Now that we have a baby, there is almost no part of our lives which remains the same, least of all travel. So far we’ve done a few local road trips, one domestic flight and now his first international trip to the island of Zanzibar. Luckily for us, he is such a happy traveller. In fact, he’s actually more content on the road, meeting new people daily and seeing new sights than he is at home. We love being able to show him various spaces and experience it all through his eyes, but we can’t deny just how much travel has changed and how we’ve had to adjust our travel style.
As challenging as it is, we believe that he will need to fit in with our lifestyle and not the other way around. We are all for keeping up with travelling after kids and believe that it can and should be done. After all, how many incredible things have your experienced and how many lessons have you learnt while on the road? Travel is one of the greatest gifts you can share with your children.
Here’s a few things we’ve noticed that have changed drastically since travelling with him:
1. His Time, all the time.
With a baby, there is no ‘you’ time or ‘us’ time- only his time. Now that he can sit by himself, we have increments more time to brush our teeth, quickly get dressed or take two more sips of coffee. But sitting together quietly as a couple, finding enough minutes to write a blog post, relaxed beach walks- not really going to happen unless your child is in the habit of taking long naps. The only time we can exhale and finish conversations is when he falls asleep at night. I now look upon those who laze on loungers beside the pool, reading, napping and suntanning for ages with absolute envy. The only way I ever had a few moments to myself was when my brother and parents travelled with us and we had extra hands.
2. Eating Together.
What is that? It sounds vaguely familiar but it’s become more of a distant memory. You’ll find that once your beautiful bub enters your world, you and your partner can bid farewell to dining together. Breakfast is a game of tag team where one of you gulps down food at the speed of light whilst the other marches around showing your beloved the birds and the trees. That being said, our baby boy is a lot busier than most babies we know. Some babies will be more than happy to chill in their seats or prams for ages on end ( this behaviour is alien to us) but we have to constantly be on the move with Caleb. We finally realise why couples with babies value date night so much, its because only at these rare moments in time will you both be able to sit at a table and feed yourselves. At the same time. Precious. Some hotels will have a babysitting service, but we feel Caleb is still a bit young for that.
Yet another foreign concept to many parents. I used to be one of those travellers who fell asleep easily on buses, airplanes, boats and in cars especially on long journeys. My favourite sleep accessories were a travel pillow, sarong/blanket and some additional pill to keep me sleeping. Now I look at childless people and wonder why the heck they travel with sleeping pillows, because who on earth gets a moment to rest on a plane? Now our only goal is to find ways to get Caleb to sleep on long journeys and if we can do that, then rest may be ours. But sleep…never.
4. Packing lightly.
Ha Ha Ha, this is a thing of the past. I spent my entire travelling career practising to pack lighter with each trip and I believe that I had it down to the tee. Then Caleb came along and even on road trips, we would add about four additional parts of luggage to the car. Nappies, wipes, toys, pram, carry cot and a million changes of clothing a day will add weight to your travel kit like no other. It really is a wonder that I end up with anything to wear myself. On our recent trip to Zanzibar I laughed out loud when my brother said he had no idea what to pack and that he would be going with quite an empty suitcase. The arrogance.
5. Your days of anonymity are gone.
One of the things I first grew to love about travel was that I would visit an entirely new country where I would be unknown to everyone. In Cape Town, we are always bumping into people, friends and family we know but overseas you are just another face in the crowd and you can revel in sweet anonymity and be anyone with each passing day. Unless you have a silent/alien baby, your baby will make a noise ( read: Cry or scream) at some point and everyone at the resort/hotel within earshot will look and get to know you as “The couple with the baby”. Most people will know you’re coming before you even arrive. Some will take more kindly to this than others but either way everyone will know who you are. No more clandestine solo coffees or peaceful poolside reading. Maybe in another few years or so.
6. Less is more.
With a baby, you can’t go from a boat ride to a cultural market tour onto a high tea before getting ready for dinner. We’ve found that we have to include less activities in our day and factor in nap times and lose the idea of punctuality. I’m quite a perfectionist and hate being late- obviously when travelling, I can relax with this a bit. But with a baby there’s always another nappy to change or one more feed needed or one more teething toy to remember so your chances of being on time for anything is zero- but often that is more than ok. Luckily Caleb falls asleep on the go in his carrier or after a feed. I’ve found that breastfeeding and my carrier to be the biggest lifesavers of all whilst on the road.
7. Say good bye to your evenings.
I recall the days of sunsets, evening soirees and nights out on the town. In Asia, evenings are especially wonderful as you can finally enjoy the balmy weather without burning in the harsh sun with no need for warm sweaters or pants. As any parent knows, evening time is usually crazy/suicide hour ( or longer sometimes) when kids have reached the end of their tether. They are usually overtired and the fight of misery begins until they are inevitably in bed. Thankfully this gets easier the more routine you add into the equation. So when on the road with Caleb, instead of making dinner plans for after 8pm we would plan to wrap up our evening to put him to sleep by 7pm. Which is wonderful in that we get free time after that, but not so great as we have to stay put in our hotel suite. But a quiet time, tv, indoor dates and dinner are not always such a bad thing.
8. Seeing the world through young eyes.
Unlike us adults who’ve lived on this earth for years, built up our own perceptions, beliefs, reactions and prejudices, a baby is still free of all of that. Each person, place and object they set their eyes on is crisp, fresh and so exciting. Caleb doesn’t reserve his joy or smiles for a certain kind of people but gives it so freely to everyone. The simply joys of feeling blades of grass, crawling in the sand and touching leaves with his fingers is wonderful to witness and allows us to step back from the crazy and complicated and once again celebrate the simple.
9. Making fellow passengers/travellers smile.
Usually when travelling as a couple, you tend to talk to each other, keep your heads down and politely engage with those who cross your path.We’re quite sociable but whilst in transit we tend to just relax and not really start conversations. But Caleb is exceptionally social and brings such joy to everyone we encounter along our journey with his huge grin. We love seeing Caleb’s excitement as he lays eyes on a fellow passenger sitting nearby on the plane or the staff member of a hotel he’s never seen before. He’ll ‘call’ someone standing nearby, wait until they lock eyes with them before giving them his gorgeous dimply smile. No-one can resist that smile and within seconds, they are smiling, gushing, saying hi and asking us about him. Conversation ensues and everyone leaves happier.
How has having kids changed the way you travel?