I’d booked it and paid for it now I had to get organised for this exciting travel adventure myself and my son were going on. In preparation I had decisions to make. To take a buggy or not, to take a suitcase or a rucksack and whether or not to take a baby carrier. Accommodation and the actual itinerary in each country I visited happened relatively off the cuff other than the first four nights of accommodation in Tokyo (keep reading…) – another shocker for most of the people that asked me whether I had booked everything before going!
I took the buggy. Not only that but I took my decent buggy (read: expensive) that is easy to push with one hand because with our luggage I needed ease of movement not more challenges. I have two other cheap ones that I bought second hand to put in the boot of the car and they have both ended up being like the car I learnt to drive in with no power steering – they weren’t good on cemented roads let alone any other kind of terrain! Thank the heavens I did – It was an absolute godsend in some places and a rod on my back in others, but I couldn’t have done without it, especially in the airports.
I bought a bag for packing said buggy in at the gate, there, I thought, I’m prepared.
Image: Time Out
On arrival at Tokyo airport, after our long day of travelling, I pulled the buggy off the luggage belt. I took it out of the bag and to my utter horror, it was damaged. Not just a little scuff, but one of the back wheels was bent in. We wouldn’t be rolling at all…
I felt like crying (as well as shouting a number of expletives in my head at the whoever had thrown it around!). We had only just arrived at the start of a 7 week trip and my buggy didn’t work – arghh!
I set about fixing it in a ‘it has to bloody work, so I’m going to bash it until it does’ kind of way and I managed to do enough to make the buggy go forward. That was something. In fact it was everything at that moment, knowing I wasn’t going to have to carry my weary 18mth old, my rolling rucksack, my heaving carry on and a handicapped expensive buggy through immigration and across Tokyo at 7pm at night. Phew!
Luckily it lasted the whole trip despite an odd lean to the right and only the ability to go forward. I can’t deny there were many times I felt like throwing it in the sea. You’d be surprised at how much you reverse with a buggy when that facility is not available to you. But I took it and ran with it. Or veered to the left with it as it turned out!
I ordered a rolling rucksack as a compromise between a suitcase and rucksack. It arrived. I opened the box and my heart sank. It looked so small. The reality is, it really wasn’t, but I’m used to a suitcase and I just couldn’t see how was I going to pack for 7 weeks for me and my boy and be able to bring everything I needed in to a rucksack with wheels, after all I needed to make sure we had clothes for hot and cold climates.
Many years ago, when I first started travelling abroad for the ubiquitous 2 week holiday in the sunshine with friends, I had a reputation for being an over packer. I’ve honed my skills since then, but this, I thought, was a challenge I may not be able to achieve. ‘Come on’ I thought. I wasn’t going to be defeated by a small suitcase, I was bigger than that (yes, pun intended!).
I knew there would have to be some nifty packing put in to practice and harsh cuts made. Since becoming a mama the ‘going out’ clothes and heels for an impromptu night out get cut too. Travelling alone with your baba doesn’t mean having a wild social life!
So I put the rucksack open on my bedroom floor and I started chucking things in to it as I thought of what I needed. This helped greatly as over a period of a couple of weeks I started to see that we’d be ok. For the first part of our trip in Japan, it was going to be colder. I decided to take clothes that my son was just growing out of. Plus ones for me that weren’t my best and I didn’t have any attachment to. This meant I could leave/donate them to a charity shop when we were leaving. This worked well and I was happy to offload the winter weight when we left Japan. In retrospect I could have packed even lighter and that is definitely my aim for future trips.
I think for every major travel adventure I have, I learn and adjust for the next one. And since I started travelling with my son, the lighter the better definitely appeals!
The rolling rucksack was a good decision in theory and I’m sure I’ll get to use it for its dual purpose for future trips. The reality was my carry on bag was of a ‘decent’ size and therefore I never got to use my rolling rucksack as a rucksack as I’m not sure I would have been able to move very far! But knowing I could was a comfort.
I took my baby carrier and thank the stars above that I did! Climbing up mountains doesn’t work with a buggy. And if you’ve every walked anywhere with an 18mth old you know that distractions can be many. Therefore the process can be slow. Plus walking and holding on to a toddlers hand can be back breaking work – especially if you’re 6 ft tall!
It was great to be able to pack him on my back whenever needed. Particular shining moments of baby carrier love were Fushima-Inari-Taisha shrine in kyoto – approx 3hr hike up a mountain. Sigiriya rock in Sri Lanka – steep climb up the side of a rock. And mini Adams Peak in Ella, Sri Lanka. My baby carrier was a soft material one, so when not in use, I could chuck it under the buggy and not have to pack it in my luggage.
As D day drew near I was feeling slightly uneasy about not booking ANY accommodation whatsoever! My clients knew I was going to be away for 7 weeks and were making up for it ahead of time. So my time was pretty limited between working and being with my ‘offended by my computer being open’ little guy. I had decided we were going to airbnb our way around as this gave me more flexibility. It wasn’t until 4 days before that I booked our first 4 nights in Tokyo…
There. I felt like I was ready.
Want More Tall Travel Tales?
Read Christina’s last article: The Two Of Us – World Travel As a Single Mum
To read more from the modern day superwoman, Christina, visit her author page. If you would like to connect with her, head to Instagram and stay tuned for the next instalment of her travel adventures!