanny in tow. They were two school teachers who thought it was the best education for their kids to see the world. (I couldn’t agree more!!) They were on their third month of a One year long planned trip across the globe. What an incredible journey for that entire family!! It was sure inspiring and they definitely left an impact on me.

    I’m excited to hear how your first trip goes!

    Kat

    • Thanks for this, Kat! How inspiring! I had similar experiences that helped me make the leap. I should write more about it sometime. One was when my husband (then boyfriend) and I were camping and backpacking on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. We met an American couple with their three year old who had such unique views on parenting compared to the general perspective I grew up with. It totally opened my mind to the possibilities that are out there! I’ve had a few since, too. Met a man and his son in Gokyo, Nepal, who were doing the Everest Base Camp trek. The boy was 15 years old and doing his homework at the trekking lodge. Turns out the mom was doing a yoga retreat somewhere. They’d split up for a few weeks on a year-long trip around the world, and were road-schooling along the way.

      I’m sure there are lots of inspiring stories out there. My hope is that The Adventures in Parenthood Project helps bring these to light.

  15. As one adventurous mama to another I can safely say there is no reason not to travel with a child under one. By the time my daughter was 1 she had already traveled across the Pacific twice. If you plan on traveling alot as a family it’s good to get them started young as it builds muscle memory of the traveling process. My daughter is almost 2 and perfectly comfortable in planes, trains and airports. It’s a pity people judge and say things. I had a lot of negative comments for traveling with my baby mostly from older family members. Hope you continue to explore the beautiful world together as a family.

    P.s your blog is marvelous :)

    • Thanks so much for the encouragement! I would LOVE to hear your tips about travelling abroad with a baby, particularly managing long plane rides! “Muscle memory’….makes sense! We do remember things in our bodies, don’t we?

      • We certainly do remember with our bodies and have a feeling of ease when we travel. My daughter is not anxious when traveling which is a big relief. I find traveling with babies easier than toddlers cause they sleep more. Toddlers need to explore everything and can’t sit still. I recently wrote an article about traveling with babies/toddlers. It’s definitely an adventure to share the great outdoors with little minds.

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