Being a parent is like riding a roller coaster
I am publishing this post on my daughter’s third birthday and re evaluating the past three years as a travel-addict mum who tried to find back the balance in her life. I frequently compare my life of a parent to a roller coaster ride when I speak with friends and family; the most thrilling experience you can ever imagine – the biggest moments of joy and pride you can ever feel but also the darkest moments of anger and despair and thinking what the hell have I done! The hardest part for me were the first 6 months after having a baby! Even though everyone tells you that life will change, you never know what and how it will actually change. As time goes by it got better as I learned some ‘tricks of the trade’. The moments of joy and pride became more frequent and I am the happiest person on the planet each time my daughter #Nyanatheexplorer reaches a new milestone.
Most of the time WE impose limits on ourselves …
Deep down I always said I wanted to become a mom sooner or later, yet I was hesitant on taking the step as I was afraid that my lifestyle would change and I would have to stop doing what I love. In fact as the people around me learned that I was pregnant, they often told me – now your travel adventures are over. I usually replied ‘Do you think so?’, obviously I had no intention of stopping. I travelled until I was 7 months pregnant (check out my tips for travelling while pregnant) and waited until Nyana was born to see what would happen.
Did my life actually change? Yes of course, especially during the first months.
Have I actually stopped doing what I love? NEVER! Having kids can and WILL impose certain limits on what you can do, but most of the time WE ourselves impose this limit. We travelled with our baby when she was just four months old and we learned a lot from this experience. NEVER GIVE UP ON SOMETHING BEFORE EVEN TRYING; that is how I always view life. It can refer to a trek in Malta in Wied Babu (one of the most challenging with a kid), to a long haul flight to the Caribbean or to giving sushi or curries and other exotic foods to my daughter. The worst thing that can happen is that you won’t repeat the experience if it is awful! You will still learn a lot from any experience of your life, be it positive or negative!
Bad things happen all the time …
As everyday life at home, bad things while travelling will happen as well…
The ‘worst’ trip with our baby was to Munich when she was 6 months old. We never actually were city lovers, but we visited for the Christmas markets. It was very cold and our daughter spent most of the time in a push chair wearing thick clothes and covered. We used public transport and it was very stressful for all of us. Using pushchairs in underground trains was easy; she cried for the entire trip from Nuremberg to Munich on the train and we felt very bad as we were annoying all the passengers in our cabin.
What we learned from this experience: for now we have to opt for our own transport (rent a car) and avoid travelling to very cold places in winter.
Another negative experience is when children get sick during a trip! It’s awful and this happened to us when we were in Turkey and our daughter was one year and a half old. Each time we travel, we take all the medicine we usually give our daughter when she gets sick; that is paracetamol in case she has fever, sachets for diarrhoea, inhalers for the wheezing and soluble steroids for the worst case scenario. Most probably you will know when and how to give them to your kid. When our daughter got sick in Turkey, we were quite worried. We were travelling in December in Cappadocia (photo to the right) and it was snowing: again travelling in cold areas will most probably result in your kid getting sick. Our daughter fell sick on the third day of our 11 day trip so we were a bit hesitant on the best way forward. We just used paracetamol and kept her indoors until she got better (we did not stay in our accommodation, but adjusted our plan to visit indoor attractions) Luckily after a couple of days, as we moved to the warmer Mediterranean coast she got better and we could continue with our trip 🙂
What we learned from this experience: always take the necessary medicines with you, ask your paediatrician and he/she will surely guide you.
How did travel actually change after having a baby?
As you may know if you followed my posts, I continued to travel and practice my photography. It took time to adapt and travel had to change:
- Me and my husband cannot go together on ‘adult’ activities like rafting, riding a hot air balloon, skiing etc. We have to take turns to do such activities and this will involve staying longer in a place.
- We learned to slow down as our daughter enjoys outdoor activities and we leave her exploring, playing in the sand, throwing stones in ponds and rivers, observe flowers, climbing trees, collect leaves etc.
- Destinations may change as we would not dream of taking our daughter to a place where there is a high risk of malaria for example. However to be honest, we always chose our destinations based on other factors, rather than ‘family-friendliness’. I believe that anywhere can be family friendly; you will have to make research and plan your activities ahead. So far our daughter has visited the following countries: Slovakia, Germany, Barbados and several other Caribbean islands, Slovenia, several trips to nearby Italy (below our photos from our last trip to the Dolomites when Nyana was 2 years old), Austria and Turkey. If someone asks me for a suggestion for a family-friendly destination, I would say anywhere from the above, but also any other country I previously visited without kids. Check out my travel map for inspiration.
- Other factors are involved such as good flight connections as we try to avoid flying at awkward hours at night. Accommodation is another factor to check out; you need to find a place with baby cots/triple rooms as your child gets older. Lately we found some difficulties at finding triple rooms in apartments, so for now we are avoiding those as our daughter does not yet sleep alone in her room at home.
My advice for parents or hesitant parents to be: If you are not ready to give up a lot of your time for your child, than please think twice before doing this step! TIME is the most precious thing you can give to your children and they desperately need it:
Having a ‘travel-friendly’ child will involve some homework:
On weekends we spend most of our time outdoors; in winter we go for walks and treks in the countryside. Again it will take time for your kids to get used to this and you will have to patiently hold their hands, wait as they take breaks to admire flowers and insects, explain to them what they are seeing and sometimes encourage them to walk further. In summer it is easier as we go to beaches and there is literally no effort involved 🙂
Take time at home to try and give your kids a variety of food. I am well aware that this may be tricky, especially with kids that are picky eaters. However this will save you when you are travelling and your kids will be able to eat more easily while abroad.
Don’t think of getting a nap while on board of a plane; most probably (unless you are lucky enough that your kids sleep) this will be the busiest time of your trip! You have to take a lot of activities on board to entertain your kid while sitting down. Some activity suggestions for toddlers: colouring, drawing, magnetic boards, stickers, reading books, water drawing (we try to avoid screen time as much as possible, but I think that if the flight is very long having a tablet/entertainment on board can help). If you have any other suggestions for us, please write them down in the comments below.
If you are going on a road trip, you have to prepare for it at home. The longest car ride we can go for here in Malta is no longer than an hour. But we often do this ride so that our daughter gets used to spending time in the car. We explain to her what we are seeing and where we have arrived. While abroad, we plan drives that do not exceed the 1 hour when possible. Don’t consider going on a road trip if your kid cannot sit still in a car seat for a short ride. It’s a recipe for disaster!
There is no magic wand to transform your kids into ‘travel-friendly’ beings! However, if you dedicate your time and build a strong relationship with your kid, than travelling will become not much different from spending time together at home. Below are some photos showing Nyana EXPLORING MALTA.