Lia’s first trip abroad happened when she was just 6-week-old and at 7 weeks she hopped on her first plane. Since then we have traveled a lot, Lia has unlocked her “20 countries” badge a while ago…we proudly call her our “little traveler”, I think she deserves this nickname ☺
“Has it been hard?”-Well, easier than we expected.
“Have we been scared at times?” – Absolutely, especially at the beginning!
After the first months of traveling that included crossing Russia via the Trans-Siberian railway all the way to Vladivostok, visiting friends in Hong-Kong and chilling at the welcoming beaches of Thailand, we fully embraced our new traveling style. We got rid of all our fears and doubts and set out to further explore South-East Asia, knowing that now we could do anything with baby on board!
Of course it was not always easy during our travels, but tell me when is it? Even if you are a solo traveler or couple/friends traveling, there will be always some struggles to overcome during any long trip to second and third world countries. However we worked through initial difficulties of traveling with a baby, we didn’t quit and we enjoyed every step of our 1 year-long journey together!
Here are 10 reasons why we feel this way!
1. Being a parent doesn’t mean the end of a happy “YOU”
I hear it quite often from my friends/acquaintances who didn’t enter parenthood that they are not ready to have children yet because they still want to enjoy their lives. Usually it refers to the possibility of traveling long-term (or even short-term), pursuing hobbies, careers etc. It upsets me to hear this nonsense; we never felt like that about Lia. Of course your life changes when you have a baby, but I believe for the best. However by no means does a baby limit you from doing anything with your life. If anything, it encourages you to do even more!
I have seen many examples of parents who didn’t fall for the trap of “My life is over, now I live for my child” and I hope our family might set a positive example for others as well to take this very real parallel path to parenthood.
I think for us, the simple fact that we didn’t abandon our passion for traveling pushed us to realize how un-limiting a child can be in anything you chose to do. We found that on top of the normal joys and happiness from travel we were also constantly proud of our baby and ourselves for bucking the trend. As a result we just keep on going and doing more with our baby than ever.
2. Traveling with a baby is easier than staying at home with a baby.
We found this particularly true, at least for our family. It is so much easier to care for Lia on the road. We spend all our time together, we don’t think twice whether she spends enough time outside because we are always outside in the open air: walking, hiking, sightseeing or chilling at the beach.
We don’t worry that much about cooking, cleaning, and other daily chores (thanks to hotels/homestays/camping/etc). It is impossible to spend this much time with our child now that we are living in Spain due to the amount of chores we have each day.
When people ask if it is hard to travel with a baby, I always answer that it is much easier than we tend to think. Also, a common response from my husband and I is “being a parent is more work than not being a parent beyond that it doesn’t matter whether you are at home or abroad.”
3. We can do everything we could before the baby but now do so much more as a result of having her.
I will always remember our first flight to Hungary, first train across Russia, first time bicycling with Lia on my back in Myanmar, first trekking in Malaysia, first horse back riding in Kyrgyzstan, first swimming experience in Thailand, first motorbike ride through Vietnam with Lia squished between me and my husband and so on…
It is hard to give yourself credit while you are in the midst of something, realization comes later…when you go through pictures and you think…”oh man, we really did it! Now we can do anything!”. This pride slowly builds up and as for now I cant think of anything that we wouldn’t dare together as a family or because we have a baby. From wanting to re-enact the lion king on the tip of Trolltunga to allowing hours of photos of the first white baby be taken in Myanmar, our Lia pushes us forward as much as we push her.
4. Easier to meet other travelers and make lasting friendships.
We realized it is much easier to meet travelers with Lia. People would approach us with questions about what it feels like to travel with a baby or saying we are brave to take our little one on such an adventure and so on. If we had the energy one thing always led to another and before you know we made new friends. Baby Lia has always been an icebreaker in new environments with new people.
5. Get to know locals and understand their culture.
We never had such an easy and comfortable opportunity to get to know locals without Lia. People all around the world are getting used to travelers, however couples traveling with children, especially babies are still a rarity outside of Europe and world-renowned sites.
Locals have approached us countless times and if the language aloud we talked about everything: from what we feed Lia to educational systems in our countries to how to make tourism more sustainable, really anything. We would also be invited to locals houses much more since we were a family, which in conservative or Muslim cultures is like seeing a whole other side of the culture. We felt like we really got to know each country and its people, not just sightseeing that is awesome too, don’t take me wrong!
6. People are kinder towards you.
We felt this kindness all the time. Smiles, nods, encouragement from random people on the streets that make your day! If you’ve ever had a specific unique hairstyle or a motorbike, or even your favorite band t-shirt on and you see someone else with the same it gives you an instant sense of connection. With a baby this holds true to not only other families, but anyone who likes babies, which is pretty much everyone but the Grinch ☺. At the beginning I feared the opposite! Cant believe that ☺ I thought people would alienate and avoid us because of the “crying” baby stereotype…
7. Free upgrades in hotels.
Many, many times we were offered a better room than we booked. Maybe luck or maybe not but it never happened to us when we traveled without Lia. We would be almost confused if we got the room we reserved online 😀
8. Say no to the lines at the customs.
Many countries have special lines for elderly people, people with children, handicapped, etc. In other countries (former Soviet Union for example) it is a strong culture to let parents with children go first. We have been encouraged and pushed through endless lines at the borders by locals. What can I say, it feels good not to stay in the lines.
9. Your baby becomes well-rounded and outgoing without effort.
Lia wont remember her experiences from our travels, however each of them has impacted her development. While it is too early to see long-term results, I can say that she is much more independent, strong and well-rounded kid comparing to many children her age which we now see and the teachers immediately point out here in Spain. As for shyness, we don’t have this word in our vocabulary. Lia gets along with everyone and we never knew the problem of being afraid of new people and new places.
10. Free babysitting
On few occasions we couldn’t take Lia with us, once it was hot air ballooning in Cambodia and a few times when we scuba dived in Vietnam and Malaysia. Each of these times we were worried about finding a babysitter. However the problem was always solved very quickly. Upon our inquiry about a baby sitter for Lia, staff both at our hotel and at scuba-diving center offered their help. Lia was left with their family members and was playing with other children all day long.
Also it turns out it is a cultural norm not to take money for taking care of kids, that was a big surprise to us! Nevertheless we offered small gifts that they kindly accepted. It was a good experience overall that showed us again there is always a solution to any problem. This wouldn’t usually be an option in the Western world, that’s true…but on another hand there is no shortage of babysitters in Western countries, so there is no problem as well.
Read here about our experience.
Lastly, unplanned short-term baby-sitting always gave us breaks to still feel like a romantic couple. In Southeast Asia it’s common for the waiter to take your baby and play and usually feed them fruit the whole time you are eating. In the parks in Iran and central Asia other kids would always adopt our toddler and try to teach her how to play ball or whatever they were doing. This was good for our Lia and sometimes a needed break for us!